GoCar: Driving Change, One Vehicle at a Time

1 Jun 2020


Cars and trucks roll along, while motorcycles squeeze into small spaces trying to get ahead. Traffic can be insane driving into or out of the Kuala Lumpur business district during peak hours. But this picture could get worse in the near future.

By 2030, only 11 years from now, 60% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities and more people will enter the middle class. There will be more cars on the roads and increased traffic, especially in major cities like Kuala Lumpur. This is where last mile platforms like GoCar Malaysia come in.

Taking the driver’s seat: Alan Cheah, CEO, GoCar Malaysia

Improving traffic conditions

If you are familiar with services like Uber and Grab, then you have a general idea what these are. But while those are ride-hailing platforms, GoCar is a car-sharing platform. A driver takes you to your destination in a ride-hailing platform. In a car-sharing platform, you do your own driving.

The Malaysia-based platform, first launched in 2016, allows you to use an app on your phone to ‘rent’ a car for short-term use. We highlight ‘rent’ in the previous sentence because in our exclusive chat with Alan Cheah, CEO of GoCar, he points out that on-demand car-sharing is not the same as the conventional car rental.

“Most people use car rental for tourist activities and business purposes, and it is usually on long-term basis,” he explains. Car-sharing, on the other hand, fills the last-mile commuting gap between available public transportation, ride-hailing services and walking.

Assuming you work in Kuala Lumpur and you decide you don’t need a car for the commute. You can take the Light Rail Transit (LRT) to the KLCC station and get a ride-hailing service to your office. “GoCar is capable of doing much more to replace car ownership, and improve traffic conditions and parking spaces,” Alan notes. “When I need to go out for meetings or lunch during the day, I can hop into a GoCar with my colleagues and run through our meetings, then go park the vehicle.”

Not an easy road

It is not going to be an easy task to replace car ownership. This is a challenge that Alan recognises. The key problem is changing the mindset of private car owners from wanting to buy their own cars to being okay with sharing. But more than that, sharing responsibly.

“The biggest challenges are on the customer side and what we’re trying to do is change the user behaviour,” he shares when we ask about some of the platform’s major challenges. “Because, in the first six months, we had a lot of people leaving rubbish behind and doing all sorts of weird things to the cars.”

To tackle this, GoCar is focusing on educating users. They also gamified the platform and introduced a reward system to encourage positive behaviour in drivers. However, Alan points out the rewards system is still in its infancy and is a work in progress.

Driving forward

At the moment, you can already enjoy the platform’s expanded one-way trips. This means you can drive a car from Kuala Lumpur and leave it at a GoCar parking bay in KLIA or Johor. And there is a GoCar subscription that allows users to enjoy all the benefits and flexibility of having access to a car when they need one without the hassle of servicing and maintenance.

Over the next few years, Alan highlights that GoCar will continue to focus on replacing car ownership and improving traffic. He explains, “Right now, we only have around 700 cars. This means that there’s more that we need to do before we reach a tipping point to shift people’s mindset about car ownership. Only when that happens can we start thinking about other services.”

Changing the mindset of people about car ownership is a massive task to fulfil and one that Alan explains would need the entire transportation ecosystem to be effective. Thankfully, however, Alan seems to have the credentials to drive the effort.

Sharing valuable business lessons: Alan Cheah as guest speaker at SME BizNet 2019

No guarantees

Having started out his career as a network engineer, then becoming an entrepreneur who built a successful business that eventually failed, Alan has had his share of ups and downs. Since then, he has gone on to become Marketing Director at the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC). So, of course, we ask his one, boiled-down advice for Malaysian SME owners and entrepreneurs.

“The one single thing I always tell people is that they must understand that everything, whether good or bad, will pass. Understand that nothing lasts forever. Which just means that you must continue making an effort, making sacrifices, and only then you might go somewhere. But even that is not guaranteed.”

Need more insights to fuel your business growth? Catch the next edition of SME BizNet, where movers and shakers of entrepreneurship gather to share experiences, ideas, tips and more. See you at the upcoming event!


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