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Managing in Crisis: Raising a Fast-Growing Unicorn during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Published 08 Jun 2021
Reference 6680
Region Middle-East
Summary

SWVL, a well-funded start-up in the Middle East, solved the mass transportation problem in emerging markets with a unique bus-hailing model. In March 2020, with 150,000 bookings in one day across its operating geographies, it reached its highest utilization rate and gross profit margin. Then Covid-19 hit. SWVL’s first reaction was to shut down operations and hunker down. In June, when governments gave the signal for a partial re-opening of the economy, founder and CEO Mostafa Kandil asked the management team to determine the next step. Should they “go back” 100% and resume their activities and expansion plans, taking advantage of pent-up demand, reduced competition and cheaper supply? Or should they make new plans for the uncertain situation?

Teaching objectives

Understand the growth and scaling process of a start-up in the bus-hailing space as it grows to unicorn status. Discuss entrepreneurial strategy in the context of a global pandemic that reshaped industry demand for transportation services.

Keywords
  • Start-up
  • Transportation
  • Ride hailing
  • Sharing economy
  • Digital
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Covid-19
  • Middle East
  • Mass transit
  • Online platform
  • Industry change
  • Crisis
  • Emerging markets
  • Scaling
  • Q22021