The strategy behind the numbers: How Egypt’s Halan facilitated 3 million tuktuk- and motorcycle-rides in a year

Halan operates “where you can find unfinished, red-brick buildings,” Mounir Nakhla announced (Photo courtesy of Halan Facebook page)

“While everybody is trying to bring ride-hailing services to 1 billion people in the world, Halan is focusing on the remaining six.” When the founding CTO of Uber Oscar Salazar joins the Board of Directors of an Egyptian startup, invests in it and has that much credit to give, the bottom line must be significant.

In 2017, CEO Mounir Nakhla and CTO Ahmed Mohsen embarked on a journey to introduce smart mass transportation and on-demand services in the large, untapped markets of Egypt and Sudan – through an app for ride-hailing tuktuks and motorcycles. Hence, they are not directly competing with Uber, Careem and the likes, but rather serving the segments that either cannot necessarily afford those services or the ones that live in areas where other ride-hailing applications do not operate.

Today, after one year, 3 million rides have been ordered through the app. Salazar, who served as Uber’s CTO from 2009-2011, made the decision to join the company because of Halan’s mission to bring mobility services to underserved areas in the world. Additionally, the startup raised a multi-million dollar round of funding earlier this year, co-led by Singapore’s Battery Road Digital Holdings and Egypt’s Algebra Ventures, which was joined by existing strategic shareholders and individual investors. Halan also caters to businesses, offering smart-tech last mile delivery through integrated smart services using motorcycle and tricycles. Former regional director of ride-hailing app Careem Mohamed Nagaty joined as cofounder and CCO about a year into the project.

Why is there a need for Halan?
Being the first of its kind, Halan operates “where you can find unfinished, red-brick buildings,” Nakhla announced during his talk at RiseUp Summit 2018, explaining that the startup is diving into underserved areas in which public transportation and ride-hailing services are unavailable.

While other people were looking at informal and rural communities as spaces full of challenges and poverty, my experience with micro-finance in underserved markets showed me how much wealth and opportunity there is,” Nakhla, who co-founded light-transport financing business Mashroey and micro-financing business Tasaheel, said in a statement.

The strategy behind 3 million rides
But how does one facilitate three million rides in a year? “We were right there with them on the ground. We do the TV, Facebook, online ads; but being present makes a huge difference,” Nakhla conveys to Business Forward.

The strategy of Halan growing its user base and increasing its number of rides was comprised of heavily focusing on traditional marketing channels – mainly going to the underserved areas and directly connecting with the people there.

“We managed to attract a fantastic team on-board which is one of the pillars of our success. Everyone’s incentives are aligned and the team-spirit is high,” Nakhla explains.

Another pillar that was in the startup’s favor was the size of the target segment. “Addressing a big target segment automatically leads to high numbers,” he says.

Additionally, a solid technology was the backbone behind the entire operation. While observers were skeptical about the strength of the technology behind the app, Nakhla remained confident – for good reason: “Everyone told us once we hit the 10,000 rides, the app will collapse. Nothing of the sort ever happened.”

The last advantage Halan had was its capital and budget. “We had enough money to do the marketing, onboarding etc,” Nakhla reveals, which he believes greatly contributed to their reach.

So what is the remaining amount of the fund being used for? “Expanding to more cities and more countries, offering more services and building better technology,” he concludes.

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