Getting around in Pakistan is not the easiest thing, as the public transport system is fairly underdeveloped. If you take the bus, you can expect to run late, and taking a cab often means that you arrive soaked with sweat due to the lack of air conditioning. Here is where the car-sharing platform Careem steps in. This Dubai startup builds on an app service much like Uber, connecting private drivers with customers, who can order the “pick & drop” service on demand, and on the go. Instead of negotiating the price, as you would when taking a cab, fares are calculated by the app. Drivers have to go through a thorough security check and background screening, guaranteeing the safety of the customers. Careem entered the Pakistani market in 2015 and is now available in all major cities in Pakistan. The success of the app has sparked protests by local taxi and rickshaw drivers, and the Punjab government attempted to ban the car-sharing company in January 2017. Whereas normal taxi drivers fear for their livelihoods, Mudassir Sheikha, the Pakistani co-founder of Careem, claims to have a social vision: to build an institution to improve people’s lives and create one million job opportunities in Pakistan by 2020.
However, in some cases, Careem is still having difficulties in appealing to its customers. One advertising campaign backfired: A rishta-auntie – or a professional matchmaker – was offered in order to discover the perfect match for the customer while driving them to the office. Young, educated, urban women – Careem’s main customers – were especially offended by this promo. Prior to Careem, transportation was a problem for women in the cities. Living in a highly patriarchal and misogynistic society, they had to mostly rely on male relatives to get around – until Careem made it easy and safe to hire a ride (which can be tracked in real-time). It provides independence and has revolutionized the social lives of many. That is why the rishta-auntie promo was seen as a slap in the face, reminding women that they are still caged in a society that sees heterosexual marriage as the ultimate achievement in life, and the only structure in which a female body can exist.