Transportation goes digital


Decent transport links enable society to function better, and enable us to enjoy a vital, regular supply of goods, food and other essential items for business and personal life.

Here in the UAE, we are blessed with an infrastructure that is globally admired. As a relatively young nation, our leader’s vision has meant we can – and have – taken bold leaps in terms of the road network, the Dubai Metro system and now innovating ride hailing apps.

And now, we are moving into the digital realm to enable fast, convenient transport service bookings and management.

The UAE, as we all well know, is a hotbed of innovation, start-ups and funding opportunities. Companies such as Melrose Capital offer private investment opportunities for innovative local start-ups.

Melrose Capital is one of a growing number of young, dynamic investment company in the UAE – and in the tech sector – which is actively seeking to fund solid, innovative projects in sectors such as AI and enterprise modification, cutting edge financial technologies, life sciences and wellbeing, entertainment and commerce, and, of course transport.

I’m carefully following some inspiring apps coming to market. TruKKer, for instance, scored near record-breaking US$23 million Series A funding in 2019, one of the largest amounts on record for the MENA region.

The transport and logistics company has now moved into the local app space to provide ‘TruKKer Shipper’, designed to make the process of moving house or pickup and delivery of goods efficient, transparent and reliable.

Every driver is equipped with a ‘TruKKer Driver’ mobile app which enables them to provide instant quotes, real-time tracking, and on-time deliveries.

Such a move has brought greater efficiencies, accountability and transparency to a sector which was badly in need of an update. And what’s perhaps most impressive is that the company developed a whole new technology-first logistics and supply chain business despite, and during, the global pandemic.

Today, the company is recognised as the MENA region’s largest on-demand truck aggregator, with 15 regional offices.

In fact, the pandemic jolted many sectors into digital action. While Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is quoted as saying that the world saw two years’ worth of digital transformation in just two months, such dramatic pace of change has not only impacted technology companies, but also those in sectors traditionally slow to transform, such as the logistics and road freight industry.

You’ve probably had your head in the sand if you haven’t heard of Careem. Another great success story in the digital transport app sector, Careem was born in Dubai in 2012, as a vehicle for hire company.

Since that time, it has expanded to deliver its operations to more than 100 cities, covering 15 countries in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia regions. Now a subsidiary of Uber, Careem was valued at over US$2billion in 2018.

It’s expanded offering today underlines how such aps have weaved themselves in to the fabric of our everyday lives. Via Careem, we can take a ride in a car, taxi or bicycle, order food, pay for items, get shopping delivered and even send credit to family and friends.

This is where it gets interesting – the rise of digital transport apps has seen them pivot to become a catch-all business, which co-founder and chief executive Mudassir Sheikha himself describes as a ‘Super App’.

Have we now reached a point where – despite the enormous convenience – we must actually keep these apps in check?  Or will it be better for travellers to enjoy one simple, all-encompassing app for all their needs? How often have you arrived late to an airport and realised the apps you normally rely on at home don’t function in that country?

These are considerations on my radar, while being mindful of innovation and full of admiration for the combination of bold entrepreneurship and technological mastery.

Given our love of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, transportation in our region looks set to remain at the cutting edge.

We must celebrate the fact that we have created an environment where exciting start-ups often choose the UAE to test out bold new concepts. But, crucial to the next level of human and cargo transportation is to keep sustainability and energy use front of mind.

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