Bus hailing startup SWVL expands its operations to Saudi Arabia

EGYPTSWVL, an Egyptian bus-hailing startup, has launched its operations in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, its fourth market since it was founded in 2017.

The startup is already present in Kenya, Pakistan as well as Egypt.

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital and main financial hub with a population of close to 8 million, Swvl will join forces with other competitors including Uber, Careem, My Taxi, Jahz and Taxi Watani, among others.

In 2018, the Saudi Arabia’s Public Transport Authority (PTA) said there were 20 ride-hailing applications already licensed to run in the kingdom, with government further issuing statements that ride-hailing driving remains exclusively reserved for the country’s nationals.

In 2017, the country passed a royal decree allowing women to drive in the kingdom, a move expected to have a major impact on car transport businesses operating in Saudi Arabia.

SWVL is different from Careem or Uber in that instead of using private cars, the startup confronts the public transport system as whole by allowing commuters to book seats on its growing network of “high-quality” buses (owned and operated by third parties).

SWVL operates bus lines on fixed routes with customers boarding the buses from specific pick-up spots to be dropped at pre-defined (virtual) stations.

Swvl’s bold inroads into crowded ride-hailing markets have been one of its greatest strengths from day one.

Founded in 2017 by Mostafa Kandil, Ahmed Sabbah and Mahmoud Nouh, Swvl connects commuters with private buses, allowing them to reserve seats on these buses and pay the fare through company’s mobile app.

The buses available on Swvl operate on fixed routes (or lines) and are presently available in over 200 routes including in major cities like Cairo, Lahore, Alexandria, and Nairobi.

The startup launched its bus sharing services in Nairobi early 2019 after raising more than US$30 million in 2018.

Mostafa Kandil has however, consistently noted that the joining of Uber and Careem to the industry has not influenced Swvl’s growth, asserting that Swvl has, instead, witnessed remarkable development since the two competitive players launched.

In 2019, the startup was valued at US$157 million, becoming the second Egyptian company after Fawry to reach these figures.

The Egyptian startup is seen as largely secretive about its expansion plans. In early 2018, when it raised tens of millions of dollars in its Series B-1, the startup said that it would use the money to expand to Southeast Asia, starting with Manila in 2019 Q1 but instead expanded to Kenya.

In June 2019, the startup also said that it was planning to expand to Nigeria (by mid-July) but later launched operations in Lahore, Pakistan.

SWVL also most recently signed an agreement with Ford motor company to deploy more cars on the road. Ford Transit, which the startup intends to use is already the third bestselling van of all times. The startup is already in possession of about 100 Ford Transits.

Hazem Taher, SWVL’s Head Marketing Manager, said the vans were ready to go and they’re excited to push them on SWVL’s route.

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