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Why This Start-up Wants Malaysians to Ditch Their Cars

SOCAR lets you enjoy the convenience of having a car without having to own it

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 10 Jul 2018

Why This Start-up Wants Malaysians to Ditch Their Cars

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Ride-hailing platforms may have changed the way people get around, but SOCAR Malaysian CEO Leon Foong wants to take it a step further and get people to forego car ownership altogether.

Foong advocates a car-sharing model where they become a “multi-flexer” — a lifestyle that he personally embraces. He says that he doesn’t own a personal car, yet he doesn’t have to compromise on the things he wants to do.

“I can still go to parks on the weekend and use a SOCAR to run errands and get dinner after work while driving it back to work the next morning. The beauty is that while I'm at work, rather than having the car stay idle in its parking lot, other SOCAR members can then use it for their own multi-flex transportation needs,” says Foong.

SOCAR users begin by signing up for their app. They book a car of their choice, ranging from a Honda HR-V to a Perodua Myvi and located in strategic zones. The user then proceeds to the location of the booked car and unlocks it through SOCAR’s keyless technology.

Since its launch, the use cases for SOCAR have changed dramatically. Whereas before, users may have booked a car for a longer duration, like a full day, and let it idle for hours at a time, now they are moving closer toward true multi-flex car-sharing in that they book a vehicle only when they need one.

“We even have users who plan their use of a car for the entire week, booking it just for daily morning trips to the gym and back,” says Foong, noting that the average booking is now only 3 hours on weekdays and 4 hours on weekends, with many users using it as a complement to public transport.

SOCAR began in South Korea and has recently expanded to Malaysia.

SOCAR chose Malaysia as its first overseas expansion precisely because it wants to create a cultural change away from car ownership. According to Foong, over 93% of homes own a vehicle in Malaysia, yet every vehicle still has a significant unused capacity.

“Even if you just drive 3 hours a day for 7 days a week, you’re only using 12.5% of your car’s total available hours. What if you could double that and save up to 50% of the cost of car ownership?” says Foong.

He believes SOCAR’s model makes sense for Malaysians because two thirds of whom own a smartphone that is necessary for accessing the platform.

Because SOCAR is growing fast in both Malaysia and South Korea, Foong says that one of the company’s challenges is managing to hire fast while minimizing organizational debt.

“That means ensuring that your compensation structure, performance measurement frameworks, employee onboarding, and cultural pillars all evolve together with the business rather than having any part of the organization fall behind. Trying to balance the urgent need to hire vs. setting up the right pillars of success organizationally is something that I pay a lot of attention to,” he says.

For the rest of 2018, Foong’s goal is to expand their existing fleet to 1,000 cars that serve a total of 30,000 to 40,000 monthly active users from a total base of 250,000 members. The company’s ultimate goal in the country is to enable 1 million Malaysians to become multi-flexers by 2020.

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