Tell us about Selfdrive.
We are a fully technology-driven e-commerce portal established in 2016 and the only company to be licensed by RTA (in the United Arab Emirates), allowing customers to rent cars on demand for short and long term leases . We have partnered with automakers, dealerships and major leasing companies, making it the fastest growing asset company managing assets worth $350 million and aiming to reach $500 million by the second quarter of 2022.
We launched our service in Oman, Qatar and Bahrain with an accessible fleet of over 500 units offering daily, weekly and monthly rental and leasing solutions.
Our USP is to partner with dealerships and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to offer new and nearly new cars to customers from 1 day to 36 months. The artificial intelligence (AI) driven system makes the booking journey and documentation seamless for customers to book the cars of their choice, ranging from over 65 models from 16 different brands in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. Additionally, we aim to serve residents, the expatriate population and international travelers who need a car, creating an alternative to owning a car by offering micro-leasing and leasing solutions.
Tell us about integrating AI into your application.
AI integration takes place in three different verticals. For example, if you are a registered customer on our platform and you have driven a certain segment of a vehicle, for example BMW – each time you return to the application, the appearance of the application generally changes depending on the type of vehicle. clientele that you have been. This would provide more convenience for the customers to get the desired results rather than going through all the options available on the app. Second, AI has been implemented for intelligent service recommendation for consumers. And finally, it is integrated to understand the behavior of users and have an in-depth knowledge of the types and types of services they need; directly from where they would prefer us to offer our services to other makes or models of vehicles they would be interested in driving. The goal of implementing AI is to serve them better and we are confident that this use of technology will help us to speed up our services.
How has the pandemic changed your business model?
As a business, we have been fortunate to remain stable during the pandemic given the degree of uncertainty the market has experienced. We have been able to serve more people with a basic level of mobility. Although the pandemic has hit, we realized that people are still looking for options to meet their mobility needs – via their own car or rented or leased vehicles. So we developed and built solutions during the pandemic that helped the company grow exponentially. After the pandemic, the business grew by 380%, and we were able to do that simply because we launched the right products at the right time. Our subscription product has been one of the most successful where customers have been offered a monthly car ownership experience from one month to 12 months. This came with flexible options and was one of the key factors that led us to meet consumer demands and expectations. When the pandemic hit, uncertainties were at their height, we realized that people would need basic plans to meet their mobility needs, rather than investing in new cars and new assets. The market situation, when the pandemic hit, was to secure lifetime assets and savings so they could be put to good use, rather than investing in a depreciating asset. People got wiser and smarter to take, and that’s where the company benefited and enjoyed an upward growth trajectory during tough times.
What do you think of shared mobility or on-demand vehicles?
Shared mobility brings a different scale of growth in the economy whether it is peer-to-peer vehicles or peer-to-peer shared mobility. It’s impressive in terms of the value it brings to individuals because they can share their vehicles on the platforms, people can rent those vehicles and get a side income from them. Shared mobility also increases vehicle sales; it speeds up banking and insurance and systematically aligns the tariff structure, making it more affordable than traditional rental car types. Shared mobility is therefore undoubtedly disrupting the industry. On-demand vehicles are exactly what we offer, which is a key disruptor for the industry. Our app provides cars and vehicles on demand for customers to have it just for a day or two or a month, return it, upgrade it or swap their vehicles with any other model. So this flexibility has already been launched, and it has already succeeded in the market. Shared mobility will be more accepted by compliance, and we will have to see how it works in the market. But yes, it has a better future, but the implications will only be judged by the execution, which will vary from country to country. This is something very new for GCC, but then we will see if it is approved by the authorities here to move it forward.
Are automotive apps the future of car rental? If yes, how ?
Yes, apps are the future of car rental as they open up a new vertical for customers. From high-end to mid-range and economy versions, various brands are presented with the latest car model options, helping them to access these vehicles at their fingertips. As cars have also moved online, leasing also offers a different solution to owning a car. It offers customers the opportunity to rent cars from any location, whether it is the airport, residence, hotel or any part of the country. The apps are dominating the automotive space with its super-powerful technologies, enabling customers with mobility at their fingertips.
What new introductions are you planning for your app this year?
An instrumental feature that will be part of the app this year is that the customer making a reservation will now be able to track their progress regarding their reservation. Simply put, customers will have real-time access to key delivery milestones. So once the car is reserved, customers will be able to see updates on reservations, incorporation of compliance documents into the system, details of the car sent to the dealership, the car is prepped and ready at the dealership, a notification on where and when the vehicle can be picked up or an indication of the current status of the delivery time. All in all, customers will be able to see the car from the first stage to the final on the car coming to you in a live Google map environment. As the app will offer real-time updates on car delivery, customer confidence in our services will also increase. Additionally, customers can also view a status bar or the progress tab after booking, which is a new industry unique feature, which will be another first for us in the automotive space. The final testing stages are complete, and it should go live soon.
What are your goals for the coming year?
This year, we are looking at hyper-significant growth given our expansion across the GCC. We are aiming to be part of all GCC countries in the first quarter of 2022. Then we will be looking at a launch in the UK and Europe in the third quarter of 2022. We are also aiming to have around 5000 cars by the end of this year . So practically it will improve and double our fleet from where we are now. In addition, we are strategically expanding our business services.
Read: UAE-based Selfdrive launches mobility app to redefine on-demand car rental