In 2016, Carefer, a Riyadh-based auto-tech startup, leveraged technological solutions to simplify the process for both individuals and businesses. With strategic investments from Elm Company and key partnerships with industry giants like Najm, Absher, and Kolna Amn, Carefer swiftly expanded its footprint, now catering to over 28 regions in Saudi Arabia through marketing a network of 1700+ service providers.
These providers offer a spectrum of vehicle maintenance services, ranging from routine and mechanical maintenance to electrical repairs, air conditioning servicing, and car denting. Notably, some services are facilitated through mobile workshops, ensuring accessibility for customers wherever they may be.
One of the important faces behind this innovative endeavor is Saleh Shahini, the Chief Commercial Officer of Carefer, whose expertise in marketing and strategic growth has played a pivotal role in the company’s success.
In an exclusive interview, Saleh shares insights into his transformative journey within the marketing landscape, detailing his experiences from the USA to co-founding Zohal Marketing Agency and subsequently joining Carefer. This article provides a comprehensive exploration of Saleh Shahini’s perspectives on marketing strategies, his role in Carefer’s evolution, and the company’s impactful contributions to the automotive industry.
Starting with his early career in the USA, Shahini’s journey led to the co-founding of Zohal Marketing Agency, addressing the marketing needs of clients in Saudi Arabia. His subsequent roles at Salla and, eventually, his investment in Carefer marked pivotal moments in his career. As the Chief Commercial Officer, Shahini played a crucial role in doubling Carefer’s growth within a year, emphasizing the fusion of entrepreneurship with strategic growth across diverse industries.
“After five years of leading marketing strategies, I joined Salla, an e-commerce company, to build their marketing team. In just a year, I set up a department with 34 people split into four groups, helping the company increase its revenue by 30%.”
“While doing this, I also managed my agency and advised startups. In 2022, I invested in and joined Carefer, aligning with my past experience in the USA. As their Chief Commercial Officer, I looked after all business areas, leading to a 100% growth in one year.”
Shahini unveils his approach to developing marketing strategies, emphasizing a meticulous understanding of the core problem a business aims to address. He highlights the importance of stress-testing hypotheses, ensuring that the identified problem aligns with the business’s goals.
“After pinpointing the correct problem, we can then develop solutions that are both effective and aligned with the business’s goals. This is where the creativity and innovation in marketing strategy come into play.”
This approach, rooted in creativity and innovation, considers various factors such as target audience demographics, market trends, and the unique value proposition of products or services.
Human-Centric Sales Strategies in Tech: In the technology-driven industry, Shahini believes in maintaining a human-centric philosophy, ensuring that sales strategies focus not just on technological features but on the tangible benefits they offer to customers.
Internally, for instance, we redefine the role of a product manager to be more of a ‘user advocate,’ ensuring that our products are developed with the end-user’s experience and needs at the forefront.
Externally, our sales pitches are reframed to move beyond just features and services; instead, we spotlight the challenges and problems faced by users, presenting our technology as a means to provide effective solutions.
He says when they align the strategies with this approach, it is ensured that every aspect of our marketing and sales activities resonates with and addresses the real needs of our customers.
Building Strong Partnerships: Given his focus on relationship development, Shahini shares insights into building strong partnerships with strategic partners and potential investors. His strategy revolves around creating genuine value, initiating partnerships with a focus on what Carefer can provide. “This begins with a clear demonstration of the tangible benefits that our collaboration can bring to the other party,” he explains.
Trust and mutual benefit form the foundation, ensuring a sustainable and long-lasting partnership where both parties feel they are receiving more than they are giving.
“By maintaining this balance—where our contributions outweigh our asks—we nurture a sustainable and long-lasting partnership. This equilibrium is vital not only for immediate gains but also for securing a higher return on investment in the long term. It’s about planting seeds for future growth, not just reaping the immediate harvest.”
Reflecting on Carefer’s journey since its founding in 2016, Shahini discusses the company’s evolution, strategic contracts, and expansion into 20 cities. He emphasizes the collaborative approach that drove down production costs, enhanced efficiency, and the challenges faced during this growth.
“Adapting to new local markets, understanding regional customer needs, and refining sales strategies were crucial aspects of this expansion journey. Shifting away from initial reliance on specific workshops required internal operational enhancements and incurred additional costs, but it proved effective in showcasing Carefer’s capabilities.”
For Carefer, diversifying operations across regions mitigated risks and laid the foundation for a promising future.
Carefer Fleet and Smart Technologies: Shahini sheds light on Carefer Fleet, a solution addressing the complexities of managing corporate vehicle fleets. He details how the platform utilizes extensive data to implement effective maintenance protocols, eliminate the need for an operations team, and manage fuel tracking challenges.
“Behind its seemingly straightforward dashboard lies a sophisticated network of processes and groundwork. A critical aspect is its extensive data repository meticulously accumulated through industry engagement, client-centric service, and strategic alliances. This treasure trove of data plays a pivotal role in shaping a seamless maintenance framework, deciphering nuanced company needs, addressing driver challenges, and transforming insights into actionable solutions within the platform.”
“The system ensures its objectives by safeguarding corporate vehicles, utilizing accumulated data to implement effective protocols such as timely oil changes, predictive driver mileage analysis for proactive battery replacements, and identifying filter and spark plug change needs, among others. Notably, Carefer Fleet’s comprehensive capabilities can even eliminate the need for an operations team to manage fleet salaries.”
“Carefer’s oversight of corporate vehicles, achieved by amalgamating interconnected data with diverse API technologies through strategic collaborations, offers clients invaluable benefits – from comprehensive vehicle owner insights to meticulously documented historical records.”
Positive Impact on Individuals and Businesses: Carefer’s impact on individual car owners and businesses in Saudi Arabia is evident in success stories. Shahini shares how a local transportation company experienced a significant decrease in maintenance costs within the first year of adopting Carefer Fleet. Individual car owners reported improvements in fuel efficiency, showcasing the positive impact Carefer has had on both individuals and businesses.
Future Vision for Carefer: Looking ahead, Shahini outlines Carefer’s vision, focusing on converting wealth from services into industry-demanded products led to the Carefer Research and Business Development Center.
“Carefer initiated a journey to simplify the repair process, now aiming to extend vehicle owners’ avoidance of this process through innovative solutions”
With The Carefer Research and Business Development Center and such innovative solutions, Carefer aims to simplify the lives of 13 million vehicle owners, contributing to a sector projected to reach $9.44 billion by 2027. The company’s future initiatives involve extending vehicle owners’ avoidance of the repair process through innovative solutions.
Shahini shares valuable advice for early-stage founders and marketers, emphasizing a return to the basics and cultivating an agile mindset. He recommends mastering fundamental principles to empower innovative strategies, and when identifying new business opportunities, suggests active listening, strategic selection, and careful evaluation of resources.
“Remember, skill development is a journey back to the source. By mastering the elemental truths of your craft, you position yourself not just to adapt to the future but to shape it. Embrace the fundamentals, evolve beyond the current narrative, and you may find yourself at the forefront of your field, guiding others with the wisdom you’ve gained.”
Adaptability in the Startup Environment: In the fast-paced startup environment, Shahini advocates for adaptability as a strategic resilience. He advises founders to perceive moments of doubt as potential investments and to find a balance between weighing potential outcomes and making actionable decisions. This approach ensures progress and prevents the paralysis of overthinking.
Fulfillment in Leadership Growth:
Beyond individual tasks, Shahini finds fulfillment in the ongoing discovery and refinement of his leadership abilities. His satisfaction lies in the continuous process of personal and professional growth, positively impacting the teams he leads and the projects they undertake together.
Drawing parallels between farming and leadership, Shahini highlights the principles of nurturing growth and recognizing cycles of innovation. Farming teaches patience, resilience, and the understanding that growth is a process that cannot be rushed, aligning with his approach to creating fertile ground for innovation in the tech and marketing sectors.
“In farming, every seed has the potential to become a bountiful plant, but it requires the right conditions: fertile soil, adequate water, and the right amount of sunlight. Similarly, in the tech and marketing sectors, every idea or project is like a seed that needs the right environment to thrive. As a leader, I strive to create fertile ground for innovation, providing my team with the resources they need—be it knowledge, technology, or encouragement—to turn those seeds into remarkable achievements.”
Managing work-life integration, Shahini emphasizes setting broad, long-term priorities aligned with personal values. While acknowledging the ongoing process of achieving equilibrium, he believes in allocating energy mindfully and adapting priorities to changing life stages.