Ousta is preparing to become the latest application-based private car service to operate on the Egyptian market, after the sweeping success of such services in Cairo and other Egyptian cities over the past year.
In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Ousta founder and Chairman Nader El-Batrawi, and founding partner and CEO Omar Salah said the application’s services will be officially launched by March. They revealed that they will start operations with 2,000 cars, with the aim of increasing them to 10,000 by the end of 2016.
The service will first be available in Greater Cairo, with a view towards later expansions in Alexandria and the remaining governorates, in accordance with use rates.
What is the main goal behind launching the Ousta application?
Omar Salah: The main goal of [launching] Ousta is to make the transportation of individuals an easy and safe process by linking them to a network of new, safe, air-conditioned cars with skilled professional drivers.
The application provides the transportation service from and to any place, with affordable rates.
Do you really believe you can overcome the issues Egyptians face with regards to the provision of safe transportation?
Salah: This is the company’s main goal; users will not have to suffer and wait for a long time to find a professional driver with a new, safe car. Moreover, transparency in prices and commitment to the metered price solves many potential problems that could arise between clients and drivers.
Users and their loved ones will be able to follow up on the user and driver throughout the trip and to know their exact location. In addition, all drivers are registered in the company and users will be informed of all their data before the trip starts, ensuring further security.
What criteria are used for the selection of cars and drivers?
Salah: The company set out precise criteria to select cars and drivers. As for drivers, the most important criteria are passing a drug test and having no criminal record.
Drivers will be trained on safety rules, dealing with customers, and abiding by traffic rules and laws.
As for cars, they have to be new and air-conditioned, and to pass the technical test, to make sure they are safe.
In addition, they have to be new sedan models, from 2012 at the latest. Chinese cars, as well as the Hyundai Lanos and Verna, can be no older than the 2014 models.
When will the service be officially launched?
Nader El-Batrawi: By the beginning of March in Greater Cairo.
Why did you choose the Greek Campus as the company’s headquarters?
El-Batrawi: The Greek Campus is major hub for all startups in the field of information technology, and is located in the centre of Cairo. As a startup, our presence there is very important, in order to benefit from all available services and infrastructure, and from the expertise of other companies in all fields.
Why did you choose the name Ousta in particular?
El-Batrawi: Ousta is a word of Turkish origin, meaning mister. It was used to refer to skilled and professional people in their fields. For us, Ousta means a professional skilled driver who is not only good at handling car, but also at dealing with customers and different situations.
What is your perspective on the conflict that has erupted between app-based car services and the white taxi drivers?
El-Batrawi: Egypt has a population of more than 90 million citizens who are moving day and night. The level of competition generally favours quality and price of service, and consequently favours the consumer.
Competing with white taxis is not our main goal; rather, our aim is to serve society, and raise the standards of quality and safety in general.
Why not start from other governorates first, and then move to Greater Cairo?
El-Batrawi: The major reason behind starting from Cairo is that the company’s headquarters are in Cairo, as well as the city’s population, and the presence of a large number of smart phones users.
However, we will expand the service to many other governorates within a short period. We will expand to Alexandria, followed by other large governorates, in accordance with their population and the number of smartphone users.
What is the legal framework you operate under?
El-Batrawi: Ousta is an Egyptian joint-stock company, under the supervision of the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority, with commercial registry and tax cards. Our business is licensed to rent cars and provide land transport for individuals.
Moreover, we cooperate with licensed and registered companies operating in the field of car rental and land transport for individuals, and all the cars and drivers are licensed. So, legally, we have all the documents in order.
How do you see the mobile application market in Egypt?
El-Batrawi: I believe it is the future of providing all kinds of products and services; we have to keep pace with the developments that take place worldwide.
How many cars are expected to join the company’s fleet in the first phase, and what is the target number by the end of this year?
El-Batrawi: The expected starting number is 2,000 cars, with a target of 10,000 by the end of the year.
What payment methods are available on the app?
El-Batrawi: Credit cards and cash.
How do you evaluate the competition with Uber and Careem, both multinationals?
El-Batrawi: I believe competition is a positive thing, and always serves the interest of the industry, the quality of service, society, and the country.
Are you looking into any cooperation mechanisms with white taxi drivers?
El-Batrawi: Yes, we are studying this. We have the ability to create a special application for them. However, they have to abide by Ousta’s terms and conditions, including safety measures, ways of dealing with customers, and of course the trips’ metre.
The taxi drivers syndicate announced that it is working on launching an application for its members. What is your comment on this?
El-Batrawi: This is a great step, but the more important step is to work on improving the quality of service, abiding by the designated metre, and changing the public’s impression of taxi drivers.