The limitations of public transport amid COVID-19, and the need to ease traffic congestion and lower carbon emissions, among other factors, has given a shot in the arm for the car-sharing market in Southeast Asia.
Among those startups taking advantage of the new normal is the car-rental platform SOCAR Malaysia.
The firm is launching its wholly-owned brand Trevo — which allows car owners to share their vehicles to verified users on its platform for a fee — in Indonesia as soon as this week, said a top executive of the firm.
Trevo— an Airbnb of sorts for automobiles — was successfully launched in Malaysia in February.
SOCAR Malaysia, which has been in the car rental market in the Southeast Asian country since 2018, is 80 per cent owned by the South Korean conglomerate SK Corp, which also runs SOCAR in that country. Eugene Private Equity, and KH Energy are the other major shareholders.
“With Trevo, those not financially equipped to lease or purchase cars can experience owning one by only paying for it when it’s needed,” SOCAR Malaysia chief executive officer Leon Foong told DealStreetAsia. Car-owners, too, can earn some extra income by renting their cars.
The Indonesian government’s move to reduce traffic in metropolitan areas is also a tailwind. “We’ll first focus on the “Jabodetabek”, which is the Jakarta Metropolitan Area. We will also target other addressable markets within Java, Sumatra, and some of the popular local tourist destinations,” Foong said.
While Indonesia is a fragmented and tough market to crack, many startups are betting big on the shared-economy model in automobiles.
Malaysian car-sharing startup Moovby, for instance, launched in Indonesia in May last year and is now in four cities in the country. It plans to add another eight to 10 cities this year, local media Sunbiz reported in August. Moovby’s Indonesia business is already contributing 70 per cent to its overall revenue, with only 30 per cent from Malaysia, despite launching there in 2017.
In Indonesia, Trevo will also compete with online car rental platform Indoloka.com and Sharecar, a product developed by ASSA Mobility, a division of PT Adi Sarana Armada Tbk (ASSA Rent), the largest car rental company in Indonesia.
Foong, though, is confident: “Our competitive edge is our technology, operational know-how in terms of managing a remote distributed fleet and most importantly, scaling a two-sided marketplace while keeping costs under control.”
Car-sharing is about maximising yield per available car-sharing day while reducing costs related to accidents and repairs.
“This market will come down to who can deliver the best service at the best price. We will be able to scale our operations efficiently, while keeping the risk-related losses within comfort levels,” said Foong. “If we can scale more efficiently than anyone else, each dollar spent will yield a higher RoI (return on investment).”
Trevo takes a cut from the income earned by car owners who share their cars.
“A key to optimising the car-sharing model in a market like Indonesia is to not only focus on revenue maximisation but also to leverage the technology we have to reduce car accidents and thefts,” he noted. “The best way to do this is to scale up our platform and collect as much user data as possible, which will then feed new data points into our machine learning algorithms that can help us better understand the risk profile of each individual driver,” he added.
According to German research firm Statista, revenues in the car-sharing segment in Indonesia is projected to reach $32 million in 2020. The revenue is expected to clock a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.2 per cent between 2020 and 2025, and grow to $81 million.
The car-rental market, though, is leaps and bounds ahead in Indonesia. Its revenue is projected to reach $207 million in 2020 and clock a CAGR of 30.4 per cent between 2020 and 2025, growing to $780 million by then.
The dominance of car rental firms and several other challenges await Trevo as it begins its Indonesia journey.
Well-funded to ride a tough market “I think the challenge is, how do we scale up while minimising the risk,” Foong noted, adding that Indonesia is a large country with fragmented data points.
“For example, there’s no digital centralised, nationwide KYC (Know-Your-Customer) platform for us to check for criminal records. So I think we need to focus on leveraging our tech, focus on our KYC and risk control measures,” Foong said.
He said SOCAR plans to raise at least $36 million for expansion in Indonesia. “…you need to look at our previous rounds, we raised $18 million. I think we’ll be easily looking at double that atleast,” he said.
It was reported in February that SOCAR Mobility Malaysia, which operates SOCAR Malaysia, raised a $18 million Series A from two South Korean investors Eugene Private Equity, the private equity arm of conglomerate Eugene Group and oil company KH Energy.
The new capital pushed SOCAR Malaysia’s total funding to $40 million and valuation to $118 million, according to a statement at the time.
“We will still have a very healthy runway, so it’s not so much a necessity [to raise funds]. But as we enter Indonesia, the size of the market is big enough for us to want to invest, to really scale up that future profitability, and to really scale up that competitive advantage,” Foong said.
Automotive manufacturers and insurance companies are the ones SOCAR is interested in engaging.
Malaysia play and future outlook
SOCAR Malaysia, launched in 2018 by South Korea’s SOCAR in its first expansion overseas, allows users to book cars on its platform with its app. Its door-to-door car delivery service, enables users to reserve a car and have it delivered at the desired pickup point. The car will then be retrieved from the selected return location.
In Malaysia, SOCAR mainly provides car rental services through its app in several areas and cities including Klang Valley (Kuala Lumpur and Selangor state), Penang and Johor Bahru. It offers hatchbacks, sedans and MPVs. “SOCAR as a group is the first full-stack, car-sharing company in Southeast Asia. We have a short-term car rental model where we own the assets,” Foong explained.
However, this model is changing. Instead of owning the cars, Foong said SOCAR Malaysia plans to move towards becoming a platform, adopting the asset-light approach. The startup plans to collaborate with more traditional car rental companies to put their fleets on its platform.
SOCAR currently owns the majority of its fleet. Moving into 2021, Foong said it hopes 15-20 per cent of its fleet will be from its partners.
Foong said SOCAR has seen the demand of its car rental business gaining traction, allowing it to approach existing car rental companies which have spare capacity and do not have the technology or rely on traditional sales channels for their fleets. SOCAR can then earn a share of the revenue, he said. “That way we can scale faster without investing in assets.”
SOCAR Malaysia has recently partnered with Sime Darby, a conglomerate in Malaysia which also operates car rental business. Sime Darby has deployed its cars on SOCAR platform.
Moving forward, SoCAR Malaysia also plans to introduce ancillary services including changing battery, and sending cars to service centres among others, on top of its custodian service and door-to-door service, which deliver the car straight to customers as it moves to differentiate itself from competitors including on-demand car-sharing platform GoCAR, Kwikcar, and Edgerent, among others.
SOCAR Mobility Malaysia’s revenue for 2019 stood at 31.22 million ringgit, surging more than 3.2 times from 9.48 million ringgit in 2018. Its loss after tax was at 47.42 million ringgit in 2019, widening from a loss after tax of 22.32 million ringgit in 2018, data from Companies Commission of Malaysia showed.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported last month that SOCAR has sent requests for proposal to brokerage firms for its initial public offering (IPO) in South Korea. The company provides various services, including car-sharing, ride-hailing, used-car sales, and chauffeurs in the country.
“Although we have submitted our proposals to brokerage firms, no details of the IPO timeline or plans have been decided yet,” a SOCAR spokesperson had said then.
SOCAR had said in October that it had almost reached unicorn status, valued at 1 trillion won ($897.38 million), after raising 60 billion won in funding from two private equity firms. It had earlier raised $44 million from Altos Ventures, KB Investment, Stonebridge Ventures and Softbank Ventures, an earlier report showed.
As for Trevo, besides the areas SOCAR Malaysia covers, it is also available in East Malaysia. After its February launch, Trevo had collaborated with the transport ministry to get more car-owners onboard. Foong said the take-up rate was hit by COVID-19.
“Ultimately in the automotive industry, there’s still a lot of inefficiencies. People are paying too much for loans, people are paying too much for depreciating assets. People are paying too much for the second car, too much insurance,” he said, adding that not everyone can afford to pay for a downpayment to own a car.
Can platforms like Trevo iron out the inefficiencies? The answer is in the making.
Contact editor Marcus Ryder (firstname.lastname@example.org)