Purchase of cars for individual needs has gone down in the UAE with the connectivity of public transport, introduction of UDrive, Ekar, Careem and Uber. Naturally this has put pressure on car rental companies as well as car dealerships. A new Dubai-based startup, Urent, addresses this issue to not only cater to public demand, but help car rentals and dealerships turn their business around to make more cash.
Urent is a new online platform that aims to revolutionise the car rental industry in the UAE. Following the Airbnb model for cars, Urent allows peer-to-peer vehicle sharing via its online platform—the first of its kind in the UAE.
Launching in a month at the end of July 2019, it has already managed to raise seed funding through a partnership with Seed Group, an association of diversified companies owned by The Private Office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum.
Although details of the deal have not been disclosed, we know that the platform will be the first of its kind to be licensed by the RTA, with immense potential to add to the UAE economy.
While their major indirect competitors are UDrive, which recently raised $5M to expand its fleet, Ekar and existing rental companies, Urent’s business model does not directly compete with them. Being the first of its kind in the UAE to be licensed by the RTA, Urent is not just another competitor in the car rental space. It goes one step further to expand the market to six other vehicle categories.
We have six vehicle categories in the pipeline. After launching the platform with two—cars and yachts—we will introduce the rest by launching a new category every month. The vehicles will be rented out on daily, weekly and monthly basis.Omar Al Ashi, CEO and founder of Urent
Urent is designed to allow individuals to rent out their cars. However, naturally trust is a key element here which could slow down the adoption rate, while there are hundreds of rental agencies that have their cars lying untouched, who can rent it out through Urent’s platform.
Al Ashi says he is also in talks with car dealerships, who can rent out their older inventory that has not been sold yet and is unlikely to be picked up. Thus creating a new avenue to help businesses and people earn revenues.
As for the trust factor, any business takes time to generate that, especially when talking to individual car owners who are concerned about the probability of accidents and insurance issues.
In order to encourage and develop this trust between vehicle owners and renters, Al Ashi says the platform will have many features such as ratings and reviews, similar to what Airbnb used to instill trust when it first launched. They will also run a sort of vetting process to ensure the quality of drivers remains good on the platform.
Overall, the challenge remains quite similar to Airbnb and its likes, in gaining the trust of the audience, however there are many case studies that Urent can learn from to ride this challenge.
Given that people are very passionate and particular about their cars, the owner's trust in the person renting it is one current weakness that Urent can turn into their strongest asset against future competition, given time, proper customer service, processes and communication.
There are many opportune time brackets where cars are simply lying unused; such as when people are on vacation, or have multiple cars which they rarely use. This is a great way for people to turn that dormant asset into revenue generating one, albeit it might only earn them a little extra cash.
One of the best aspects about Urent is its sustainability. Instead of buying new cars and vehicles, it uses existing ones, unlike its competitors; thereby allowing vehicles to be used to their full potential as well as reducing ones that end up in landfills or junkyards.
With the support of The Private Office and Mr. Hisham Al Gurg, URENT will set an example for the people of the MENA region and highlight the promising future of the sharing economy and, more importantly, the importance of using existing vehicles.Omar Al Ashi, CEO and founder of Urent
Currently, Urent is undergoing testing with the RTA, but will soon be launched to the public. Although it does not allow per-minute rentals that are becoming popular amongst Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi residents, it caters to residents and tourists who wish to hire cars to go on road trips or long drives, giving them access to larger 7 seaters, four-wheel drives, and such; while also catering to those who wish to go sailing.
The biggest advantage that residents and tourists will get from Urent is its standard rates, larger pool for choice, and transparent and centralised customer care. These are strong criteria that will attract renters, who like to deal with trustworthy companies without facing the issue of price haggling and chasing deposits back.
Urent has come in the right place at the right time. Omar provided us with an excellent presentation on how Urent could make full use of its unique business model as being the region's first Airbnb for cars.Hisham Al Gurg, CEO of Seed Group and The Private Office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum
Seeing the interest and trust of Dubai royals in the platform definitely seals the deal to push Urent on the path of success. We are excited to see the launch of Urent and the other categories it will be introducing to the market.