Kaiian: the case of successfully growing an on-demand company in Saudi Arabia
Kaiian is in the top-three leading taxi businesses in Saudi Arabia. The company started in 2016 with an idea to provide accessible, high-quality taxi services in small towns. In little longer than a year, this on-demand company was making about 5,000 trips a day.
Here’s the story of Kaiian managing to become the most trusted local taxi company in just a year.
From idea to white-label taxi app
Kaiian’s founder, Bader, has worked as a taxi chauffeur for quite some time. He was completely done with all the stuff traditional taxi companies do. Bader saw clearly: it’s time to introduce a modern app-based taxi service in Saudi Arabia. It was also obvious to him that his on-demand company should provide services available to people in smaller cities, too.
So the initial plan for the launch was to hire a software development company to create an Uber-like app. After several months of non-productive collaboration with such a company, Kaiian’s founders realized they needed more software expertise.
Back in 2016, Uber was already in the market of taxi services in Saudi Arabia, along with another big player, a local taxi company Careem. Kaiian had to make sure their own booking apps perform just as perfectly as those of the competitors. This was the moment Kaiian founders decided to work with a white-label taxi app.
Developing sound on-demand business model
The apps for Kaiian needed to be bright and recognizable, first thing. The logo, the colors, the branding had to stand out so that the user would know immediately: this is not just another taxi business, it’s Kaiian.
Bader shares how working with a white-label taxi app has saved the young company a lot of time and energy. After switching to it, there was no more need to explain the must-have features to a team of developers inexperienced in building software for an app-based taxi service.
Now that the launch was safeguarded, Kaiian made sure their on-demand business model will work flawlessly. Bader has a great advantage of knowing the psychology of both drivers and clients. Next to it, the company did a thorough research of the local market of ride-hailing services.
And so Kaiian launched in small towns of Saudi Arabia first. They started in Al-Kharj with just 18 cars. Uber wouldn’t bother to work there—so clients were happy to get handy and reliable taxi services. Besides, in small towns, word of mouth works perfectly. Kaiian used this knowledge to launch with only a bit of marketing and still get lots of clients as soon as possible.
Bader, Kaiian’s founder and CEO, shares:
“We ensured to launch Kaiian really smoothly. We went to small towns first because getting a positive buzzword is really easy there—as long as you provide top-notch taxi services, of course. Pretty quickly, our company became a family member to the drivers and the most reliable service provider to the clients.”
From launch to sustainable growth
The newborn ride-hailing company came to the cities of Hail and Yanbu. Moving town to town, Kaiian became a strong alternative to the market giants in Saudi Arabia, Careem and Uber. In just two months, Kaiian the customer’s favorite ride-hailing service in 30 towns.
However, coming to a new city was sometimes a hard nut to crack. Kaiian drivers were sometimes bullied by local traditional taxi drivers, which added a lot of tension. To fix this problem, Kaiian reinvested earnings from the first working period into further promotion. Good marketing made the whole difference.
Customer development and social media marketing
Bader tells about finding out how to market Kaiian’s ride-hailing services efficiently:
“We needed everybody to talk about our company, right? We wanted Kaiian to be on every social media channel, in every city. Quite quickly, we realized that charging low prices is a great way to attract new customers, but it’s your top-notch services why they keep using your app.”
Kaiian needed to have a strong base of loyal customers— at the same time, the company didn’t want to waste money on marketing campaigns that wouldn’t perform. And so, the company decided to think out of the box. The founders of Kaiian became drivers for a couple of days. During rides, they chatted some with the passengers, learning who they follow on social media, who they trust, and why.
After this research, Kaiian was able to plan the channels for the marketing campaign:
“Our aim was to make Kaiian the favorite taxi business brand among people of lower and middle classes. Why would we want to market to the extremely rich if they own Ferraris? We are there for regular people, and this is how we promote: naturally and honestly because our service is good and lovable. And it’s a success!”
Attracting & motivating drivers for a ride-hailing company
Getting more loyal customers to Kaiian’s taxi services meant the company needed more drivers. So the management developed a smart strategy as well.
The driver billing system was the key. Kaiian needed to be better for drivers than Careem was. Billing drivers significantly less than the competitors became famous among drivers very quickly—and everyone wanted to work for Kaiian now.
New drivers also got a free trial with the company. This trial doesn’t give a ride-hailing company any money, that’s true. Yet in the long term, this taxi business strategy allows to retain clients and analyze which driver plans perform best.
The Onde platform for taxi services has nice options to set driver fares and change them according to the market requirements. Kaiian made clever use of the possibility to test and adjust driver fares and created perfect plans for different categories of employees:
- Some drivers pay commission per order. For those who only take a few orders per month, it’s the best driver plan.
- Monthly charge: the more orders you complete, the more you earn. For drivers working full-time, this is the perfect fit.
Bader reflects on this set of driver plans:
“We’ve got “cappuccino drivers” who only work weekends and get the very cream. And there are hardcore drivers too, doing their best and making more than 500 trips every month.”
To keep drivers motivated and invested in their work, Kaiian provides a basic course that covers the attitude, manners, driving skills, and even the company’s dress code. Bader says:
“You cannot and should not bulldoze your drivers. Making them loyal, making them your friends works much better. We do that by investing in their professional training. When drivers are loyal to your on-demand company, they recommend it to their friends. At the same time, the driver's enthusiasm and polite attitude make customers comfortable. It’s a win-win situation.”
Big plans for a local taxi company
Launching their taxi services successfully in small towns, Kaiian was ready to take over big cities in Saudi Arabia. The word of mouth wouldn’t work that well in a megapolis. It was time to hire a team of professional marketers.
“We found a local marketing agency, and they knew all the ins and outs of the local market. Outsourcing the marketing campaigns worked well for us at that stage. We could focus on the quality of ride-hailing services we provide, and the marketing agency made sure to promote us and reach the right audience.”
Employing an own company of marketing experts was more expensive for Kaiian. Besides, with an external team, the company didn’t need to spend time on training, onboarding, and managing new people.
To enter big cities such as Mecca and Riyadh, Kaiian was planning in detail how to market their local taxi services.
Bader shares: “Launching a local taxi company in a big city turned out to be not about money. It was all about making the right social moves. Take Dubai, a multicultural city, bright and creative. You would need to match this vibe. Something like one stunning thing to advertise per month. The trick is to look different from your competitors. Because the platform is good, and we are really special in the market, we managed to launch in big cities without investing all we’ve got!”
On the way to market success in Saudi Arabia, on-demand company Kaiian has made many clever moves:
- Deciding for a white-label taxi app and ride-hailing software;
- Launching in small towns first;
- Maximizing profit from word of mouth for initial promotion;
- Conducting customer research to learn more about users;
- Flexible hiring drivers and motivating them;
- Working together with a local marketing agency.
Growing your taxi business or just thinking of launching one? Learn from Kaiian’s experience and become a market leader!