Drivers in some east Asian countries, where drinking is part of the social fabric, have long been able to hire people to take them home in their own cars if they think they’ve had one too many and can’t safely drive home on their own.
This type of driver-for-hire service has been around for 10 years in countries like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China.
Today, it looks like Malaysia will join this bandwagon, as driver-for-hire company MyDriver set up shop in Kuala Lumpur.
“I learned about this service from my friends who have actually experienced it in South Korea and Taiwan. It really intrigued me because it is something I would actually want to use,” said MyDriver managing director Eddie Ng.
Ng said he had previously spoken with friends and compared notes to gauge the feasibility of setting up such a business in Kuala Lumpur.
“Many agree when I suggested it be introduced here. They said it was a great way to be a responsible driver,” he tells MetroBiz.
MyDriver set up in Desa Sri Hartamas last November, and Ng said business was slowly picking up.
“People are just not aware and are not accustomed to this service yet.
“It’s like valet services. Years ago when it was not popular yet, nobody had faith in it, but nowadays, people don’t go to a (crowded) place without it,” said Ng.
One of the main reasons Ng started the business is the social issue that surrounds drink-driving.
“Too many times have I flipped open newspapers to find yet another report about fatalities caused by drunk driving, whether driver, passenger or passer-by.
“I also personally knew someone who was involved in an accident for the same reason,” Ng said, adding, that robberies and car thefts can also occur when a driver dozes off in their car, or when they leave it behind.
“Many of these cases could’ve been avoided if a safer option was presented to the people earlier. The other core service MyDriver offers is the part-time chauffeur service, which goes by the hour.
“People need drivers for different reasons, and we are flexible with that. Some need a temporary driver for when their in-house driver is away, while some companies hire our drivers to take their guests around during short stays,” Ng explained.
“There are also instances when our drivers are hired for a few hours just to help run errands. Those were usually cases where people want to avoid parking and traffic.”.
“For them, it is time-efficient, thus increasing productivity.”
Ng said there had been occasions when their services were used to drive the elderly for medical check-ups at hospitals when their children were unavailable.
“We have also gone the extra mile when our drivers were hired to take customers out of state, to and fro,” he noted.
MyDriver currently has seven full-time and more than 10 part-time drivers.
“We’re still new now. When we receive good feedback and business picks up pace, we’ll definitely look into hiring more.” .
He added that they were looking to hire female drivers also as there was a demand.
Depending on the trips and hours required of their service the company a payment formula, but it is also open to reasonable negotiations.
The company charges between RM130 to RM150 per trip for night driver service within the Klang Valley.
Part-time chauffeurs cost between RM27 to RM30 per hour, with a five-hour minimum.
Ng says the company runs a profit-sharing scheme with its drivers, giving them 40% of the charges from each journey or assignment.
The company is off to a slow but sure start with about two customers a day, usually expatriates and local Chinese.
“Our target is to have at least 50 customers a day when business is on track,” Ng says.
Currently, the business relies mostly on word of mouth, and like many new companies today, its Facebook page to market its services. We mostly depend on friends or existing customers to talk about us in the hopes of slowly reducing the reluctance people have about having strangers driving them around,” Ng says.
“Ultimately, we want to communicate that we are a ‘driver service’ and not a ‘taxi service’,” he emphasised.
In South Korea, many drivers-for-hire work alone, freelancing for a side-income. Ng, however, thinks it is best to have a proper system.
When it comes to employment, he said the company only hired locals.
“Potential drives go through three stages of interviewing where they are tested for skills such as driving, communicating and navigating among other things.
“We also cross-check the profiles of employees with the authorities before we officially employ them,” Ng explains.
MyDriver’s employees are also dressed professionally so that customers may identify them with the company.
He said stringent hiring policies were crucial because faith was important for all businesses, more so for the new service category the company was introducing.
“People need to know the company is registered and we vouch for our services. This way, they can be assured and be confident with us.”.
MyDriver also has policies against unruly customers too.
“In cases where customers misbehave or are not sober enough to identify their own addresses, our employees reserve the right to reject the transaction,” Ng said.
“We need to protect the welfare of our employees as well.”
Customers usually call one of two phone lines at 019 2582929 or 019 206 2929 to book before hand.
“We have them provide their location and a pickup time beforehand, although we do accept certain unplanned circumstances or reasonable delays,” Ng said.
For night-time drives, usually two drivers are deployed on a motorbike.
“When one drives a customer home, the other then picks him up with the motorcycle to head back.
“For part-time services, there are arrangements for the driver’s pick up upon completion of the assignment as well.”
Currently, MyDriver operates in the Klang Valley, but Ng is optimistic that the business will expand beyond the area.
“There are endless possibilities, we don’t doubt that, but first we need to focus on getting MyDriver to run smoothly,” he said.
“There are still many details the company needs to iron out.”
Ng also revealed that the company is in the midst of developing a mobile app and website to ease the booking process.
While the service is relatively niche, Ng is keen to see it become commonplace here in Malaysia.