The Berlin-based Blacklane plans to open a regional office in Dubai later in 2018
Global chauffeur service Blacklane plans to operate in every major city in the GCC by the end of 2018, following a funding round in January led by the UAE-based Alfahim conglomerate, according to CEO and co-founder Dr. Jens Wohltorf.
During an interview with Arabian Business on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, Dr. Wohltorf revealed that the Berlin-based company has significant expansion plans in the Gulf region, which will include the opening of a regional office in Dubai later in 2018.
“In a few months, we’ll set up an entity here [Dubai] that will deal with supply, such as expanding into new markets and new cities in the GCC region, and also on the other hand, they need to create awareness of the brand,” he said.
Despite already operating throughout the region in countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Dr. Wohltorf said that he still sees ample room for growth, particularly in the GCC but also across the wider Middle East.
“There are many more areas to come. Egypt is still ‘white space’ which I don’t want to see in the region, as an example,” he said. “The idea is that in the next year we want to be in every major city in the GCC.”
In other markets, such as Saudi Arabia, Dr. Wohltorf said he hopes to expand the company’s partnerships to reach previously unserviced cities.
“Our partners are serving more cities [than those currently served by Blacklane], so we are not bound to just work with them in Jeddah or Riyadh, for example, but why not Dammam and wherever else,” he said.
One unique challenge in the region, Dr. Wohltorf noted, is a particularly demanding customer base.
“They are high-demanding to an extent that there is zero tolerance [for errors] I would even say,” he said. “There is a very good understanding of service quality...and there is also the ability and desire to consume premium products and services."
"It’s end to end,” he added. “[Customers will judge] the digital experience, how you book, how you are served and the security and service control layers. So we are working to make sure it’s an exceptional experience, from A to Z.”
Additionally, Dr. Wohltorf said that the benefit of Blacklane’s January funding round, in which Alfahim joined existing investors such as Daimler AG, had benefits far beyond the capital raised.
“We’ve always been in a good situation, funding wise, as it’s an attractive investment,” he said. “We’ve chosen to take on Alfahim not because of the money, but because of their competence and experience and connections and understanding of the region....it’s a game changer.”
Blacklane, founded in 2013, currently operates in over 250 cities in 50 countries.