If like me, you find the cost of having a car too much and need a car for only a few hours or once in a blue moon, then ekar is for you. Enabling you to drive a car without owning one, ekar is the Middle East’s first self-drive mobility startup, offering users on-demand access to a network of vehicles available for rent and a leasing subscription.
Through its mobile app (available for both Android and iOS devices), users can pay by the minute, hour, day, or weekly, or even opt for long-term monthly rentals, which will include fuel, complimentary public parking, insurance, maintenance, and 24-hour customer support service.
What is Ekar?
Founded in 2015, Ekar enables users to rent cars by minute, hour, or day through its platform in the United Arab Emirates and now in Saudi. Users after downloading the app have to register themselves with a valid driving license, ID, and valid credit card.
Once registered, they can locate cars on the app and book the closest on a pay-per-minute for up to 5 hours conveniently, whether it’s on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The users can then unlock the booked car with the app and find the key inside its glove box (which can be retrieved using the personalized pin code).
In November 2020, the company announced its new product called the ekar fleet. The objective of ekar fleet was to extend ekar’s software-as-a-service platform to third-party car rental companies, thereby allowing them to list their vehicles on the ekar app, and hence, benefit from increased fleet utilization, the contactless rental process, and tracking of vehicles in real-time.
Consumers, on the other hand, found themselves greeted with a lot more options in any particular area. In May 2021, the startup took a step further in this direction by partnering with CarPro, a rental fleet management platform, to allow rental car companies with over 500,000 vehicles to utilize ekar’s Mobility OS within its fleet management software.
Background of Founders
Vilhelm is an alumnus of the University of Florida – Warrington College of Business and graduated with a Bachelor’s in International Business.
He started his early career as a Commerical Analyst at Jacksonville-based firm, Sea Star Line. Then, over the course of the next few years, he served at a number of national and international firms in different capacities. And finally, in 2016, he became the founder and CEO of the UAE-based Ekar.
The platform is quite user-friendly. You are required to simply download the app, register with a valid UAE or KSA driving license, and an Emirates/Iqama ID or passport, and you will soon receive a confirmation email from the ekar customer service team. Then, it’s just a matter of you locating the nearest ekar vehicle around you, customers can pick up and drop off at any location in the UAE, eliminating the need to visit a rental shop. Furthermore, unlike traditional car rental companies, ekar’s promise is that you only pay for how long you’re actually using the car.
On top of this, all cars come with maintenance and roadside assistance and can be switched, traded up, or returned at any time. A user selects a desired model on the app and a sterilized car will be door-delivered within 24 hours. So far, the company has serviced more than 200,000 customers and booked 1.3 million trips in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
The startup recently also added Tesla cars to its fleet, becoming the world’s first brand to offer Tesla car share. Vilhelm said that while the cars are currently limited to Masdar city, as they need to be brought back to the charging stations, the government is planning to put charging nodes across hotspots in Abu Dhabi, which will facilitate more Tesla and electric car drives.
Series B Round: Raised $17.5 million
The pay-per-minute car rental startup has raised $17.5 million in a Series B round, the round was closed in June earlier this year. The round was led by Dubai-based Polymath Ventures and joined by Al Yemni Group and Audacia Capital.
Ekar aims to provide UAE residents the freedom of getting around in a car without ownership hassles and strives to promote sustainability
The company is entering an inflection point as it arrives in Saudi Arabia, where a young and tech-savvy population of 20 million smartphone users is bypassing traditional car ownership in favor of alternative mobility solutions. ekar is a natural extension of the transportation vertical in KSA and is perfectly suited to address a growing demand for cost-effective transportation. In addition, more than 70,000 women in the Kingdom have been issued driving licenses, and ekar is well-positioned to be the ‘first-car solution’ for these drivers.