Careem, a popular ride-sharing app in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, is introducing a new feature in a bid to attract lovelorn humans in Pakistan. In the wee hours on Wednesday morning, the company sent out text notifications and email alerts to its users in Pakistan offering them the coveted opportunity to find their “Halal” lover on their next trip.
“Your Rishta (match) has arrived, you are no longer to be alone, from now on your status will be taken,” said the email advertisement. Careem says the feature allows riders to opt for a “rishta aunty”—a matchmaker to accompany them on their rides and connect them with potential mates from her network of friends and family.
While Pakistan is no stranger to Tinder and nosy family relatives engaged in the lucrative business of arranged marriages, this is the first time a ride-sharing app has merged with the matchmaking industry. Hopefully it will be the last, too.
Sanaa Jatoi, a friend of mine and a frequent Careem rider from Pakistan, told me in a Facebook chat that when she saw the notification, “I kind of panicked … I just wanted Careem credits, not an aunty. … I legit thought there was an aunty waiting for me downstairs.”
Careem’s foray in matchmaking also generated bewildered reactions on Twitter. “Careem now offers a ‘rishta aunty’ to accompany you on your ride….because my mom wasn’t enough! #DesiProblems,” one angry customer tweeted.
A staff writer at Express Tribune, a newspaper in Pakistan, experimented with feature to see exactly how it works. According to the article, the rishta aunty was already sitting in the car when the ride arrived. She proceeded to interrogate the writer and his accompanying friends to gauge their particular personalities and preferences for women:
She spoke fondly about the wonderful world of rishta aunties where the demand and supply of good rishtas are infinite, and all you had to do to meet “the one for you” was to answer her unlimited questions about yourself. So there, she bombarded us with questions about what we did, where we lived, and whether we were actually serious about getting married. When we asked her what the appropriate age to get married was she responded, “There is no right time, marriage can happen anytime.. just look at those in villages.” To this, we replied that early-age marriages were not just a village phenomenon, but they happened quite often in cities as well.
The ride ended with the aunty handing out her WhatsApp number and email address.
While the ride-sharing app maybe getting its fair share of laughs here, the company has also recently been under fire with allegations of sexual harassment from its female passengers. A young girl from Lahore, Pakistan, alleged in June that she was harassed by a Careem driver after she requested a ride to work. After the report surfaced, company spokesman told Express Tribune that the safety and security of Careem customers is its top priority. While little is known of the Gulf-based company’s operations in Pakistan, it is reported that Careem’s rival Uber is offering mandatory seminars on sexual harassment to all of its drivers in Pakistan in the wake of such allegations.
In that context, Careem’s matchmaking stunt feels, well, a little less funny