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Sat 16 Mar 2019 01:30 AM

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Entrepreneur of the Week: Rashid Al Ghurair, founder of Cafu

Cafu, the Middle East's first fuel-booking application, aims to make refuelling cars more convenient

Entrepreneur of the Week: Rashid Al Ghurair, founder of Cafu
Rashid Al Ghurair, Founder of Cafu

Cafu, the Middle East’s first fuel-booking application, is aiming to bring value to the region’s cities and communities by making refuelling cars more convenient, reliable and accessible. Rashid Al Ghurair, the man behind the app, is capitalising on his extensive experience in the oil and gas sector to make lives easier for motorists in the UAE.

Why the decision to launch Cafu?

Cafu came out of the need to provide an efficient fuel delivery application to reach consumers wherever they are. I have been very passionate about the oil and gas sector, having worked in the field for the last 12 years. My work experience, alongside my interest in technology and innovative solutions, spurred the idea of creating this service to make people’s lives in the UAE much easier.

Where does the name come from?

Well, in Arabic, the name derives from the ‘trusted capability to deliver its mission’. In English, it's a hybrid between car and fuel.

It is the right time to build home-grown innovation for global impact…there is a global need to innovate and stay ahead of the digital transformation curve

What is your business model?

While our business is currently focused on fuel, we are working on adding more services that will complement our offering. In terms of Cafu’s revenue model, we offer our customers two options: one is the pay-as-you-go offering, where the customers pay AED18 in addition to the cost of fuel pumped into the car. The second one is the Cafu+ offering, where for AED45 a month, customers can get their cars filled up as often as they want during the month.

Why should customers opt for Cafu and pay a delivery fee when they can refill at a petrol station without the fee? How do prices compare and what is your pricing strategy?

Our objective is to make people's life more efficient by leveraging technology and innovation. We are relentlessly working to provide our community with smart ways of living that will allow them to spend more time doing things that they like. We believe customers have a choice to decide what suits them the best. Regarding the pricing strategy, our fuel prices are the same as you’d pay at any petrol station with a small fee for the delivery.

What are your expansion plans for Cafu?

Today, we are servicing Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. Now, we are working rigorously to expand our reach. Our current strategy is to have as many users try our service (that’s why the first order is free for the delivery charge) and once they experience the quality service and benefits, they will quickly embed our service as an essential part of their lifestyle. We have now started to provide fuel deliveries to yachts as well as boats and will also be introducing new innovative features soon. On top of that, we will be looking at leveraging AI and machine learning to create a seamless customer experience and fully optimise our operations.

What is your vision for Cafu and what do you see it growing into?

I see Cafu in different parts of the world, solving many logistical problems that car owners have today. By the end of 2019, we are aiming to be present across the UAE, serving both indoor and outdoor locations.

Would you ever take the business global?

My focus, as of now, is here in the UAE, because our government is very supportive of innovation. The market is diverse, which creates a great place to grow and test our business model.

Why is the oil and gas industry particularly in need of innovation now?

It is an inspiration to live in a country whose leaders place so much emphasis on innovation and technology – I feel it is the right time to build home-grown innovation for global impact. With technologies that can help predict maintenance needs, to artificial intelligence and machine learning, there is a global need to innovate and stay ahead of the digital transformation curve.

It's good to note that the oil and gas industry has witnessed a major technological breakthrough in the upstream sector, like the shale production revolution, while the downstream sector, I feel, has an opportunity to innovate.

We have now started to provide fuel deliveries to yachts as well as boats, and will also be introducing new innovative features soon

Is innovation what will keep the industry alive as economies diversify?

We have seen how innovation disrupt different industries such as e-commerce, transportation, and other sectors. I believe innovation is a key to economic growth and diversification. The retail fuel sector is one of the few sectors globally that has not been impacted by the global tech revolution. In the past 100 years, fueling our automobiles has been done in the same way with limited innovation. Innovation will disrupt the industry and force companies to either adapt or get left behind.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re currently facing with Cafu?

Attracting the best talent is always a challenge, because we have set very high standards for our customers and ourselves as a company.

As the popularity of electric cars rises, what will be Cafu’s future? How will it adapt?

As our name suggests, we are in the fuel business which doesn't stop with hydrocarbon-based fuels. We are open and ready to cope with the changing dynamics of the automobile fuel sector. Most of the globally published reports suggest that even by 2040, hydrocarbon-based fuels are still going to be predominant worldwide.

As the founder of a fuel app, do you expect gas-powered cars to be entirely replaced by electric cars?

While I believe that electric car technology will continue to evolve at a high pace, I also think that electric cars have got logistical and infrastructure challenges to solve first, especially if you look at emerging countries.