Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Nov-Dec 2017

Go girl; GoSafr

The American, women-centric, ride-hailing firm have announced the launch of their services in Pakistan.

Women’s safety has long been a concern for ride-hailing service providers in Pakistan. To address the issue, GoSafr – an American women-centric, ride-hailing firm – have announced the launch of their services in Pakistan by the end of 2017.

Developed by a former Uber driver Michael Pelletz, GoSafr (derived from ‘go safer’) focuses on women’s empowerment and primarily hires women drivers. A relatively new company, GoSafr have been successfully running their services in Boston. Explaining the reasons behind the launch of the service in Pakistan, Ramla Hassan, CEO, GoSafr Pakistan, says women feel unsafe riding with male drivers and despite the fact that they constitute almost 50% of the population, there is no service that caters to them. This gap presented a strong opportunity of success for GoSafr Pakistan.

According to a study by the International Labour Organization, the absence of safe transportation is one of the main obstacles to more women entering the workforce in Pakistan. This claim was backed by a research conducted by Karachi’s Urban Resource Centre in 2016, which revealed that 55% of the women in the city who commute by public transport said they felt insecure or faced sexual harassment.

“The response has been good in the US, but the gender disparity is more prevalent in Pakistan and we feel that there is a greater need for such a service here,” says Hassan.

However, though billed as a women-centric service, GoSafr will offer their services to male riders and will also have male drivers.

According to Mehreen Alavi, Marketing Manager, GoSafr Pakistan, “although women empowerment is our goal, we do not want to promote gender discrimination. Our basic premise is the same as the one for other ride-hailing services – except that we give both riders and drivers the option to ride or drive indiscriminately or with someone belonging to their gender only.”


Explaining the reasons behind the launch of the service in Pakistan, Ramla Hassan, CEO, GoSafr Pakistan, says women feel unsafe riding with male drivers and despite the fact that they constitute almost 50% of the population, there is no service that caters to them. This gap presented a strong opportunity of success for GoSafr Pakistan.


What makes GoSafr unique from other ride-hailing services are the security features that start right from the driver and customer app. The app assigns riders and drivers a colour. Once a ride is requested, both the passenger and driver make sure that their assigned colours match before a passenger gets into the car. The app also features an SOS button which users can hit if they feel uncomfortable or in case of an emergency. Pressing the SOS button gives them the option to contact GoSafr’s management, the police, or a pre-determined emergency contact who will instantly receive the SOS message with the current location using satellite maps. Furthermore, GoSafr will conduct stringent background checks of their drivers to ensure they don’t have criminal records and verify their personal data.

According to Hassan, undertaking such stringent checks on drivers is a very challenging task, which is why other ride-hailing services have tended to compromise on the stringency aspect of their drivers. To facilitate the process, GoSafr will be franchising their driver registration process, leaving the GoSafr team free to focus on undertaking the security checks of their drivers. However, the real challenge for GoSafr will be competing with Uber and Careem, which have a strong presence in Pakistan; in addition, since March this year, Paxi have launched their Pink Taxi with exclusively women drivers.

Hassan, however, is confident that these services will not affect the business potential of GoSafr.

“Approximately 720,000 rickshaw rides are taken every day in Lahore alone, and although Uber and Careem have the first mover advantage, they have not been able to close the demand gap and the market is not saturated. This is evident from the fact that rides are often not available in some areas, (even in the major cities) and the surcharges during peak hours are mind-boggling. Our prices may be a little higher than other companies, but this does not worry us. We do not plan to go into a price war as we are confident we will never be short of riders.”

In terms of the marketing strategy, Alavi says all such activities are handled by their in-house marketing team and their focus is on digital.

Convincing a significant number of women to enter what is traditionally seen as male domain may turn out to be an uphill task. In 2016, Careem experimented with women drivers and only managed to attract seven women. Nevertheless, the potential in Pakistan for this service is huge, given the number of women whose career choices are often stymied because of the lack of safe transportation to and from work.