As the world shifts towards environmentally friendly transportation, we can see many small businesses trying to adapt and reform. One successful example of this is Rabbit. Kamal ElSoueni and his team introduced Rabbit scooters to the Egyptian transport sector in July 2019, and ever since then they’ve been improving their business model and providing a clean transportation alternative. Kamal divulges his story of starting Rabbit, becoming the CEO and a co-founder, and shares some tips to help small and upcoming businesses in the region.
From a full-time employee to an entrepreneur
Kamal studied finance and economics in the American University in Cairo (AUC). While at university, he participated in many entrepreneurship related activities which prepared him for his future. They helped a lot in learning more about the innovation scene and led to the creation of Rabbit Scooters. He explains:
Studying finance helped me analyze the market and grow our customer base and sales.
Kamal started as a corporate employee back in 2014, when he worked for a startup called EasyTaxi. Then he moved to PwC consulting in Dubai, where his finance background was fully utilized for this job. There he did a lot of financial models and financial projections for clients.
Then in 2019, he decided to start his own business along with one other founder.
Meet the co-founders
Rabbit’s team consists of two co-founders, Mohammed El Mansory is the COO; he has a background in consulting and had worked for McKinsey in Dubai and London for almost 4 years. Mohamed and Kamal attended the same university – AUC- yet they all shared different educational and professional backgrounds which falls right in the structure of their business ‘Rabbit Scooters’.
Kamal explains; “Prior to working on this idea, both of us were living in Dubai and used to fly back to Cairo at least once a month and every single time we were back, we’d get increasingly shocked by how heavily people rely on cars in every single trip or errand they do, even if it’s for very short distances. Our negative personal experience with traffic, having wasted a combined 10,000 hours in traffic, we knew that an alternative solution needed to be found.” He also adds:
We came from different backgrounds, but we believe in the idea that we need to stop using our cars for short distances and rely on other eco-friendly solutions.
Meet Rabbit: The electric scooters
In Egypt, people tend to rely heavily on cars and environmentally unfriendly vehicles even for moving for short distances. According to a study by Fran Whittaker-Wood, Cairo is the most polluted city, mostly due to the excess and ill regulated emission supervision of vehicles, surpassing Beijing. Another major difficulty is the parking conditions in Cairo. The number of vehicles exceeds the availability of parking spots in the city. That’s where the idea for electric scooters to commute came from. When ElSoueni was in the United States, he saw similar scooters there and he fell in love with the idea. He explains:
I thought that electric scooters may work in a lot of gated communities in Cairo and as well as other neighborhoods, such as Zamalek or downtown Cairo.
Soueni says that their business model relies on guiding people to leave their cars when doing short trips as in 1 to 4 kilometers and use other eco-friendly micro-mobility solutions such as e-scooters, e-bikes, e-vehicles. He explains:
Instead of using your car to get to a jammed area, use the metro or other bus services to get to the area where you want to go and then use our scooters to get exactly to where you need. This is an important theme that our business is tackling. Rabbit provides logistical solutions for those who spend a significant amount of time looking for a parking spot.
Cairo is a big metropolitan city with existing security concerns, hence caution was a primary instinct for the company’s survival. In Cairo, there are gated communities ranging between five thousand residents to some sheltering near a million residents. This is Rabbit’s contemporary target, expanding through gated communities and it is how Rabbit Scooters can secure enough power to expand to the streets with private-public partnerships in between.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, they shifted their scooters to another model: Day Rental. Besides having the scooters and taking it for a ride or two, now there is the option of renting the scooter for two days up to 15 days with a charger and a lock. You can keep it with you for the entire period.
This option is being added to the website so customers can go there and request a scooter without going into the app.
It is a must for any tech company to have its own website. In today’s business world, it is a necessity for anyone, as it represents your company’s online address. Soueni takes us through Rabbit’s online journey:
We wanted to have a website, but we did not have anyone in the team who had enough capacity to work on one. I used the GoDaddy Websites + Marketing tool and I built the website myself with absolutely no tech background.
Kamal explains how GoDaddy’s website builder tool was very helpful and suitable for his needs. It took him a couple of hours and voila! The website was done. Rabbit’s website does not only serve as a landing page, but more importantly, it is a good channel to have a great deal of monthly traffic. Kamal explains why they chose GoDaddy:
We used GoDaddy because we heard a lot about how user friendly it is and how we don’t need a software developer or engineer to create the website for us.
Weathering crisis for small businesses
It is no secret that the transportation industry is one of the industries that were greatly affected by the current global pandemic. So, in March 2020, Rabbit had to suspend their scooter services and entire operation. Even though users did not mind using the scooters, it was important for ElSoueni and his team to face the reality with which they did not have the capacity to sanitize the scooters and vehicles after each and every trip. This was when the frequent daily usage of scooters model shifted to the day-renting model.
Now, to adapt to the current situation, Rabbit delivers the scooter to the customer, and surprisingly, in April, May, and June, the business revenue grew around 100% on a monthly rate by using the new model. Rabbit is growing more and more and its exposure to people is expanding. People were using the scooters to go around, especially in Cairo, if they weren’t using their vehicles during the then governmentally imposed curfew.
Kamal says that the key for surviving this crisis is the speed to which you adapt. Entrepreneurs must be quick and responsive in adapting techniques. Proper planning will most certainly be useful during the current pandemic. The scooter business thrived thanks to the company’s forecast of which the best- and worst-case scenarios were thought of and the importance of their timing. Brainstorming and constant communication are also other key factors that helped Rabbit survive, he explains:
We had daily calls with the team, brainstorming sessions on how to serve our customers and users without risking the health of our team and users. A lot of the ideas that we came up with during the brainstorming phase led to our growth of customers and gaining their trust for the first three months of the pandemic.
Planning and adapting are Rabbit’s concluding words. Rabbit’s team wishes the best of luck to all of the small businesses and startups that were hit hard by this crisis, and wish them the energy and capacity to survive it along with seeing the end of the pandemic soon.
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Image by: GoDaddy