The popular ride sharing app Uber has launched in the Pakistani city of Karachi, and is offering users five free rides to start them off.

Uber is apparently hoping to get Karachi residents hooked on the ride sharing app by offering five free rides that can be redeemed until August 28. The service has also been offered in Lahore since March this years.

Uber Pakistan

Free Uber rides offered after Karachi launch

“We are thrilled to announce uberGO is now available in Karachi, which means getting around your city has never been easier. You can now request a safe, reliable and affordable ride at the tap of a button,” read a statement on its website. “To celebrate our newest city, you can enjoy Uber for free this weekend, just open your Uber app and enter the promo code ‘KarachiFREE’ to enjoy five free rides up to Rs300 each”.

The minimum fare for normal services will be Rs150, with charges of Rs9.38 per kilometer and Rs2 per minute. The company will also offer split fare facilities for those who share a cab, with the fee split over multiple credit cards for the same journey.

At the beginning the uberGO service will cover Clifton, Saddar Town, Jamshed Town, Gulshan-e-Iqbal Town, Liaqutabad, North Nazimabad, Gulberg Town, Faisal, Malir, Malir Town, and Korangi.

Executives optimistic on new service

“Karachi is the seventh largest city in the world and primarily its big population has attracted us to this city. But we also look at transportation system and other infrastructure in place when we enter in to different markets,” Uber Head of Expansion Pakistan, Zohair Yousafi, told reporters. Yousafi later revealed that Uber services would also be coming to Islamabad quite soon.

Uber MEA Head of Expansion Loic Amado believes that services in Karachi will perform even more strongly than predicted.

“The response that we have received from Karachi at our launch has already beaten all our previous records of any other city in the Middle East and Africa region,” Amado said in an interview with The Express Tribune.

According to Uber Pakistan marketing manager Amna Asim, the company is also thinking about the possibility of hiring female drivers. “If females can drive cabs in Cairo then why not in Pakistan,” said Asim.

Security features built into app

Some of the company policies have been met with controversy, but Asim said that Uber is working to ensure that operations run smoothly. “Every potential driver must undergo a screening process before they can register with Uber, which requires all necessary documents along with a police verification certificate and a social referral character certificate,” she said.

When it launched Uber released some sample fares for Karachi. The company says that a ride from PAF Museum to BBQ tonight will cost approximately Rs300, and a trip from Aga Khan hospital to Jinnah International Airport will cost Rs220.

Following its launch in Lahore, Uber drew in 65,000 riders and 1,000 active drivers in July. The company has entered into competition with other ride sharing apps like Careem. The United Arab Emirates-based company is Uber’s main rival in Pakistan, offering services in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.

Another consideration in Karachi is the question of security. In recent years the safety of the city has improved after an army-led crackdown against criminals and militants, but crime is still a problem in some areas.

The Citizens Police Liaison Committee says that 321 people have been murdered in Karachi in 2016. There have also been 16 cases of kidnapping for ransom.

Uber aims to expand throughout Pakistan

According to Uber its Pakistan service has lots of security features, such as route and location-sharing with contacts via the app. There are also strong background checks for drivers.

“The technology alone is adding in a level of security that may not have been available for any public transportation at all before,” said Shaden Abdellatif, an Uber spokeswoman. Last year an Uber driver in India raped a customer and was later sentenced to life in prison.

Ms. Abdellatif said that Uber would also be implementing compulsory anti-sexual harassment training for every driver that it hires. Security is a huge concern for users of apps like Uber, and the company success relies on people feeling safe when they use the service. As Uber moves into new markets, it has to be extra careful with security concerns to avoid any damaging bad publicity.

Assuming that there are no problems and the service is warmly received, it sounds as though Uber is here to stay in Pakistan. “We eventually want to be in most cities,” said spokeswoman Ms. Abdellatif.