Small Enterprise speaks to Soham Shah, the CEO of Selfdrive.ae, an on-demand rent-a-car platform that’s on a mission to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to match users’ profiles with the cars they wish to drive
Tell us about the platform. How did you arrive at the concept behind it?
Selfdrive, is a smart mobility Super App, that allows users to rent a car on demand in a simple, safe and flexible way. The app is designed on a proprietary tech foundation concept known as search–select–pay, which uses machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to match users’ profiles with the cars they wish to drive. It’s currently available in the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait and we plan to add further new markets in the near future.
The idea to start Selfdrive was spurred when we realised that the car manufacturers and dealerships have a unique problem – they have a lot of unsold inventory standing. This led us to come up with the idea of having a platform that facilitates deals for consumers and gives them direct access to dealership vehicles.
How does the platform differentiate itself from similar platforms on the market?
As compared to other car rental services, Selfdrive is a Super App, which basically means that it is end-to-end integrated. The app offers a 3-step convenient process of SEARCH- SELECT- PAY with the flexibility to subscribe from 1 day to 36 months.
In addition, our AI integration helps us to profile customers based on their specific requirements. For example, if you are a registered customer on our platform and have been driving a certain segment of a vehicle, say BMW – every time you return to the application, the look and feel of the application would typically change based on your client profile. This helps us better understand that this client is within the luxury segment, so he/she doesn’t have to waste his/her time navigating through the entire app.
You are currently operating in the UAE, and you recently expanded into Qatar and Bahrain. What were the factors involved in choosing such markets for your expansion strategy?
Our expansion into Bahrain and Qatar is a testament to our growing popularity and success and an indicator of the changing landscape of the automotive rental market in the region and beyond. We aim to acquire 50-65 per cent of the digital rental market share in these markets with our seamless customer experience and range of product offerings through the app. We plan to add further new markets in the Middle East and are actively looking at other regions globally as business goes from strength to strength.
When it comes to super apps such as Selfdrive in the region, what factors do users consider before trying out such platforms?
Selfdrive is crafted in a way which makes it easy for users to access the platform. Our integrated technology is simple, yet robust making it a seamless process for the users to navigate through the app. The super app car rental platform offers an easy and convenient process of ‘search – select – pay’ ethos, giving customers in the region access to over 5,000 vehicles at 100+ locations across UAE delivered to their doorstep. The super app offers various products for users, express booking (daily and weekly), micro lease (1 month to 12 months) and LeasePro (lease to own) offering brand new “0” KM cars direct from the dealership from 1 year to 3 years.
What sort of outlook do you have for Selfdrive, both in terms of demand and innovation?
Mobile apps are one of the major elements of modern tech and this impacted the automotive sector. They are the future of car rentals because they open a different vertical for customers and users feel it as a convenient, accessible and easy way of renting or leasing vehicles on demand.
From cost-effective to mid-range and premium models, various brands are showcased with the latest car model options, helping them access mobility at their fingertips from any location, be it the airport, residence, hotel or any part of the country. Given the way apps are dominating the automotive space, we are already witnessing a huge demand by users. Going forward, one instrumental feature that will be a part of the super app is the customer who makes a reservation will now be able to track their progress about their reservation.
In simple words, customers will have real-time access to the key stages of delivery. As such, once the car has been reserved, customers will be able to view updates on reservations, incorporation of compliance documents in the system, car details sent to the dealership, the car is prepped and ready at the dealership, and notification on where and when can the vehicle be picked up from or an indication on the current status of the delivery time. All in all, customers will be able to view the car right from stage one to the finale on the car coming to you in a live Google map environment.
As our super app will offer real-time updates on car delivery, customer confidence in our services will also increase. In addition, customers can also view a status bar or the progress tab post the reservation, which is a new feature unique to the industry and will make us another first in the automotive space.