In a very short span of time, Rashid Al Ghurair's CAFU has managed to mark its presence in the market. Whether it's the unmissable billboard on Sheikh Zayed Road or the surprisingly stylish fuel truck on the roads, it seems like CAFU is already everywhere. Intrigued by this local SME, the SME10X team decided to sit down with its founder Rashid Al Ghurair. Here is what we uncovered...
So, What is the premise of CAFU? How did it come about?
Almost every industry today is going through some sort of digital disruption. The Oil & Gas industry hasn’t seen much innovation since the invention of the combustion engine early last century. After spending more than a decade trading in physical oil, I wanted to combine innovation and technology in a way that disrupts this sector. Furthermore, I was inspired by the UAE government’s objective of making the UAE as a leading hub for technology and innovation.
The objective of CAFU is to make people’s lives more efficient by leveraging technology and innovation. We are relentlessly working to provide our community with smart ways of living that will allow them to spend more time doing things that they like rather than running errands/chores.
So, how does CAFU work exactly? Walk us through the steps as a customer.
CAFU is an “on-demand” fuel delivery application that will come and refuel your vehicle. We apply advanced Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning capabilities to our mobile app and pair that with the latest IoT solutions, as well as sophisticated algorithms. The result is a fuel-delivery app that delivers at near real-time to our customers across Ajman, Dubai and Sharjah.
Mobile phone users can download the app from the app stores, register the account with car details and then simply order fuel by marking their location.
From the customer’s point of view, what makes CAFU an attractive proposition?
With CAFU, we bring a world class service that redesigns the whole refueling process, making it simple, safe, and convenient. Giving people back their precious time to do what they love doing without having to worry about fuel makes us an attractive proposition.
What’s the timeframe for the fuel delivery?
If there is a free CAFU truck, we show you a live dynamic time slot which should be in the range of 15-45 min, if not, then the next 1 hour slot. My personal recommendation is book the 2 to 3am slot before going to sleep and wake up in the morning with a full tank (and energy) to drive.
What's the pricing like? Is it based on distance?
We charge a flat AED 18 per order over the petrol station price.
That's very interesting. So then how are you maintaining fuel prices to be on par with local fuel stations?
Every month the UAE Ministry of Energy declares monthly prices for all types of petroleum products sold in the UAE for that particular month - and we match that.
What about the quality of fuel?
We sell Super 98, Special 95 and Diesel; essentially it's the same quality you get at the petrol station.
What have been the major milestones you’ve achieved in the last 6-12 months?
Growing our loyal user base rapidly while maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction. In addition, CAFU was awarded the best platform using AI in the energy sector at the inaugural Ai Everything Brave Awards held earlier this year in Dubai.
What were the regulatory hurdles/processes you had to go through to while setting-up CAFU given your sector?
The UAE government has been very supportive to this innovation as we tick three areas of UAE's 2030 vision which is Technology, Transport and Energy sector.
What is one of the biggest operational challenge you are currently facing? How do you plan to get past this?
Changing consumer behaviour is one of our main challenges as any other digital offering. We believe that we can overcome such a challenge through consistent awareness campaigns and through continuous product improvements.
A question that every start-up gets asked: is funding on the cards?
Currently, we are self-funded. We will start looking for funding in the near future.
What technologies are you deploying to better control your processes and systems?
We have always believed in developing our proprietary technologies to suit our requirement and be a truly energy tech player. Today, in less than 7 months from launch, we can say that we are the most technologically advanced on-demand fuel app in the world. This puts a tremendous pressure on us to continue learning a developing this young industry and maintain market leadership position.
Wow, that's impressive! So what's next for you from here?
Our focus has been to build a truly advanced product to enhance people's lives and scale it to different cities. Recently, CAFU announced the expansion of its services to Jordan. Last month in June, CAFU announced plans to launch its Research and Development (R&D) Centre in Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI Park). The move comes in line with the UAE’s vision of driving innovation within the region, and CAFU’s goals of being a key local contributor to the fields of technology, mobility and energy.
Before we let you go, here's a question we like to ask all entrepreneurs: what does the 10X future of your industry look like?
I can already see that competition is beginning to wake up and see a portion of the oil downstream converting into an on-demand fuel.