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When it comes to entrepreneurship in the UAE, ride-hailing service Careem is in the driver’s seat. Public transportation in the Middle East is either synonymous with unreliability or simply doesn’t exist. Drivers often show up late, get lost en route, haggle over rates, and make customers pay in cash. Careem, meaning “generous” in Arabic, is MENA’s #1 car booking app for safe, reliable, and affordable transportation. Since launch, the company has established a footprint in over 80 cities and 13 countries throughout MENA, Turkey, and Pakistan.
Abdulla Elyas is the Co-founder and MD of Saudi Arabia. A Saudi national, born and raised in Germany, Abdulla’s role is to ensure that the very specific culture of Careem is working in all aspects and to safeguard the care of the people so that in turn they take care of Careem’s customers and captains. He built a platform for people to come onboard, be they Captains or other employees, to create partnerships and find their passion within the Careem mission. Abdulla was responsible for the introduction of cash payments to the Careem service in Saudi Arabia and has worked to make Careem the first regulated car-hailing service in the Middle East. During his time at the company he has grown the presence of Careem in the Kingdom to 35 cities and two million passengers per year, helped close the biggest funding round in the history of tech in the Middle East and grown helped Careem become the largest technology company in the region, worth over a billion dollars. Prior to working at Careem Abdulla founded the Enwani home delivery service as a way of simplifying delivery in Saudi Arabia and solving the postal address problem. In 2013 Enwani was internationally awarded by Sophia Business Angels in France on being the Most Investable Company 2013. And in 2014 Enwani was acquired by and Abdulla joined the Careem team as co-founder, sharing the same mission and driven by the same values to work on something big and meaningful together. With over a decade of professional experience in the management and consulting of software projects gained at multinational companies including Mercedes Benz, SAP AG and the World Exhibition Expo 2000 he is one of the region’s foremost consultants. During his time as a management consultant, Abdulla worked as an advisor for customers including Pepsi Co. in the United States, Vodafone in Malaysia and SABIC in Saudi Arabia. Abdulla also co-founded two social tech startups, Islam.de in 1999 and Waymo.net in 2002 and in 2016 was appointed to join the Saudi Arabian Small and Medium Enterprise Authority as a board member. He graduated with a MSc in Computer Science and holds a PhD in Business Administration honored with a Magna Cum Laude from RWTH Aachen.
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