Uber in Saudi Arabia: In a country where women are barred by laws from driving, females make around 70-90% of Uber’s target market.
When Uber opened its services in early 2014 in Riyadh, it changed the lives of Saudi’s women who were legally prohibited from driving, by giving them greater mobility.
In a breast awareness campaign, 10KSA, hosted by Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud on December, Uber is a cosponsor. For the event, 10,000 women will come together, a first in Saudi’s history, and the Princess requested that 2,000 cars be available to convey participants.
Right now, Uber is not just an occasional transportation service, it is part of the daily life of the country’s women. Majed Abukhater , Uber’s General Manager in Saudi Arabia stated that observation and anecdotal records suggest that women comprise 70% to 90% of their passengers, most of them were young women. Although only 13% of Saudi’s workforce is women, women make up 60% of the college population.
He further stated that, “”We have some data to show that these women are starting to rely on Uber a lot more for their daily commutes; the proportion of trips that we see in Saudi during the weekday is actually very high relative to other locations.”
Abukhater added that women used to rely on private car services or limo transport companies but he pointed out that “ wait times would be half an hour”. In instances where these companies were fully booked, women are literally “ unable to move around the city”.
In Saudi Arabia, Uber works with limo companies as regulations require it to use existing companies, prohibiting it from contracting private drivers. Most Uber drivers are Asian or African expats and by using a licensed transport company, Uber’s presence here didn’t raise concerns regarding women traveling alone with male drivers.
Shahd AlShehail relayed how she uses Uber just like her friends and family in Riyadh. She agreed that before Uber, options were limited and were either inflexible or hiring an overly expensive. However, she feels that Uber could “expand their fleet”.
According to Abukhater, Uber priority is to increase its availability Saudi Arabia. Waiting time during the launching was 15 minutes but system optimizations brought it down to 6 or 7 minutes. Uber also plans to expand in the country but would like to concentrate first on refining its services in existing cities.