Ekar has raised $17.5M Series B to expand to Saudi Arabia
Priya Wadhwa
10x Industry

Ekar has raised $17.5M Series B to expand to Saudi Arabia

In conversation with Vilhelm Hedberg, CEO and co-founder of ekar

On 17th November, ekar has announced the launch of its pay-per-minute car rental service in the city of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The startup also announced that it closed its $17.5 million Series B in June earlier this year, which was raised to support its KSA expansion. The round was led by Dubai-based Polymath Ventures and joined by Al Yemni Group and Audacia Capital.

It is currently live in Riyadh with 400 cars, with plans to increase that to 600 in two weeks time, and 1200 by next year. The expansion will also see ekar launch its services in Dammam, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, and KAEC in 2020.

Vilhelm Hedberg, CEO and co-founder of ekar, told SME10X in a phone interview that the startup is currently “growth profitable” and aims to become “net profitable” by next year due to the Saudi Arabia.

Ekar has seen tremendous growth in the past year within the UAE, with 600 cars on the road. They witness 1,000 bookings per day on average, with the cars being picked up for a new trip within approximately 30 minutes of it end the previous one, as divulged by Vilhelm. Last month in October, ekar Dubai was acknowledged as “achieving the highest free floating utilization globally” as per an audit conducted by Movmi.

“Today, ekar UAE services 50,000 bookings per month, a number which we expect to quadruple over the next twelve months as we launch services across cities in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. We have 1,000 ekars in our fleet and over 75,000 members and envision surpassing 10,000 ekars and over a million members by 2021.”
Vilhelm Hedberg, CEO and co-founder of ekar

Vilhelm revealed that they’re looking into Turkey and Egypt to expand next after Saudi Arabia.

With KSA’s tourism industry getting a big push from the government, more tourists are expected to visit the country moving forward. Being a drive-friendly country with limited public transportation, ekar’s offering is expected to do exceedingly well and could indeed meet its goals to quadruple its bookings next year.

The startup recently also added Tesla cars to its fleet, becoming the world’s first brand to offer Tesla car share. Vilhelm said that while the cars are currently limited to the Masdar city, as they need to be brought back to the charging stations, the government in planning to put charging nodes across hotspots in Abu Dhabi, which will facilitate more Tesla and electric car drives.

Talking about challenges in the path of growth, Vilhelm and his team are working on new offerings that will enable more ekar vehicles to come on the road next year, facilitating even more bookings. He said that the app currently witnesses 17,000 opens a day in the UAE, which denotes a massive potential for growth.

Ekar, being compliant with local authorities, allows for easy registration of residents as well as visitors. Hence, as more ekar cars come on the streets, the easy rental scheme will undoubtedly see growth, especially with Expo 2020 coming up that is expected to witness an influx of people to the country.