Shared mobility speeds up in GCC as global users to cross 62m by 2027

In the GCC, companies such as Udrive (below) and ekar have dominated the car-sharing space providing customers with an alternative to the existing rental options in cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 June 2023

Shared mobility speeds up in GCC as global users to cross 62m by 2027

  • Region embraces a system that provides a car-ownership experience without the need for owning a car

DUBAI: Shared mobility is gradually gaining a foothold in the Gulf Cooperation Council region as the automobile industry predictably joins other sectors in adapting to the sharing economy.

Whether it is renting out office space, an Airbnb vacation home, or a fancy dress for a special occasion, more people around the world are embracing the concept of sharing resources and services as opposed to owning them.

Companies are also changing their business models by leveraging the ongoing shift to a sharing economy and the transport sector is no exception.

In fact, the number of users in the car-sharing segment worldwide is likely to grow to 62.11 million by 2027, according to a report issued by Germany-based data-gathering platform Statista.

In the GCC, companies such as Udrive and ekar have dominated the car-sharing space providing customers with an alternative to the existing rental options in cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh.

“There’s a lot of demand for the product,” said Nicholas Watson, the co-founder, and CEO of Udrive, a car-sharing provider in the region.

“The methodology or business model that car-sharing represents, is a fully digital experience with no human interaction. And through that, you streamline access to the vehicles,” which can then be parked anywhere in the city, he said.

With a fleet of 1,000 cars in the UAE mainly Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, Udrive charges customers 1-2 dirhams ($0.27-$0.54) per minute with several options for daily rates.

The car-sharing platform recently launched its operations in the Saudi capital Riyadh with plans to expand its fleet to 1,000 cars by the end of 2023.

It also plans to launch a 1,000-strong fleet of electric vehicles in the next 18 months in Dubai but have similar plans for the Kingdom in near future.

The car-sharing option will also help mitigate the effects of climate change as according to a World Bank report the transportation sector is a major source of emissions accounting for close to 20 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

European statistics show that every car shared removes 17 vehicles off the road, said Udrive CEO.

“That’s where sustainability comes in with car-sharing, we are fractionalizing car rental itself and we are making it available to everybody by the minute,” Watson added.

Reports show that an average passenger car sits idle for 22.5 hours per day. “The key is that the more people become aware that you can rent a car through your mobile phone, open the car through your mobile phone, and drive wherever you want, and end the trip wherever you want,” he told Arab News.

The majority of clients in this region are expatriates, who typically prefer vehicle subscriptions over simply sharing a car from point A to point B. — Soham Shah, CEO of

Unlike rental companies, car-sharing covers all costs for petrol, parking, and insurance without requiring customers to put down any deposit amount or worry about minor damage.

In case of an accident, customers must obtain and submit a police report, as per the law, with all damages covered under comprehensive insurance.

“It removes all the barriers of entry for people who normally wouldn’t be able to rent a car,” many of which fall in the middle to lower-income bracket, also considered the largest mobile and working population, said Watson.


Reports by Statista show the car-sharing segment in Saudi Arabia is projected to grow by 7.54 percent in the next five years with the market volume expected to reach $148.60 million in 2027.

In the UAE, the segment is projected to grow by 5.6 percent during the same period with the market volume likely to hit $102.60 million in 2027.

“When you look at these cities, it’s more about population density and the distances (covered) in average travel,” said Watson.

For example, Dubai is a city with horizontal highways such as Emirates Road and Sheikh Zayed Road, which extend from one end of the emirate to the other.

It consists of areas with huge vertical infrastructures and a high density of people per 100 sq. meters looking to move from one area to another.

We have observed a trend where individuals are moving away from traditional car ownership, and instead are opting for longer-term rentals to meet their needs. — Vilhelm Hedberg, Founder of ekar

This makes Dubai an ideal place for car-sharing, says Watson, whereas Abu Dhabi follows a grid-based system resulting in less congested areas.

“Car-sharing is indeed gaining significant momentum in the Middle East,” said Vilhelm Hedberg, founder of ekar, a self-drive mobility platform.

He pointed to a twofold year-on-year increase in user registrations and usage over the last three years on the platform.

According to him, the shift in consumer behavior is due to several factors, including a higher demand for environmentally friendly urban mobility options, which are affordable, convenient, and flexible at the same time.


• More people around the world are embracing the concept of sharing resources and services as opposed to owning them.

• Companies are changing their business models by leveraging the ongoing shift to a sharing economy and the transport sector is no exception.

• The number of users in the car-sharing segment worldwide is likely to grow to 62.11 million by 2027, according to a report issued by data-gathering platform Statista.

“The prices for chauffeur-driven alternatives have increased, making car-sharing a more attractive and cost-effective option,” said Hedberg

He believes, the increase in the adoption of car-sharing services is partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted a shift away from public transportation.

“We have also observed a trend where individuals are moving away from traditional car ownership, and instead are opting for longer-term rentals to meet their mobility needs,” he said.

In response to this demand, ekar has recently introduced subscription leasing, offering flexible rental options ranging from 1 to 9 months with a door delivery service.

Similarly, Soham Shah, CEO of, a car rental and monthly subscription platform, believes there is a growing acceptance of car subscription programs, particularly among expatriates residing in the Gulf countries.

According to him, subscription services are especially attractive to individuals who seek a personalized mobility experience but are unable to purchase a car immediately upon arrival in the country.

We are fractionalizing car rental itself and we are making it available to everybody by the minute  — Nicholas Watson, Co-founder and CEO of Udrive

“Whether they are in the process of settling down or are aware of a certain timeframe before making a buying decision, they require monthly mobility solutions,” he said.

“The majority of clients in this region are expatriates, who typically prefer vehicle subscriptions over simply sharing a car from point A to point B,” Shah added.

He also described the GCC taxi market as “well-established, highly regulated and maintained,” pointing out that there is a strong inclination toward using local taxis or opting for services like Uber that offer car-sharing.

However, Shah believes the future of mobility in the GCC lies in a sustained ecosystem of on-demand mobility that provides a car-ownership experience without the need for purchasing a car.

The subtle shift in the automobile industry coincides with the region’s increased attention toward combating climate change and its unified vision to create smarter, greener transportation systems.

By providing individuals with convenient access to transportation without the need for private vehicle ownership, car-sharing promotes a shift toward “a more sustainable and environmentally conscious lifestyle,” said Hedberg.

There is no doubt that sharing mobility offers more efficient utilization of vehicles, reducing the number of cars on the road, he added.


Saudi Arabia to establish special desk to facilitate Pakistan’s IT firms’ registration

Updated 02 October 2023

Saudi Arabia to establish special desk to facilitate Pakistan’s IT firms’ registration

  • Development coincides with signing of MoU to bolster cooperation in field of digital sciences

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to create a dedicated desk to streamline the registration of Pakistani IT companies seeking to establish themselves in the Kingdom, announced Pakistan’s caretaker IT Minister Umar Saif on Sunday.

This development coincided with the signing of a memorandum of understanding in Riyadh between the two nations to bolster bilateral cooperation in information technology.

According to a statement by the Pakistan Embassy in Riyadh, the agreement focuses on accelerating digital transformation, fostering innovation and advancing digital infrastructure.

The MoU, signed by the Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha, stated that both countries will encourage small and medium-sized enterprises and startup ecosystems. 

They plan to collaborate on initiatives related to the transfer of businesses and the exchange of information on accelerators and incubators for emerging technology. 

On an official visit to the Kingdom, the Pakistani minister held meetings with several high-profile officials.

“We’re looking at opportunities for our startups to come here and raise investments from Saudi investors. These startups have raised over $800 million in just the last two years and are now at a point where they’re about to take off. I think each of these startups has the potential to become a billion-dollar company,” Saif told Arab News. 

He announced his “incredibly productive meeting” with Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih on social media platform X. “He (Al-Falih) has instructed (the Ministry of Investment) to establish a special desk for Pakistani IT companies to get registered in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and to grant (them) licenses to operate in KSA,” said Saif.

The Pakistani minister added: “I think there are huge opportunities for investment in Pakistan. We met with a lot of investors today (Sunday) and could meet with a few more with the PIF (Public Investment Fund) and STC to explore how they could come and be part of the telecom infrastructure, connectivity and payment systems in Pakistan.”  

Furthermore, Saif mentioned that the Saudi minister of communication tasked him with identifying the top 100 Pakistani talents globally — individuals potentially poised to win Nobel Prizes and establish billion-dollar companies.

“There is certainly a commitment to now forge these partnerships and relationships beyond the call of duty,” said the Pakistani minister.

Furthermore, he emphasized the significance of chip manufacturing, which involves producing semiconductor chips in various electronic devices. This area of interest is mutually vital for both countries.

“The Kingdom has put together a lot of resources and facilities for the fabrication of semiconductors. We can do it, but we don’t have the resources. However, we certainly have the technical expertise to collaborate on this,” he said.

The minister concluded the interview by highlighting Pakistan’s substantial lithium reserves, recognizing their potential for lithium-ion battery production, which could play a crucial role in future sustainable energy solutions.

“We don’t have the resources to put our facilities to convert our lithium reserves into lithium-ion batteries and products,” he commented, adding that this is “an area in which there could be deep collaboration between the two countries.” 

According to the embassy’s statement, the two nations will collaborate to explore how entrepreneurs and businesses can harness technology investments and venture capital. 

Their primary objective is strengthening their digital economy connections by assessing and certifying companies for collaborative opportunities within their information and communication technology markets.

Furthermore, the agreement will facilitate cooperation in e-governance, smart infrastructure, e-health, e-education and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and blockchain. 

Both countries will enhance their digital infrastructure, including fiber optic networks, data centers and cloud computing resources. 

The agreement also encourages engagement in each other’s international events and fosters information exchange between their public and private sector entities involved in IT development and electronics.

Number of Saudis in private sector rises 10.5% in Q2

Updated 02 October 2023

Number of Saudis in private sector rises 10.5% in Q2

RIYADH: The number of Saudi nationals in the private sector rose 10.5 percent in the second quarter of 2023 to reach 2.2 million, a report by the National Labor Observatory showed.

It revealed an average quarterly growth of about 42,000 citizens in the private sector until the current year's second quarter.

The rise was attributed to a strong economic rebound that led to an increase in the workforce.

The report also reviewed industry changes and Saudization figures for jobs in private sector establishments based on different regions across the Kingdom.

It showed that the number of Saudi employees recorded the most significant increase for both genders, with males standing at 1.3 million, compared to about 900,000 females, bringing the total Saudization rate to 22.3 percent.

The Eastern Province took the lead, recording the highest Saudization rate of 27 percent, followed by Makkah at 24 percent and Riyadh and Madinah at 21 percent each.

The information and communications sector also achieved a strong participation rate for male citizens, reaching 60 percent, while education achieved the highest engagement of female citizens at 53 percent.

In May 2022, the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development announced that it was focusing on a skills strategy to improve professional standards for workers and those entering the labor market, according to Abdullah Abuthnain, the vice minister.

Abuthnain noted that the initiative would benefit more than 200 professions, with councils establishing employment standards and on-the-job training programs in critical economic sectors.

“We, at HRDF, will work to develop and implement labor market policies by creating a sustainable national workforce, developing human cadres’ skills, providing them with knowledge and qualifications, and aligning them with labor market and job needs,” he said at the time.

Closing bell – Saudi Arabia’s main index edges down 0.3%

Updated 02 October 2023

Closing bell – Saudi Arabia’s main index edges down 0.3%

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index declined 0.3 percent to close at 11,005.94 on Monday recording a total trading turnover of SR5.2 billion ($1.4 billion).

The Tadawul All Share Index ended lower with 60 stocks making gains and 158 reporting losses. The MSCI Index also dipped 1.75 points to close at 1,413,37.

Nomu, the parallel market, ended the day on a positive note rising 0.41 percent and recording a trading volume of SR50.1 million.

Arabian Pipes Co. emerged as TASI’s best performer, as its share price surged 6.07 percent to close at SR90.90.

National Medical Care Co. and Leejam Sports Co. also posted significant gains, closing at SR133 and SR151.60, up by 5.89 percent and 4.99 percent respectively.

The National Company for Learning and Education and Red Sea International Co. also performed well.

Saudi Aramco Base Oil Co. closed as the day’s laggard, falling 4.56 percent to end at SR142.20.

Share prices of Al-Babtain Power and Telecommunication Co. and Bupa Arabia for Cooperative Insurance Co. also dipped to SR18.72 and SR200, falling by 4.20 percent and 4.12 percent, respectively.

On Nomu, Intelligent Oud Company for Trading emerged as the top-performing firm gaining 30 percent to conclude at SR63.70.

Alqemam for Computer Systems Co. also ended in the green rising 29.82 percent to finish at SR120.60. Paper Home Co., Mayar Holding Co., and National Building and Marketing Co. joined the gainers’ list, closing at SR 210.20, SR8.07, and SR257 after gains of 21.36 percent, 9.20 percent, and 6.20 percent, respectively.

On the announcement front, Intelligent Oud Company for Trading began listing its shares on Nomu at SR49 per share.

The company floated 325,000 shares, which represents 20 percent of its capital, to qualified investors. The offering was oversubscribed by 1,983.63 percent.

The initial public offering marked the 23rd listing on Nomu in 2023. The total number of listed companies on Nomu has now reached 67.

PIF-owned Cruise Saudi sets sail with tech investment in AROYA Cruises 

Updated 02 October 2023

PIF-owned Cruise Saudi sets sail with tech investment in AROYA Cruises 

RIYADH: Public Investment Fund-owned Cruise Saudi has announced its investment into various tech organizations for its AROYA Cruises. 

In a press release, the company announced that the project has entered its inaugural phase of technology stack development, solidifying partnerships with globally renowned tech companies. 

These strategic collaborations, featuring Monitor Deloitte, Alibaba Cloud SA and theICEway as well as SourceToad, Otalio and Versonix Seaware, underscore Cruise Saudi’s commitment to providing passengers with a seamless journey from booking to boarding and beyond. 

Cruise Saudi’s IT and digitization team is leading the technology stack development, signaling their dedication to delivering a cutting-edge passenger experience. 

Leading the charge in project management and digital strategy is Monitor Deloitte, a global leader in strategy and consultancy. They will meticulously craft a data-driven digital strategy to ensure every technological decision is forward-looking and strategically aligned. 

Alibaba Cloud Saudi Arabia, a homegrown Saudi enterprise, will lay the digital foundation for AROYA Cruises, ensuring top-tier security, reliability, and swift digital interactions. 

Simultaneously, theICEway has been entrusted with the task of seamlessly integrating AROYA’s diverse technological domains into a cohesive digital ecosystem, guaranteeing a harmonious experience for both guests and crew members. 

Guests on AROYA Cruises will benefit from an array of features designed to enhance their experience. This digital hub will provide services such as an interactive ship map, daily itineraries, and reservations for shore excursions, dining, and spa treatments. 

Otalio’s Ship Property Management System is set to elevate the experience from cabin to deck, delivering curated experiences. 

On the other hand, Versonix Seaware, renowned for its expertise in cruise-focused Reservation and Revenue Management, will offer an intuitive booking experience. 

Cruise Saudi CEO Lars Clasen said: “We are proud to be working in collaboration with world-leading technology companies to integrate cutting-edge technology into the AROYA Cruises experience. Creating a seamless, modern and comfortable journey for our passengers really is at the heart of our offering, and investing in technology to enhance the cruising experience truly aligns with our future-forward ambitions for this cruise line.” 

Cruise Saudi welcomes cruise lines from around the globe to include Saudi as a port of call on their itineraries and add new destinations across the Kingdom that boast rich cultural heritage, history, and natural wonders. 

Cruise Saudi was officially launched in 2021 to develop the infrastructure and services required to scale a full-suite cruise market in Saudi.  

The company is responsible for the development and operation of cruise berths and terminals as cruise gateways to key Saudi destinations, as well as scaling cruise services, from marketing to Shorex design and coordination and ship operations. 

SVC invests $30mn in IMPACT 46 Fund III to support pre-IPO companies

Updated 02 October 2023

SVC invests $30mn in IMPACT 46 Fund III to support pre-IPO companies

RIYADH: As part of its commitment to minimize financing gaps for startups, Saudi Venture Capital Co. has invested SR112.5 million ($29.9 million) in IMPACT46 Fund III. 

According to a press release, the move is designed to empower late-stage companies in the region by investing in growth and pre-initial public offering phases.

A late-stage company is a business that has been in operation for a few years and has demonstrated viability. 

The release added that the trust will aim to allocate a specific amount for early-stage startups, focusing primarily on seed rounds in the broader Middle East. 

“The investment in IMPACT46’s Fund III falls under the company’s fund investment program, which aims to enhance the growth of the venture capital ecosystem for startups in the Kingdom across all stages and sectors,” said SVC CEO Nabeel Koshak in a statement. 

“This is in line with the growth witnessed by the venture capital sector in the Kingdom over the past years, making it a leader in venture capital in the Middle East and North Africa in the first half of 2023 in terms of invested amounts,” Koshak added. 

The Kingdom clinched the top spot in venture capital value for the first half of 2023, registering investments that surpassed $446 million, the highest in the MENA region. 

“We are delighted that SVC and IMPACT46 are once again joining forces, this time with our Fund III, which aims to support the growth of the tech startup ecosystem in Saudi Arabia. This partnership demonstrates our commitment to achieving our shared vision for driving a sustainable economic impact,” said IMPACT46 CEO and Founder Abdulaziz Al-Omran in the statement.

“This investment not only signifies the growing maturity of the VC activity in Saudi Arabia but also highlights the Kingdom’s potential to emerge as a frontrunner in this sector,” Al-Omran added. 

Founded in 2018, SVC operates under the umbrella of the SME Bank and the National Development Fund.  

SVC has channeled its resources and efforts toward empowering startups with an investment portfolio that boasts $2 billion. 

The company’s reach encompasses 43 investment funds and over 700 startups and small and medium enterprises, firmly positioning itself as a catalyst for entrepreneurial growth. 

Furthermore, IMPACT46 is a Saudi-based venture capital company that invests from seed-stage startups to more mature businesses.