Business Therapy: Is the Kuwaiti market ready for Uber?

Post by Loaay

As far as the regular Uber cars (a.k.a. uberX) the experience in London can be mostly described as no frills. The driver takes you from A to B and you’re done. A few drivers from a certain ethnic background try to cheat the system. The platform is designed in a way that the driver doesn’t know the destination until he starts the trip. To avoid accepting a short trip that won’t make them a lot of money, some drivers call you to ask about where you’re going or falsely start the trip on the system and either way if they don’t like it, they’ll cancel or worse ask you to cancel because they’re “stuck on the road”. According to Uber rules, if you cancel the request when the car is less than five minutes away from you, you’re charged £5.00. Of course, I complain through the app and within minutes they apologise in an email and refund me. Not that much of a pleasant experience, and that’s in London. Strange enough, the driver’s attitude in New York is much better.

I don’t claim to know how Uber will legally operate in Kuwait – that’s if they manage to make it happen. However, if they open the door to individuals as they do elsewhere I am concerned about the quality of the experience customers will have. The Kuwaiti market suffers a great deal from poor customer experiences caused by both sides: untrained and/or unfriendly staff and rude or unresponsive customers. I know I’m generalising but this is the mainstream scene. With immature consumer behaviour and a lack of professionalism from drivers who feel empowered to treat you anyway they like when they’re hiding behind the app’s platform the experience can be rigged or ruined in spite of regulations. That being said, Uber claims to be strict with drivers who receive poor ratings. Regardless of the business model Uber chooses, it would be better for the Kuwaiti market if Uber offers existing taxi companies to join their system conditional to following strict regulations that can be monitored. At least, we’ll have less horn-honking on the streets from taxis trying to get the attention of people walking by. This week’s tip: Expanding from one location to another is a sound move, if and only if, you can consistently maintain the standards of operation everywhere.

Post by Loaay Ahmed, a strategic business therapist since 1995. He currently lives and works in London, UK, while earning his master’s in Service Design Innovation, and managing knightscapital in Kuwait. For Loaay’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to loaay@knightscapital.com. Regrettably, only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.


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9 comments, add your own...


  1. Justin says:

    I think Uber Black might be able to work in Kuwait. Nicer Cars with higher quality service expectations.

  2. Rob says:

    Just what Kuwait needs, more taxis.

    • Nicolas says:

      Actually Kuwait really needs high quality affordable taxis instead of this overpriced and dirty taxis we have today. Do you think it’s normal when dirty and smelly Toyota Corolla with 600K mileage on it charging 4 KD (~$13) for 20km ride? And this happening in country where petrol price is 0.065 KD (~$0.21). For example in Germany you have to pay around $25-$30 for same distance. It’s double price but you have to consider that minimum petrol price in Germany is ~$1.40 (around 7 times more expensive) and taxi you will get will be super clean and badass Mercedes instead of shitty Corolla.

  3. Abdulrahman says:

    Careem is a Middle Eastern version of Uber that already operates in Kuwait. I’ve had a quite positive experience with them. Although at the time they only offer “Business” cars, the cars used are pretty neat – I got picked up in a brand new Chrysler 300C. But I have to say that their rates are pricey: a journey from Jabriya to Marina Mall cost me KD 9.700! But compared to existing taxi services in Kuwait, I’d say that the price was worth it.

  4. Mark says:

    Loaay I think you mixed up the 5 minute rule. If you cancel your request up to 5 minutes since you requested the cab you won’t be charged anything.
    https://help.uber.com/h/074d9f51-b9e2-4c71-b976-c8cf25ea5a7f

    • Loaay says:

      Mark, if you cancel the order when the driver is less than 5 min. away from you Uber will charge you £5.00 in the UK regardless of your cancellation being within 5 min. of your order time. It happened to me several times and I was refunded every time. I’ve had drivers start the trip on the system, and mark it ‘done’ and I was charged for it while I was waiting. I was also refunded for that. My point is Uber is built on an honour system with certain level of monitoring. Shady behaviours can ruin any experience. And we all know that the Kuwaiti market has a good portion of such people on both sides of the equation (drivers and customers).

  5. rampurple says:

    Actually, a contributing factor to Uber’s success is that they acknowledged that if they were to expand in other cities, they required local efforts tailored to each new location. Team launchers, described as a SEAL team, are responsible to get business running in new cities by being logistically savvy, getting a grasp of the city’s transportation ecosystem and using marketing creativity to encourage user adoption and market penetration.

    They often operationalize a new Uber city within 8 weeks and then recruit a team of local talented staff to run the business locally and sustain long-term growth. Uber also supports the city launches utilizing industry partnerships, local events and more fueling word of mouth and local growth. Moreover, Uber does not wash their hands for the city once they’ve launched. If anything, I’d have used Uber to demonstrate how companies should expand.


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