There is no doubt we are aware of the dreaded peak hour traffic for work commute. Syed Wajahat Karim , Founder Caravan , decided to tackle this problem head on and hence Caravan was born.
Team Cofounder.ae speaks to Syed Karim , Founder of Caravan , a dubai based startup focusing on reducing the number of cars on the road and consequently reducing the congestion and pollution caused by them.
What is caravan? Briefly explain it to our audience how commute by bus works.
We connect employees with the right buses so that they can have a convenient, comfortable, and cost-efficient work commute.
It all began with a simple question. How can we reduce the number of cars on the road and consequently reduce the congestion and pollution caused by them.
Most of us here at Caravan are life-long residents of U.A.E. We are aware of the dreaded peak hour traffic for work commute and the frustration and exhaustion that it causes. We decided to tackle this problem head on and hence Caravan was born.
What makes Caravan’s commute by bus different from the others?
Currently, there are no aggregators in the U.A.E market that are operating in the private transport industry.
People are currently forced to search for numbers of bus operators on Google, Facebook or Dubizzle. And it can take anywhere between a few hours to days to find the right one.
With Caravan, people just tell us about their requirement. And we take care of the entire process of finding and matching them with the right bus operator. Thus completely eliminating the hassle and frustration of the search.
Caravan made it to the Sheraa seed program 2019 cohort. How did you get selected, and how is the program? Throw some light on it.
We have been part of Sheraa from our inception. We started off from the Ideathon Program, worked our way to Pre-Seed Build and Pre-Seed Launch. When the Seed Program was announced we were at the right stage for the program. And we had the necessary components to make it past the selection round.
The program is a grueling, 6 weeks, hands on program that formalizes the definition of “product-market fit” for a startup. It provides a framework to help startups figure out how much they need to raise for a seed round. And how to justify the line items for the ask.
Tell us about the Founding team at Caravan.
The founding team consists of just me (solo founder).
It was quite a lonely journey until we made our first hire. I’m an avid urban mobility enthusiast
And in my final year of college, I created a ride sharing application for U.A.E. And I’ve been obsessed with removing single occupancy vehicles from the road ever since.
Prior to Caravan . I have had two years of experience in software sales at InfoFort, which is a subsidiary of Aramex.
I was also part of the inaugural batch of fellows of the prestigious Wamda X program. Which was launched in March 2019.
How do you manage the authenticity of every bus driver you have at caravan?
We ensure the legality of each bus operator by collecting the documents. (such as trade license, bus registration, insurance etc) required by RTA in order to provide passenger transport service.
We also check the number of years an operator has been providing the service. So that we can pick the reliable and knowledgeable bus operators to join the platform.
What is the biggest challenge / problem you faced till now? And how did you manage it?
There are so many challenges when running a startup. And these challenges don’t decrease, they just change as the startup grows.
When we were first starting off, our biggest challenge was convincing bus operators to work with us. Which then morphed into how to recognize and hire the best talent for our current stage.
Are there any subscription models for travelling through Caravan?
As per the rules and regulations, employees can only sign up for a (minimum) monthly contract with bus operators. And we follow the same model.
With the Metro Rail being there, how did you manage to attract customers to Caravan?
Public transport is fantastic in U.A.E, particularly in Dubai. However, since not all areas are covered. Some passengers must take multiple buses or change stations at the metro in order to reach their destination.
This can be an exhausting process and some people prefer the convenience of an efficient pick and drop service like Caravan.
How is the ecosystem in UAE like? One advice you would like to give to entrepreneurs out there?
The ecosystem is growing exponentially with the number of startups entering. There are a lot of investors out there, but capital is still not as readily available as it might seem.
One advice we’d like to give entrepreneurs is to figure out a way to quickly. And efficiently build out an MVP for their product before committing to a startup full time.