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DUBAI: Ekar, the Middle East’s first and largest car-sharing platform, is planning to more than double its workforce in Saudi Arabia this year as it sees demand for its services in the Kingdom continue to grow.

Founded in 2016 by Venezuelan entrepreneur Vilhelm Hedberg, Ekar started as a 15-vehicle pilot program for Etihad Airways and has now grown to around 2,000 cars across the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with plans to increase its fleet to 10,000 by the end of this year.

Customers can scan to find the nearest car to their location and, once they book the vehicle, the app opens the door and the key to the engine is located inside. The cars can be rented per minute or on a subscription basis.

“Ekar has a strong regional presence with offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Riyadh and a staff of 104, with 32 based in Riyadh,” Hedberg told Arab News.

“As the company looks to continue growing and expanding over the next few years, the expectation is to have a staff count of over 200 by December 2021, with over 70 of them expected to be based in Saudi Arabia.”

As a private company Ekar does not reveal its financial details, but it said despite travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, its business grew by 16.3 percent year-on-year in 2020.

In November last year, the company launched Ekar Fleet, which allows car rental companies to upload their spare fleet of cars to the app.

Hedberg said initial results have been positive for the fleet service and, as a result, he is forecasting a surge in business.

“Ekar is at an inflection point, and is expected to grow its revenue by 400 times in 2021 in comparison to the previous year (2020), with the main focus being on reaching profitability by year-end 2022,” he added.

“We’re looking to further expand, not just regionally, but internationally across Asia, Turkey and Egypt in 2021.”

He said Saudi Arabia will remain a key market and he sees “tremendous potential,” with the company’s subscription model set to be launched in Riyadh in April.

“We also plan to expand our services across Saudi Arabia during 2021, with each new city we launch enjoying both car-share and subscription services,” he added.