Serial entrepreneur Hendrik Tan tells NEVASH NAIR that a lack of knowledge in the automotive sector wasn’t a barrier when he decided to launch Malaysia’s first drive-through vehicle service centre.
With urbanites living in the fast lane, they want everything to be done quickly. First, we had drive-through fast food outlets, then drive-through car washes, and now, almost everything has a drive-through alternative.
A first-of-its-kind in Malaysia, Drive-Thru Oil Change Expert (DTOX) by Lean Concepts Sdn Bhd provides customers with a 10-minute basic service for their cars in the same way that you grab a Big Mac from your neighbourhood drive-through McDonald’s. Hendrik Tan talks about how he hit on the idea.
How did the idea come about?
I have always been an entrepreneur ever since I left college. I was in the food and beverages industry for a few years, and I owned a PappaRich franchise. The idea for DTOX came about when I was vacationing in the US. I was with my brother-in-law, and right next to a Walmart (American departmental store), there was a drive-through oil-change centre. Coincidently, his car needed an oil change, and we just drove in.
The entire process took less than 10 minutes, and we remained in the vehicle the entire time. It was really impressive and I thought this would be perfect in the Klang Valley where people are always rushing.
Was it difficult bringing a brand new concept to Malaysia?
Yes, it was. There were many naysayers who told my partner and I that the idea would not work in Malaysia as we were not ready for something like that. In that sense, many claimed that Malaysians were still very traditional.
However, in the US, there are approximately 15,000 drive-through oil-change centres, and it is a US$15bil (RM54.4bil) industry. There’s definitely potential here given our busy lifestyle. It took us almost a year to find the right location, and as soon as we found one in Petaling Jaya, we opened up our service centre.
We began operations in August 2013 after investing close to RM400,000 in our flagship store.
How was it in the beginning?
It was a slow start for us. Most people thought we were expensive as they only saw us from the outside but we were priced very competitively. Our prices start at RM88 for the mineral oil package, going up to RM158 for semi-synthetic and RM248 for fully synthetic. Once those from the local neighbourhood started visiting us and word got out, customers started rolling in.
About 80% of our clients are repeat customers. The car-servicing industry is dependant on repeat customers. On average, we service 12 cars on weekdays and 30 cars on weekends. We are extremely busy during lunch hour and just before long holidays.
What gave you the confidence despite not having an automotive background?
I was always a car enthusiast. I used to fix my car myself and, of course, maintain it as well. I believe as long as you have good business sense, you would be able to do something, even if you don’t have a strong background in that particular field. I employed top-of-the-class mechanics and they are doing a very good job. At the end of the day, we are just providing customer service.
If we provide good service, people will surely hear about us and they will come to us. Right now, we are even getting customers from Klang, and that is a testament to the service we provide. We just have to be true to ourselves and follow the best business practices.
What are your plans for the brand?
We are looking to grow. We will be opening another outlet in the Klang Valley by end of the year and within the next five years, we hope to establish some 20 DTOX centres. However, it will not be the same size as our flagship store. Our business model is all about convenience, so we do not need a big space. We want to make easy for customers to get their cars serviced. We are looking for potential partners.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
It is all about taking calculated risk and just going for it. Of course, we all are afraid when we are taking the plunge but if an idea works in another market, we can tweak it to make it work for Malaysians. Business is all about how you build it up. If you invest your time and dedicate yourself to hard work, you will be able to see the benefits.
Enterpreneur @ Work
1. What’s the most recent book you’ve read?
The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard
2. Your favourite car from the Fast and Furious series?
Dom’s Dodge Charger R/T
3. A quote you live by:
Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning. Robert Kiyosaki