Startup aims to build trust in bid to push dealers to look online
SINCE the sharing economy took off a few years ago, there have been no short of startups that have emerged to build apps and platforms for various industries.
While many of these platforms cater to consumer segments, Truck Trader co-founder Low Hun Seang thinks there is room for platforms to make a difference in the commercial vehicle segment.
“Malaysia has a lot of general platforms, but none for commercial vehicles. Commercial vehicles are more customised for certain needs, so owners are not used to buying them through an online platform. And the industry is not tech savvy. So we wanted to have a platform to digitise the industry to help the buyers and sellers transact more efficiently,” he says.
This is not an easy segment to reach out to. Some dealers in obscure areas don’t even use computers, he adds. And many who have tried to go online have not fared well.
To be sure, there is work to be done. Acceptance rate in the segment has been slower than expected.
But Low notes that there is plenty of opportunity here should the industry be willing to give Truck Trader a try.
The Truck Trader site allows buyers and sellers – particularly dealers – of commercial vehicles to list and trade new and used trucks, vans and machinery.
One of the key things Truck Trader hopes to do is to encourage sellers to provide true pricing, whereby the prices listed on its site are as close as possible to what buyers are expected to pay.
“Most times, sellers don’t want to put up the final price. Understandably, they want to make the listed price of their vehicles look as low as possible. But then, there will be a lot of add-ons and the final price will end up being a lot higher, which is very frustrating for buyers. Buyers prefer to see a price that is final, with no hidden costs and scams,” says Low.
Low says Truck Trader would eventually expand its offerings in stages to include services for permits, body constructions, documentation, tax and insurance. It also introduced a new payment solution for users.
Low, a former auditor, and his partner, who has experience in the commercial vehicle industry, started the company at the end of 2017. Its platform went live early last year. The venture kicked off with personal funds and funding from angel investors.
In the early stages, the Kedah-based firm focused on recruiting dealers in the northern region onto its platform.
Notably, getting a startup off the ground outside of the Klang Valley – where most of the support ecosystem is based – can be a challenge. But Low says: “We believe that if the idea can work, it can work anywhere.”
It started expanding into the central region in the middle of 2018.
According to its website, it currently has about 400 dealers on the platform.
Apart from the fact that a lot of the players in the industry are still not online, one of the main challenges for Truck Trader is to build trust. Most of the feedback they have gotten from dealers note that there are a lot of scams online, which makes the online space highly untrustworthy.
“People don’t mind buying small-ticket items online, but not big-ticket things like a truck.”
Additionally, its brand awareness is not there yet.
Still, Truck Trader hopes to change this mindset.
Low says the team tries their best to visit dealers and inspect vehicles to ensure that the details provided on Truck Trader’s website is accurate.
“The big vision is to help the sellers go digital so that they can sell better, and provide true pricing for buyers. We want to uplift the whole industry. I think they will eventually come onboard, it’s just about the timing,” he says.
But he expects the education process to be long and arduous.
At the moment, Truck Trader’s revenue comes from listing fees and advertisements. This revenue model may be expanded as it includes other services on the platform.
He hopes to garner acceptance nationwide and eventually expand into the region. Low is aware that while it will take some time before they get a full buy-in from the industry, he can’t take too long or someone else with deeper pockets may just come along and take the market.