Car Broke Down? This Malaysian Start-up is to the Rescue
Carput aims to be the go-to-app for drivers, focusing on roadside assistance
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Who do you call when your car breaks down? Or maybe the better question to ask is: why do you call someone? For Malaysian co-founders Eugene Tan and Mark Chew, the inefficiencies of the Malaysian automotive assist industry was the pain point they wanted to solve, while a mobile app—one that could show the location and ETA of the technician—was the hypothesis they wanted to test out.
The result: an app called Carput, an evolution of their e-commerce business called the Battery Shop. Tan explains, “With just a few clicks of the button, you can actually order, see help coming, and then review the technician or the service provider that comes and helps you.”
It’s an Uber/Grab for drivers, one that relies on both payroll technicians and freelance mechanics, which make up about 40% of their on-the-ground workforce, to service their customers.
When asked whether the app was Uber-inspired, both replied: “Oh definitely.”
“One hundred percent, we’re not going to lie about it… We’re part of the Uber wave,” says Tan.
For Uber/Grab users, the Carput user experience will feel familiar. In the homepage, customers can call the hotline or push the panic button to request assistance. If customers choose the panic button, they’ll have to select their car and the service they require, whether it’s a jump-start, petrol refuel, new battery, or flat tire fix. After choosing the service, customers will see how much the job costs. Once the job has been accepted, customers will be able to see where the technician is and how long it will take him to get to them. Chat functionalities are also built into the app so customers can message the staff instantly.
Once the job is complete, users can rate the technician. Chew says they don’t accept payments on the app as of the moment, but customers can request either cash or credit cards, since the technicians carry mobile terminals with them. Their average turnaround is 49 minutes and official operating hours are 7 AM to 11 PM, 365 days a year, and they’re currently working towards 24-hour operations.
Even with a familiar interface, could they get people to trust their app during such a high stress situation? There are a lot of obstacles—one is the stigma that mechanics will cheat you and ask for extra charges and another is the traffic, which can prevent technicians from arriving at the location on time.
It’s All About the User
While the Carput app is still in its infancy, with around 10,000 users so far, Tan says the positive feedback has been encouraging. One of his proudest moments is fixing up a Ferrari. “They tend to go back to Ferrari or a manufacturer to actually get the job done, so we were able to see that someone of that status has trusted [us] into helping them. I think that says a lot about our business,” says Tan.
At Carput’s core, it is more than an app—it’s a service aiming to create an empowering experience for their users. “Instead of the power all being with the service providers, we now pass it back to the user,” says Tan.
Both Tan and Chew agree high quality customer service was lacking in Malaysia. Chew says, “I think people are accustomed to old ways of doing business, it’s just a transaction. It’s not a relationship.”
“We’re actually building a culture of great customer service and we want to show Malaysia that if a small little car battery auto assist company can do that, why can’t everyone else?” says Tan.
Carput has a lot of room for growth, especially in a country where the average car ownership is three per household and the government incentivizes citizens to purchase locally manufactured cars like Proton.
Their long-term strategy? “We’re also looking into other verticals of car ownership so from the minute you actually think about buying a car, to the moment you buy a car and you need to do your road taxes and you need to get your insurance maybe you’re maintaining your car service bookings or even checking the petrol prices... Carput wants to guide you through your experience when you’re owning a car and that could be five, seven years, per car,” says Tan.