Innovators must take the initiative to be game changers. This was the mind-set of Steven Lam Hoi-yuen when he started GoGoVan with a few partners last year.
GoGoVan is a mobile application that allows customers to call for a van in a timely manner. This sounds simple, but the idea came from a real-life story of Lam and his partners.
Lam, Nick Tang Kuen-wai and Reeve Kwan Chun-man have been good friends since 2004 when they were studying in California.
Working in a Chinese restaurant as delivery boys, they were finding ways to make better use of the plain paper mealboxes. They turned them into an avenue of advertising. The trio found the model worked well and brought the idea here after they came back to Hong Kong in 2011.
Building on seed money of HK$50,000, the three young men started a business sending free lunchboxes to restaurants.
“We cover the costs by putting various kinds of advertisements on the boxes,” Lam said.
The plan worked – more than 500 restaurants partnered with them. In the early stage, they were delivering 10,000 boxes a day.
But one day, they were late delivering the empty lunchboxes to the restaurants because they could not get a van for delivery.
“We phoned the call centers for a van and we got nothing,” Lam said.”But it was so strange – there were idling vans parked on the street.”
Lam said the trio had to bring 200,000 boxes to the partnering restaurants. They decided to knock on the doors of these drivers.
“They said they were okay to deliver for us,” Lam said.”They were just waiting for orders there, and obviously they want to work to get paid.”
Lam said the operating environment has been hard for many drivers, who have to pay a monthly fee to call centers for business. Yet orders and income are not guaranteed.
With fuel cost shooting up and fierce competition driving prices down, the drivers are further squeezed.
Lam said the rules tilt heavily to call centers and are unfair to drivers.
The young entrepreneur believed this was an opportunity that he could not miss.
The trio, along with a designer and a programmer, started GoGoVan by making the service available from smartphones.
“Everyone has smartphones nowadays,” Lam said.”It is intuitive to place your orders on the device.”
The sector was shocked. And this is a perfect example of a red ocean, Lam said.
Since the service was launched in July last year, more than 14,000 drivers have signed up with GoGoVan and about 9,000 of them have been vetted and registered.
Tang said they have a detailed screening scheme to make sure they can get the best drivers.
“We have a service guideline for them and make sure they can provide good services,” Tang said.”Black sheep are kicked out, and we never hesitate to do it.”
He said customer experience is important, so they follow up with clients every time. Drivers are marked. But some drivers simply did not take it seriously in the early stage, and some – usually the older ones – had problems using the app. A lot of training was given to them, Tang said.
Thus far, the mobile application has recorded more than 200,000 downloads.
This is obviously a game changer, as the traditional call centers are also launching mobile apps to provide similar services.
Competition is welcomed, the trio said.
“Only good ideas will be copied,” Lam said.”But we can’t worry about the others. We can only improve ourselves.”
He said the opportunity has long been there but no one in Hong Kong was courageous enough to grab it. Lam said many Hongkongers – including youngsters – lack vision to explore this world.
“They are very conservative and don’t want to take risks,” he said.”And there are very few companies willing to make changes.”
Such an environment makes it difficult for start-ups.
“Many people assume you will fail without actually listening to your ideas,” Lam said.
But these guys made it.
Thanks to the Cyberport Creative Micro Fund Scheme, the tech start-up has secured an operating fund of HK$100,000. The team also received other funding from US venture capitalists.
“We are using the money to scale up our business,” Lam said.”We hope to go global soon.”
Before they can realize any profit, the GoGoVan app has brought them the gold in the Best Mobile Apps Awards in Mobile Marketing at the Hong Kong Information and Communications Technology Awards.
Other than using the app, you may also place orders with GoGoVan by dialing *1234 for deliveries in Hong Kong.
How GoGoVan works
1) Download the application by searching “GoGoVan” on Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store.
2) Select pick-up spot and destination.
3) Once an order is placed, the GPS system at the GoGoVan hub will locate all drivers within five kilometers of the requested pick-up spot. A notification will be sent to their smartphones. The first driver responding to the call will get the order. If no one responds within 10 seconds, the system will send another alert to drivers in a wider range.
4) Clients pay the driver after the service. The drivers pay GoGoVan the commission fees – calculated by order – later.
Source : 英文虎報