We Sat Down with Swvl and Talked Transportation, Vision, and Their Million Dollar Deal
With public transportation being the problem that it is, Egyptians have either turned to services that offer them forms of private transportation, or they have just bought cars. This former option has become increasingly popular, given the popularity of the internet, and the consequent development of applications that support private forms of transportation: namely Uber and Careem.
The recent increases in Egyptian gasoline prices, however, have meant a huge spike in the prices of services like Uber and Careem, and in the sheer cost of owning a car. This -alongside the fact that public transportation in Egypt is not the most user-friendly thing in the world- has come to mean that Egyptians truly have very limited options when it comes to transportation.
This also means that cheap and user-friendly forms of transportation is definitely a service in demand. Seeing this, we decided to sit with Seif Ghallab, Swvl‘s very own Business Development Manager, to discuss how this new application is transforming Egypt’s transportation landscape; by providing a much cheaper alternative to private transportation, and a much cleaner and user-friendly alternative to public transportation.
Q: How did the idea of Swvl come about? Who are the minds behind Swvl?
Swvl has three co-founders: Mostafa Eissa who worked as a Careem Market Launcher in Dubai. Eissa was very successful at his job. He managed to launch Careem in several locations around the world: cities in Pakistan, Egypt, and Istanbul. The second co-founder is Mohamoud Nouh, he used to optimize routs for a shipping company. The third co-founder is Ahmed Sabbah, he used to work at Orange. They all just wanted to do something different, something that combined their variant areas of expertise. So, in February 2017, all three of them quit their corporate jobs, and started working on launching Swvl.
Q: Why Swvl? Why a bus transportation application in specific?
Well, there is a gap in the market for proper forms of cheap and friendly forms of public transportation. Egypt’s infrastructure is not built to support the current status of transportation. Moreover, subsidies on things like gasoline have been lifted, and will continue to get lifted on other things. This essentially means an increase in the coasts of more private forms of transportation. It also means that people are looking for an alternative to private transportation; and public transportation is not Egypt’s strong suite. We saw this gap and need in the Egyptian market as an opportunity to launch an application like Swvl.
Q: There are new routes that you guys have added to Swvl this summer, like Sahel and Ras Sudr, can you tell us more about these newly added routes? And what would you say is your most popular route out of them?
Sahel is definitely the most popular route. We go there every weekend. In terms of other destinations, we do not have fixed trips, we go there based on user demand, but all this is very seasonal. So in Eid, for example, we might have fixed trips to other popular vacation destinations, like we do for Sahel. In general, I would have to say that we go everywhere in Egypt, based on the requests and feedback we receive from Internet users.
Q: How many routes do you have in Cairo right now?
We have somewhere between 70 to 80 routes within Cairo right now. This means we basically cover the entirety of Cairo, or at least a very large portion of it.
Q: Do you guys have any plans to cover other governorates, aside from big and popular city centers like Cairo?
We are going to announce something very soon for other governorates.
Q: How much do Sahel weekend trips cost?
Typically 125 LE, but we do have periodic promo codes that people can use. We recently transported people for only 65 LE. This is really cheap, in relative comparison to the quality of service we offer.
Q: Do you guys plan on increasing the time slots available for transporting your users?
Yes, we plan on expanding both in terms of the geographic space we cover, and the number of travel times available throughout the day. Our ultimate goal is to provide, for example, a user who wants to go from Maadi to the 6th of October specifically at 8 pm, with what he/she has requested. What guides this overall plan is crowdsourcing; we are listening in on what our users and Internet users in general are saying about the time slots they wish were available, and/or the geographic routes that they wished were covered.
Q: Is it true that Careem has recently invested half a million dollars in Swvl? If yes, how did that deal come to life? What does Swvl plan on doing with this new sum of money?
Yes, Careem has in fact decided to invest half a million dollars in Swvl. Well, our CEO and founder Mostafa Eissa, used to work at Careem. Hence. he has very strong ties with the team there, so I do believe they are the ones who approached us with the deal. Aside from the financial investment, Karl Magnus Olsson -founder and Managing Director at Careem- has now officially joined Swvl. So we are just waiting to see how we can leverage Olsson’s knowledge and experience, with Swvl’s vision, and with Careem’s large investment, in the best way possible.