Ride-hailing service inDrive putting people first

Ride-hailing service inDrive putting people first

inDrive's Procurement Head Madina Olzhabayeva ensures the company stays well-supplied across all operational needs

inDrive is a mobility and urban services platform with an estimated 200 million downloads. It operates in 749 cities across 46 countries, and employs over 3,000 people worldwide. 

The platform provides an expanding list of urban services, including intercity transportation, freight delivery, task assistance and courier delivery. In 2023, inDrive launched New Ventures, a venture and M&A arm.

Driven by its mission of challenging injustice, the company is committed to having a positive impact on the lives of one billion people by 2030. It pursues this goal both through its core business, which supports local communities via a fair pricing model; and through the work of inVision, its non-profit arm. inVision’s community empowerment programs help to advance education, sports, arts and sciences, gender equality and other vital initiatives.

inDrive is the second most downloaded ride hailing app worldwide according to data.ai. Founded in 2012, the company has its largest global hubs in Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Mexico.

As well as cities, inDrive also targets small towns with populations of fewer than 10,000. The fee it takes from drivers averages at below 10% of the fare, which the company points out is “significantly less than other major ride-hailing services”. 

In 2022, the company rebranded. Previously it was called inDriver, and was ostensibly a ride-hailing service. But over time, the company had moved beyond providing only this service, and the inDrive rebrand reflects its new identity as an “urban services platform”. 

inDrive - ‘inner Drive’ - is now a group of companies and non-profit development programs that people use to request household services, and book long-distance trips, deliveries and cargo services. 

The company is busy entering new verticals, including fintech and food delivery and is also planning to develop large-scale non-profit development programs. In 2023, it raised $150 million from General Catalyst in a hybrid debt instrument, to boost its development of these verticals. In 2024, inDrive announced that it had raised a further $150 million with General Catalyst, expanding the financial arrangement to $300 million.

inDrive branching out into fintech

An example of inDrive’s expanding ambitions is inDrive Money, a fintech solution offering cash loans and credit cards to drivers operating on its platform in Mexico. 

The company says the solution will enable drivers who are often excluded by traditional financial institutions to access loans from inDrive’s lending partners.

The goal of the solution is to improve financial inclusion for gig workers in developing economies, and it is partnering with established financial institutions to offer credit cards to drivers in Monterrey. Lending and payment partners include Mastercard, R2, Galileo, and GIRO.

Fully integrated into the inDrive app, the app allows drivers to apply for loans, check balances and pay back loans as they earn. inDrive is also developing additional products that will give its drivers in-app access to a full suite of essential modern financial services.

As inDrive’s Global Procurement Head, Madina Olzhabayeva oversees the development of the operational procurement process for the company's expanding portfolio of initiatives.

Olzhabayeva is based in her native Kazakhstan, where inDrive’s procurement function is centralised.

“The main challenge is juggling so many priorities and demands across different regions,” she says, adding: “We are managing diverse supplier relationships, navigating complex supply chains, ensuring compliance with all regulations across multiple regions, and driving cost savings while maintaining quality standards.”

She adds: “Our mantra is that ‘A trend is our friend’. This means we have to stay informed about market trends and technological advancements to succeed. Effective communication and strategic decision-making are crucial to overcoming challenges and achieving success in the position. 

“I've learned that building impactful processes begins with key principles of effective communication, strategic planning, and continuous improvement.

“Today, one of our proudest professional achievements is our refined procurement process. We've deployed a centralised procurement policy that aligns with all company processes. This initiative has facilitated cross-functional collaboration with stakeholders involved in the procure-to-pay (P2P) process, resulting in a transparent process that meets the needs of our internal customers.”

inDrive began as a mobility solution in eastern Siberia

Olzhabayeva points out that, to truly understand inDrive as a company, one has to go back to 2012, to the coldest city in the world. Welcome to Yakutsk, a port city in eastern Siberia where, 11 years ago, inDrive CEO Arsen Tomsky founded the company.

Tomsky says the idea underlying inDrive’s ride-hailing service first arose because taxi companies would double their fares when the temperature dropped, and of course, in eastern Siberia the temperature dropped often.

He explains that this prompted the city’s would-be passengers to band together and demand fairness and transparency in their mobility solutions, which are values that power inDrive to this day.

Such values are typified by inVision, inDrive’s expansive programme of non-profit initiatives – one of which is Supernovas, a football training project the company runs to help train people to become football coaches and then helps them set up football schools for children who don't have easy access to practise sports. 

It operates this programme in countries including Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Egypt, and is set to expand it to Chile and Colombia.

Another inVision initiative is the Beginit: Leadership for Social Justice program. It is a non-profit project by inDrive for youth from rural areas. The company assists high school students from the regions in becoming leaders of positive change. Participants go through four stages: a qualifying round; a course on the skills of a social leader and the implementation of social projects; a bootcamp, with training on leadership and teamwork; and the creation of a real project. 

Such initiatives go to the heart of what inDrive is seeking to achieve, says Olzhabayeva.

“We positively impact both those who use our services – including passengers, drivers and couriers – as well as those who engage in our social programmes,” she says.

Olzhabayeva adds: “We aim to achieve consecutive 10% year-on-year growth in the number of people impacted by core inVision projects, and also to ensure that at least 80% of countries where we have operations are covered by support programmes for vulnerable groups.”

In total, the company runs seven non-profit programs globally, and is dedicated to supporting access to education, sports, and arts in local communities. 

“After all, inDrive is a people-driven solution and we believe investing in community development creates opportunities for a global positive impact,” Olzhabayeva says.

Asked what the most rewarding aspect of her role is, she says: “The most inspiring part is seeing how our work directly contributes to the company's goals. 

“We set up the P2P process and formed an international team in Almaty, Kazakhstan, combining functions like contract management and procurement. We also introduced categorisation within the department. 

“English is our main language for communicating with suppliers and internal clients. Each team member brings different expertise, which is helpful when implementing new functions. Our main aim is to provide excellent service to internal clients and assist them with any questions they have,” she says.

“I'd also like to highlight the significant role played by top executives in building the procurement function. These include Egor Fedorov (Chief of Staff), Dmitry Sedov (Chief Financial Officer), and Sardana Mikheeva (VP of Operations). 

“They provided incredible support, not only in building the function, but also in shaping the overall process. Each of them taught me that nothing is impossible; it just requires a little more time. Their drive and strategic vision for the company inspired me to strive for new achievements. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to gain such amazing experience from such a strong team.”

‘We’re a company run by people, for people’

Olzhabayeva adds that inDrive “is a people-driven company, run by people, for people” and that “no technology in the world can replace human empathy”. 

She continues: “Our philosophy is that people and communities around the world should have equal opportunities for development and prosperity. We earn money through promoting fair trade principles. We run sustainable non-profit programs, and these are purposeful core businesses for us.” 

In procurement, Olzhabayeva and her team are also contributing to inDrive’s sustainability as a company. 

IT plays a key role here, she explains: “We’re an IT company, and for procurement the main technology we are using is an ERP system that helps us through every step of the P2P process. 

“Using a contract lifecycle management system to manage contracts more efficiently makes it easier to track projects, and also to keep our supplier database up to date.” 

She adds: “We are also continuously working on automating and digitising the P2P process to ensure transparency, convenience, and efficiency for our internal stakeholders. Through the use of technologies and digital tools, we aim to streamline workflows, reduce manual intervention, and enhance the overall procurement experience. Overall, our goal is to optimise efficiency, minimise errors, and ensure seamless collaboration between stakeholders throughout the procurement journey.”

She adds that strategic sourcing is also important for securing value and cost control, and that this means “concentrating on inDrive’s main partners and improving our relationships”.

inDrive needs a solid tech foundation to support its rapid growth – a growth that Olzhabayeva says is explained by “our unique peer-to-peer model and human-driven approach”. 

Rapid growth ‘fuelled by fair peer-to-peer model’ 

She adds: “We provide a unique service for our passengers and for our drivers. Our core system is a fair peer-to-peer model and everything is transparent.

“We give freedom of choice in mobility to people all around the world. Our providers always see points before accepting, and can also choose which requests to respond to. Customers are also free to choose a provider, whether it’s a courier or a driver. There are no impersonal algorithms or price manipulations or surges.”

Olzhabayeva goes on to say that inDrive’s people-to-people model allows users and service providers to agree on a price that satisfies both parties. “And because customers pay service providers directly, this allows us to reduce costs and maintain lower fares,” she points out. 

Olzhabayeva adds the company’s ethos of ‘giving back’ extends beyond its programme of non-profit initiatives to its core services.

“As well as operating in the largest metropolitan areas, we also run in small cities and towns with populations of just a few thousand people,” she says. 

Last year the company launched successfully in Miami, USA, and will look to expand to more cities in the near future.

Asked what the coming 12-18 months look like for her, Olzhabayeva says: “I aim to advance our procurement strategies, optimise processes and contribute to our company's success. I'm particularly focused on enhancing strategic sourcing and embracing digital transformation within our practices. 

“It's a period of growth and innovation, and I'm excited to drive progress in my career and our procurement initiatives.”


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