How tech-enabled automotive apps are changing the face of the industry
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How tech-enabled automotive apps are changing the face of the industry

How tech-enabled automotive apps are changing the face of the industry

Automotive apps will power innovation in the car rental sector, says Udrive CEO Nicholas Watson

Divsha Bhat
Udrive automotive

How do you see the growth of on-demand mobility and contactless driving post-pandemic in the UAE?
The Covid-19 created an entirely new way to think about work and life balance. More and more workplaces are engaging in hybrid work schemes combining office and home workspaces. This leads to those hybrid employees and individuals considering whether they need to purchase and own a car that might be parked idle in the garage for most of the week or go for a part-time usership of a car. Therefore, we have seen a big increase in registrations in areas that are not usually hotspots for Udrive.

While the lockdown hurt Udrive’s revenue initially, we concentrated on unit economics and a route to profitability rather than just chasing revenue growth. We have tripled our fleet since and are geared for triple-digit percentage growth and accelerated profitability in the region over the next year.

Contactless has become the new standard for almost every industry. ‘Contactless’ isn’t just about removing the need for human interaction, which is a benefit when it comes to concerns about the virus, but it’s also important to streamline the customer journey. As you can imagine, when you build a product or service that does not rely on human interaction, you are effectively building a faster and more economical way of achieving your end goal. In our case, it takes no more than 10 seconds to book a car near your location once you are registered to use the platform.

How are tech-enabled automotive apps changing the face of the industry?
Tech enablement streamlines the customer experience in ways that were historically always considered manual human processes. This changes the way businesses or car rental companies operate and eventually makes the customer’s life easier. This is forcing automotive manufacturers to think of cars as ‘shared’ rather than singularly owned and this impacts the design, look and feel of how those cars will operate. There will always be those who want the car entirely for themselves and those vehicles will become highly customisable down to the individual’s tastes, however, as sharing becomes a larger portion of automotive usage, we will see some radically different approaches to how those cars adopt technology to meet the demand of multiple users on a single car.

Are automotive apps the future of car rentals?
Automotive apps are a catalyst for change and, because they enable efficiency in renting, the likelihood is they will drive the innovation in car rental. A report by KPMG estimates that half of the car owners today will no longer want to own a vehicle by 2025, indicating an increase in the trend of on-demand transportation services.

However, the innovation really is in the business model and operational excellence of a car rental company. It does not matter how great the app is if the car is poor quality or is not in the right place at the right time for the customer. So, while the apps accelerate the future, the culture and adoption of business innovation is where I see the future of car rental.

Tell us about your company and your journey so far in this industry.
Udrive is the UAE’s first pay-per-minute car rental concept that started in 2017 offering drivers in the UAE and recently Saudi Arabia, a cost-effective, short-term driving solution. Drivers can book a car for their journey via our app, find it at a location that’s convenient to them, and then simply drive. With free petrol, insurance included in the price, most public parking fees covered and with no hidden charges, all the user needs to do is drive.

Since launching Udrive, we’ve had our fair share of startup experiences, both positive and negative while scaling at triple digits across revenue, users and fleet. Both tourists and residents can drive the car even if it is only for a few minutes, rather than renting cars by the day. We are on our way to a 1,000-car fleet this year in the UAE. There are 300,000 registered users and a total of over two million trips since our launch.

We have ambitious expansion plans over the next four years and a strong board, leadership team, strategy and funding to achieve them. The Udrive technology platform is presently applied to car sharing but is easily extendable to similar other use cases – we are currently in talks with strategic investors on how to apply our technology and operational experience in other markets. In 2023, we look forward to launching in more GCC cities.

Read: Udrive launches area-exclusive car rental station near Dubai World Trade Centre

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