GreenParking was established in 1990s, when there was no major car parking issues in the GCC region and solar power generation technologies were also not much appealing. Can you tell about the company’s operations briefly?
When we started operations in 1996, I had some experience of working in cities like Hong Kong and Singapore. In these cities, activities related to parking of vehicles were already a booming business. We knew that the cities in the UAE were designed following certain role models like Singapore and Hong Kong. That means it will only be a matter of time before these kinds of technologies become dominant. So, we wanted to be ready whenever need arises. That is why we started early. In the meantime, until the arrival of electric vehicles, we maintained car parking using environment-friendly equipment. Four years ago, when the UAE announced that it wants to become a country where charging facilities for electric cars are available on all major places, we already had the know-how and team that enabled us to partner with the government in providing consultancy, systems and software.
When did your company enter Omani market, and was your entry driven by a particular opportunity you wanted to cash in on?
We entered Oman last year only. The immediate requirement was that we participated in global EVRT road trip driving EVs all the way from Abu Dhabi to Oman via Dubai and Fujairah. That time we identified that there were no electric charging facilities in Oman. We wanted to be a leader in this segment, so we decided to offer our assistance. Thus we became the first player to add EV chargers in Oman. We also developed a mobile-app through which a person having an electric vehicle can easily locate nearest charging station. The app will also show directions and will lead you to the location. It will also allow making a reservation for an electric vehicle charger.
Omani authorities are preparing the regulatory framework to support the introduction of EVs in the country and your company has received positive response so far in the sultanate. Considering these developments, what are your future plans for Oman?
Encouraged by the positive response and support provided by various stakeholders in Oman, we are now planning to expand our operations in the sultanate. Now the next move for us is to expand our network in Oman, all the way to Salalah. So, in the long-term our idea is to connect all the gulf states with one app, so there is no need for anyone to worry about charging facilities while driving his car to anywhere in the GCC. So, our EV charging network will allow people to charge their cars for free anywhere in the region.
What business model you will follow that would allow the company to provide free charging facility to customers?
We were the first company to install EV chargers in the country. Soon, we will be installing more charging stations but I cannot predict numbers as much would depend on our future partners here. We are looking for partners who are willing to join us in providing a network that will promote the sale of EVs in the country.
We will be following a unique business model, in which customers will not be paying for charging their vehicles using our platform. The cost will be borne by the owner or operator of the premise. For example, if a coffee shop, restaurant or a mall wants to install an EV charging facility, it mostly provide this service free of cost. The reason is electric vehicle owners are mostly high net-worth individuals, and charging of vehicle will take some time. During this time, the person will not be sitting idly inside the car. He will be purchasing some goods or services from that premise and that means they will also get a business. So it will be a win-win situation for all.
Major fuel-retailing companies are planning to install EV chargers in all their new fuel stations. Are you in discussion with any of them about forming a partnership?
We are willing to talk to everyone in Oman. Fuel stations want to generate revenues and profit by providing electric vehicle charging facilities, whereas we are providing this facility free of cost. This is the main difference between their (fuel stations) and our business model. Our strategy is clear; whosoever wants to use our technology, equipment or connect to our network, must agree to provide charging facilities free of cost. We are still discussing with them about the possibility of limiting this free charging facilities to a specific time period, and later on they may start on payment basis when EV sales volume attends a desired level.
Due to the softness of oil prices, the cost advantage of EVs has eroded to some extend. In such a situation, what makes you confident about the outlook of your company?
In my opinion, the popularity of electric vehicles has nothing to do with volatility in fuel prices. Many countries in the region are also trying to reduce carbon footprints and they want to do something for environmental benefit too. These are the primary drivers of EV sales in the region. Moreover, all new emerging technologies in automobile industry will be based on electric vehicle technology. Gulf countries with their modern outlook would certainly be like to be a partner in this cooperation. So, I personally believe that popularity of EVs have nothing to do with oil prices.
What are the key challenges you foresee in your business in coming years?
The main challenge is that whenever you introduce something new to the market then you have to spend lots of time and money in convincing partners about the new concept. Many people have lots of concerns about starting to work on a new concept. However, things become much easier when technology is well-established. So, the market introduction costs are pretty high in the initial phases. But we are seeing a difference now, we started in the UAE around four years back and now reaping benefits of it. We are getting queries from many companies about our products, which they have experienced in some locations.
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