Careem bucks downsizing trend as it goes on hiring spree in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt

Hiring is focused on key markets for its Super App at a time when other tech companies are shrinking workforces

Software engineers at Careem's office in Karachi, Pakistan. Photo: Careem
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Careem has dozens of open engineering roles in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt as it looks to expand its Super App offerings in key markets and buck a trend among technology companies of shrinking workforces amid a wider market correction.

Headcount at the Dubai-based company has increased by about 200 employees since the start of 2022, with nearly half of roles requiring engineering skills.

Local expertise is a main reason Careem is hiring for around 90 roles in cities such as Alexandria, Cairo, Amman, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Challenges linked to catching a cab, having food delivered or transferring cash can be unique across the dozens of markets where Careem operates, Nourhan Farhat, chief of staff and acting head of people at the tech company, told The National.

“They know the market, they know what we're trying to solve for and they understand the day to day dilemmas,” she said about the decision to make key hires outside the Dubai headquarters or its engineering centre in Berlin, Germany.

Ms Farhat said the company was also looking to reverse some of the trend of well-educated knowledge workers leaving the region for jobs elsewhere.

Careem's open jobs are a tiny solution to a massive problem, particularly in Pakistan where the “brain drain” phenomenon is exploding.

In 2021, about 225,000 Pakistanis left the country but the number nearly tripled to 765,000 last year, according to official figures reported by The Express Tribune daily.

“Universities in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt graduate around 90,000 software engineers annually but there are only a few regional mid-size tech companies for these graduates to join,” said Stephen Kruger, chief technology officer at Careem.

More than 600 tech professionals already work in Careem’s engineering centres and more than half of Careem's total engineering organisation is based in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt, where efforts to expand the Super App are under way.

In April, UAE telecoms company e& bought a majority stake in Careem's Super App for $400 million, spinning the product out from Uber, which purchased Careem in 2019 for $3.1 billion.

The app is available in 80 cities across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and offers a range of localised services, including food and grocery delivery, a digital wallet for payments and remittances, and third-party services such as home cleaning.

In a LinkedIn post, Careem co-founder and chief executive Mudassir Sheikha revealed some of the company's culture, telling potential applicants they won't find a "comfortable 9 to 5" job or a lot of day to day predictability.

"We iterate our operating model, business strategy and ways of working all the time."

He added that while "we respect formal education ... the learning we offer at Careem is mostly hands-on". And he warned against employees expecting swanky office space.

"We’re a start-up at heart and invest our resources in growth bets and customer experience. We have comfortable work spaces and pretty good coffee, but you’ve never seen our offices in the pages of Architectural Digest."

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Updated: June 07, 2023, 12:57 PM