We talked to Ammar Akhtar of Finalrentals on how to rent a car in Dubai and UAE and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ammar Akhtar: Thanks for asking this question. My family and I are safe during these challenging times. My parents live in Milano in the red zone, but thanks to God, everything has been okay so far. My condolences to the families who have suffered personal loss in this global tragedy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Finalrentals.
Ammar Akhtar: I have been working with companies like Budget, Thrifty, and Dollar in the UAE since 2007 and have seen the industry’s backend from booking to operations. While working with the traditional car rental companies, I realized that there is a huge digital gap in the industry. There is a need for a platform that can help these companies become truly digital and a platform that can also be a local player to the online marketplace. That’s how the idea of Finalrentals came into the picture.
How does Finalrentals innovate?
Ammar Akhtar: The car Rental industry worldwide is mostly driven by few top brands, and no platform helps local companies (unbranded ones) share the digital space. So Finalrentals is bringing them to the digital platform to make sure users have a wide variety to choose plus taking the pain away from expensive car rentals etc.
Since the platform is digital, when you upload your docs and pay online, you can avoid the queue at the rental counter, which can save you plenty of time for sure. Another very important aspect that we work on is the pre-booking / delivery to your location. Unlike other platforms, at finalrentals, you can actually pre-order a car rental delivery to your preferred location. Isn’t that cool?
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ammar Akhtar: COVID19 has been a very devastating period for many businesses, and car rental is no different. Almost all the locations were closed from March till mid-August, and my team was getting nervous. I told the guys not to worry, and we are here to stay, and let’s focus and use this valuable time in improving our product, and everything will be fine.
And thanks to God, so far, everything is okay.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ammar Akhtar: We made a few difficult choices in terms of canceling some partnerships and letting go few of our colleagues, but because we are not a greedy and heavy cashflow company, we still survived. The lesson is simple that as a startup, you have to be as lean as possible and keep a very important watch on your spending all the time.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Ammar Akhtar: Like everyone else, Zoom, Slack, and Teams are the saviors. hahahahaha.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ammar Akhtar: It is without a doubt UAE is gifted with some amazing entrepreneurs and startups doing awesome work in the mobility sector. But based on the business models or their own visions and choices, I can safely say that no one has packaged car rental marketplace solutions as we did.
Foreign ex-pats are used to rent a car based on location. We offer location-based car rentals from more than 400 locations in the UAE. That makes us the largest car rental marketplace in terms of locations.
People living in the UAE, for the long-term objective, prefer renting a car on a monthly/long-term basis with no strings, subscriptions, and Ts and Cs attached. We offer that with free pickup and delivery as well as pro-rata-based billing, and it’s okay if you cancel early; there are no penalties, etc.
Short-term rentals are still a large piece of the car rental cake where most tourists look at when renting a car. We are the only platform where you can book daily, weekly, and monthly with the specially designed interface and booking flows based on the car rental duration, which makes it so easy for car renter to plan their rental as well as their journey.
Airport locations are the most important and very strategic locations when it comes to the car rental business. We cover all the airport locations, and a lot of our business comes from airport locations (post-COVID, this will be recovering slowly but surely)
Omnichannel technology in place. Most of the car rental portals in the UAE offer their website as a hook to download their app to book a car, and most of the web portals are used as enquiry engines and live chat engines to get the customer info and then convert that into a booking. Finalrentals allows you to book on the web, on the app, and the mobile also, and we do not force the user to download the app because our tech is omnichannel and the customer can use any channel to book, and it doesn’t matter because the whole technology is seamless.
The Supply. Most of the car rental portals are allowing everyone to be a part of their platform. For us, customer service is one of the most important aspects. We work with the top 10 best car rental companies in the UAE, the companies with enough supply and better customer service, cleaning, and operational standards. We choose our suppliers very carefully regardless of how many requests we receive on a daily basis.
The Repeat Customer. Based on the seamless mix of offerings and a clear path to complete the booking, I think that is one reason why we have almost 44% repeat customers, and this number is growing very rapidly.
Your final thoughts?
Ammar Akhtar: My final word to all the entrepreneurs out there is that we are in this together, and we can change the course of the game but just being persistent. Hang in there!