While ride-sharing services have taken off in Malaysia, car-sharing has yet to do so even though it is seen as a solution to transportation and even environmental issues.
Leon Foong is hoping to change that through car-sharing platform SOCAR that allows you to book a car which suits your needs by the hour, day or week - all by just a click of a button on the app.
“All you have to do is download the SOCAR app, sign up over email, enter your password, take a selfie with your driver’s license and you’re good to go," says Foong, CEO of SOCAR Malaysia. “The unique feature about it is that you don’t need car keys to drive, just your phone.
“We also offer a one-way service where users can access our vehicles from one location and drop it off at another point once you’re done,” he adds.
Foong has been in the mobility industry for six years. Prior to joining the SOCAR, a South Korean firm, he was part Uber's first cohort of employees in Malaysia when ride-sharing service was still a new concept.
“I’ve always been an enthusiast in the mobility space. After previously working with Uber by solving efficiencies and launching new business models, SOCAR South Korea thought I was the perfect person to launch them in Malaysia.”
Launched 18 months ago, SOCAR Malaysia offers more than 800 different pickup locations across the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor Bahru. Its fleet of cars comprise of 20 different type of models. Users can rent their desired vehicles from as low as RM2 per hour.
Foong believes that the car-sharing service concept will resonate will with younger commuters, particularly those who don’t want to buy a car or would like to have the experience of driving a different cars.
Since January 2018, over 350,000 users have registered on the SOCAR app. Foong was quick to admit that competition is rife; SOCAR isn’t the first car-sharing platform the Malaysian market. GoCar and Kwikcar both offer similar services, he is, however undaunted by the prospect of an increasingly crowded market. “We are competition aware but we are not competition focus," says Foong.
“The car sharing space is booming in Malaysia. There are at least five companies are providing the similar platforms but maybe in different forms”
“We really want to offer customers the best possible experience. I always ask my team to focus on the stability and reliability of SOCAR.”
“Something that we’ve acknowledge over the past 18 months is that our app can perform better. That’s why we’ve incorporated new technology, hired new tech people to fix issues," says Foong. Among a common complaint is that users are unable to access the service in the basement where carparks are usually located, and where internet connection can be poor.
“Fortunately we have Bluetooth functionality that still allows users to unlock the car when they’re in the basement. So, it boils down to alerting our users about the Bluetooth feature,” he adds.
“Being in this business, I think it’s important to never be afraid to take on feedback or admit when you’re wrong. I’ve been wrong many times but that’s a process of me learning.”
The 32-year-old is excited about the growth prospects of SOCAR in Malaysia as he looks to build a stronger team while expanding its services in the country. He shares a few key lessons in leadership:
“A lot of people ask why did I decide to join SOCAR. It’s really about empowering people, whether it’s the users or my colleagues.”
His personal goal, according to Foong, is to provide an empowering environment for his staff to thrive and eventually, make himself 'redundant' in the company, he jokes.
“I constantly train my team to always think about improving the process. Even if you’re doing well in your job today because you spent ten hours on it, think about how you can spend six hours instead while achieving the same results.”
“I’m a strong believer of clear communication and vision, that’s very much the core of my management style as CEO."