Quulo aims to be a game changer for the industry with its strategic planning and subscription-based methods
By LYDIA NATHAN
JUST when you thought that the e-hailing market was already saturated, with various companies vying to have a bigger slice of the pie, another company is bold enough to make its entrance with the aspiration to be on top of the leaderboard.
The new kid on the block is Quulo Ventures Sdn Bhd, and it aims to be a game changer for the industry with its strategic planning and subscription- based method. Quulo joins some 16 other e-hailing companies that are operating all over Malaysia.
The fact that Singapore-based technology company GrabTaxi Holdings Pte Ltd is having a big say in the business does not seem to be a concern.
Grab, which made its debut in June 2012, has already “swallowed” Uber Technologies Inc, a San Francisco based start-up that entered the playing field in 2014.
When an international company could not survive the competition, could the new players make it, one might ask.
The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) met with the Quulo team recently to see if the company has what it takes to challenge the bigger ride-sharing and e-hailing outfits.
The idea of Quulo was conceived when four young men decided to take a trip late last year and needed a ride to the Kuala Lumpur (KL) International Airport.
MD Vinesh Nair told TMR that on the way to the airport using an e-hailing service, they began chatting with the driver.
“We were just typical young guys going for a holiday. We were all friends from school. While talking to the driver, he mentioned about being very unhappy. He said what he earned was very low due to the commission taken for each ride,” he said.
Vinesh said the four of them spent the getaway discussing the business and how they could come up with a service that would give back equally to both drivers and passengers.
Quulo is the result of the discussion, with the four investing some RM200,000 as the company’s initial capital.
“We came up with a similar mechanism, but decided to make it subscription- based, which means the driver only pays once a day, when he completes the first ride,” Vinesh said.
Fares and Prices
The Quulo mechanism charges RM4.99 per day and the payment is deducted via a driver’s mobile wallet, which can be topped up using a credit or debit card.
According to Vinesh, the mechanism allows fares to be considerably lower as there is no commission taken and no strategic pricing implemented.
“Unlike other services, fares will go up at certain hours and drivers end up paying more in commission. At Quulo, the once-per-day fee will last for 24 hours and it doesn’t matter how many rides a driver decides to do, everything they earn is theirs after deducting the fee,” Vinesh said.
Drivers As Partners
Vinesh said the issues drivers are facing at other e-hailing services are used to his advantage.
“Drivers are happy, we saw that this has worked in other countries and we are hopeful it will work here as well,” Vinesh said, referring to Quulo’s mechanism.
He added that the drivers are their biggest marketers, reaching others through word of mouth, taking flyers and setting up booths on their own.
“Our drivers know we all function as a team and if we don’t make it together, they will have to go back to driving on commission-based,” he said.
Quulo currently has about 10,000 drivers nationwide with some 70% of them being full-time drivers.
As for incentives, Vinesh said Quulo’s driver partners do not seem to thrive on them, unlike other e-hailing services.
“They do not ask for incentives, we only charge them once a day and they are happy enough with that. The subscription part is our greatest selling point,” he said.
They have set a target of reaching 20,000 drivers by year-end and achieving 100,000 rides.
Quulo currently operates in the Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan, Perak and Penang, as well as Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau and Labuan.
The company just launched its services in Kuching and it has been doing well so far, according to Vinesh.
At the moment, Quulo gets about eight to 10 requests every minute, with the highest request coming from Universiti Malaya (UM).
“Our drivers had actually teamed up and put up a booth to advertise Quulo within the UM area. The students love it because the prices are lower and some of our drivers just stay in that area all day,” he said.
Vinesh said once the company is more settled in Malaysia, it will look into expanding overseas, starting with Indonesia and later possibly in India.
“Right now, India only has Uber and with 1.35 billion people. There is a vast opportunity there,” he said.
The current app has three different languages: English, Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin.
Vinesh said the company will continue adding to the selection of languages as it expands.
He added that passengers are able to pay via cash and starting next week, by credit or debit card.
“We used two currencies, the ringgit and US dollar. From independent surveys, a lot of foreigners know their country’s currency rate against the US dollar, so we felt it was a good option,” he said.
Regulations and Its Kind
Vinesh said the company had gotten in touch with the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) before the mechanism was developed. Quulo is also in constant contact with the local authorities.
“Firstly, all the information our drivers give us will be sent to SPAD weekly. It’ll also be sent to the Royal Malaysia Police to be vetted. Anyone with criminal records is immediately removed from the list,” he said.
However, Vinesh said that is an issue that needs more looking into, as some criminal records are old, and merely for very petty things.
“Some people have minor records for something like stealing a chicken in a kampung, and it stays there. I feel the government should come up with a channel where people can appeal because once they are rejected on one platform, it will be the same for all,” he said.
Understandably, the number is large and may pose a manpower issue, but Vinesh said it is worth looking into as this could be the rice bowl for some people.
Safety and Privacy
Vinesh said privacy and data protection is something the services industry takes very seriously, especially with reports of hacking and security concerns for both drivers and passengers.
“The entire system is encrypted. We use a multi-layered method, which means even if a hacker is able to hack he won’t be able to read the data.
“When you download the app, it will prompt you to enter an emergency contact number. In the circumstance that you are threatened, the emergency button will immediately connect you to the police and will reach out to the emergency contact as well.
“The drivers will have the same option also. It is not just for the passengers. Drivers may also face unwanted people in their car,” Vinesh said.
He added that in the updated version of the app that is ready for download, female passengers will be able to choose female drivers, who make up some 20% of the total Quulo drivers.
“We are also looking into having vehicles ready that are able to cater to special needs or handicapped people. We know not many private vehicles do have them, but we are willing to help them out, for installation and such,” he said.
Quulo will also offer despatch services, starting off within the Klang Valley.
Vinesh said vehicles available will include motorbikes, cars and lorries, and will also run on a subscription method.
“We only have motorbikes and cars at this point. The drivers are charged RM3.99 from the first job they pick up.
“People can send items like documents or parcels, and jobs will be sent out according to the size and weight of items. We are currently working on lorries, for those wanting to, say for instance, send furniture from one office to another,” Vinesh said.
To ensure safety, Vinesh said the sender and receiver will have a security number that needs to be keyed into the driver’s phone once an item is received.
He added that drivers for both the e-hailing service and despatch services will come from the same network, where driver partners will be able to switch over according to their own schedules.
“So far, we already have some 100 drivers on board and the plan is to begin in Kota Kinabalu after KL,” he said.
Vinesh said marketing is always better done alongside partners, adding that they are constantly on the lookout for partners.
“We are always on the lookout for partners especially in the food and beverage industry, as well as the automotive industry. We are looking for ideas that would excite both our drivers and customers,” he said.
With Quulo now in full operation, Vinesh hopes it will continue to grow as there will be many opportunities for people to make an extra income, as well as passengers who are looking for more options and choices in the industry.