Born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Dr. Abdulrahman Al Shikhy started working in Dammam; shortly after completing his graduation. During his brief time in the city, Dr. Al Shikhy noticed that he and his colleagues were facing issues finding a flight or ride to go back to their respective hometowns to visit their families during Hajj, Ramadan vacations. As Saudi Arabia is a big country, the distance between cities like Dammam and Jeddah is 846 miles.
Keeping these issues in his mind year after year, he thought to find the best possible ways to return home on his holidays. Every time he sought a ride or a flight; it was a struggle. Besides this, most of the trip’s drivers were solo. He recognized the issues like exorbitant fuel prices, constant car maintenance, and staying up all night to cover distances between cities, making it strenuous for passengers who opt to travel often.
During this period of his life, he got a chance to complete his study to get a Ph.D. that is when he met many tourists and discovered their excitement about traveling everywhere by sharing the ride and cost.
“This is when I had an epiphany about how our country lacks a plethora of resources when you are trying to find ways to move from city to city in Saudi Arabia.”– says Dr. Al Shikhy.
These experiences acted as a catalyst for Dr. Al Shikhy and during his journey, he seized the opportunity to explore and discover a myriad of activities, distinct concepts, different cultures, and more. Soon he decided to travel to Europe.
Keeping all these shortcomings in mind, Dr. Al Shikhy was intrigued by the concept of ridesharing in Europe’s “BlaBlaCar app.” This is where he found the solution to the problems faced by the common people in his country. Soon, this notion inspired him to finally introduce his idea in Saudi Arabia, which eventually marked the launch of Rehla in the country.
Rehla is a ridesharing mobile app that links drivers and passengers heading to the same destination between cities, which results in a great travel experience at the best price possible.
The initial purpose of introducing Rehla was to allow its potential travelers to travel intercity by opting for ridesharing services at a very reasonable rate. Dr. Al Shikhy’s main aim was to reach those customers who cannot afford expensive rides, don’t own a car, are students or pilgrims. Initially, it was a challenge to break past the cultural barrier of sharing a ride with a stranger, mostly because ridesharing was a completely new concept in Saudi Arabia. However, the Rehla team continued to introduce a flurry of additional services that supports the main ridesharing concept, making it easier and more comfortable for everyone.
The Rehla team then decided to further develop its business model by successfully implementing the advanced booking feature, where the rider gets the opportunity to book their ride before the journey anytime and anywhere, also allowing the passenger to choose the best offer as this feature supports the lack of finding rides to specific places. This indeed creates make more options for passengers.
Dr. Al Shikhy and his team also introduced sending parcel on the same day with those captains who want to increase their income and travel with empty seats daily between cities.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia is a country full of history, heritage, and beautiful cultures that are yet to be explored.”
“Each year, millions of tourists visit Saudi Arabia to discover, revel, and experience what Saudi has to offer them. There is a lack in the tourism sector which gave me the impetus for introducing a service where we provide an expert licensed tour guide who is also a captain to guide them to learn more about our country.” – says Dr. Al Shikhy.
The Greatest Accomplishment
Dr. Al Shikhy believes introducing Rehla to the Saudi market was his most significant accomplishment. Like many other start-ups, Rehla struggled initially. However, with time everything slowly fell into the right places. Additionally, Rehla has succeeded in closing the first round of funding. Moreover, with this unique concept, Rehla got to take part in various accelerators like Taqaddam, Misk powered by Plug & Play, Monshaat, Zain Great Idea, Tourism Accelerator, and Plexus.
Dr. Al Shikhy has established a team that has remained diligent over the years and has helped the company achieve its goal. As a result of the team effort, the start-up now has its set up at Saudi Arabia’s two busiest airports, King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Tibeh Airport in Madinah, which serve as the primary entry points for pilgrims visiting Makkah and Medina.
Dr. Al Shikhy also says, “Our main strategy is to expand our business by entering the cities through International Airports & train stations. And soon, we will start operating in Riyadh and Dammam Airport besides Jeddah and Medina Airport.”
The proudest moment for the organization was when it was allowed to compete with industry behemoths like Uber and Careem at the Madina airport. Out of all 36 firms operating in transportation services in Saudi Arabia, Rehla was the only application provided with the opportunity of opening a booth at the Medina and Jeddah airports, in order to acquire more travelers without internet, Saudi number, or a smartphone.
As the founder and CEO of Rehla, Dr. Al Shikhy, says, “We all define success differently. To me, success is when you believe in an idea and make consistent efforts towards it, which means we never give up trying..” This should serve as a reminder for the team to constantly strive to achieve the goals that are set to feel rewarded and accomplish their efforts.
Apart from that, he has always encouraged his team members to communicate freely and give them space, which helps everyone to appreciate different viewpoints, backgrounds, and ideas, which eventually contributes to the growth and success of the firm; Dr. Al Shikhy feels that as a leader, it is his responsibility to continue to mentor and help his team with his vast knowledge.
The application was launched in 2019 when most of the Saudi Arabian population wasn’t familiar to the concept of ridesharing. It takes time to inculcate any new concept in the minds of the citizens. It also requires a lot of marketing and brand recognition.
Moreover, the application was launched just 2 months before the deadly pandemic, which resulted in a prompt lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. This situation also brought skepticism amongst the users even when the lockdown was over. Road travel and social distancing protocols soon became a major threat for start-ups like Rehla.
Dr. Al Shikhy realized from this situation focusing or investing time and money on one service won’t take the company anywhere. Instead, he believed that his team can do more as Rehla has a flexible business model which could be utilized by using the same elements that are the captain, and his car but by providing different services. So, the firm at once launched other supporting services in one application.
Transportation is an important part of our daily life. Many passengers prefer to travel by road to immerse themselves in nature. While others often face a tough time finding a cheap fare. This is where Dr. Al Shikhy would like Rehla to bridge the gap.
Dr. Al Shikhy started Rehla to become a the best choice for ridesharing apps to provide a good experience for travelers. The team members intend to make Rehla a ‘super application’ in the region that can provide the most important services of transportation & tourism, all in one applicationat very reasonable rates. Additionally, the founder looks forward to expanding the application to various neighbouring countries. Recently, Rehla has completed trips to and from Bahrain, UAE, and Kuwait.