Say you need transportation to move house or pick up something huge. Unless you have a friend or family member with a big car or lorry willing to do you a favour, your only other choice is to rent. So you start looking everywhere for a contact, calling different companies but not exactly getting the service you want or even make a booking due to conflict of schedule or a less-than-desirable quotation.
Alternatively, you could do it the dot com way and check out TheLorry.com, an online booking platform for lorries, vans and 4X4s where not only do you get instant quotations from reputable drivers but also book extra services like extra set of hands to help you move and pay online with your credit card – all with a click of your mouse or right from your phone.
That is exactly what TheLorry.com’s co-founders Nadhir Ashafiq and Goh Chee Hau set out to do when they started the business in September 2014, an on-demand logistics platform that connects individuals and corporate customers to vehicle owners using TheLorry.com’s website and mobile app.
Both Nadhir and Chee Hau met at their previous employment in an aviation logistics company and decided to innovate and bring higher efficiency to the industry by integrating with technology. They had many ideas initially but one stood out – to bring the “lori sewa” experience online.
The company is currently operating in Malaysia and Singapore with plans to explore the Thailand and Philippines market soon. “Running a business, especially in the early stages, involved a lot of hard work, sleepless nights and managing customers and vendors in the wee hours of the morning,” recalls Nadhir. “We only had two vendors who agreed to join the first month of running. Once these vendors started to take up more jobs with us, word got around and slowly that number grew to 10, 100, 1,000 and finally, now close to 5,000.”
Getting customers to use their services was also one of the initial challenges Nadhir says they experienced. “Customers had a bit of a tough time transacting with us. We were still new and our conversion rates (bookings over unique visitors to the website) weren’t very high,” he says. “However, through persistent digital marketing and consistent PR, we managed to double up the conversions rates in the first six months of operations.”
The question on every budding entrepreneur’s mind is where to get funding from if not from your own savings. “There is a lot of convincing and hustling that needs to be done to get those initial numbers,” says Nadhir. “It’s tough to convince someone to part with their hard-earned cash! However, through sheer determination and persistence, we managed to raise multiple rounds so far.” “The best tip I can give you is to build a network of investors and people who know these investors!” says Chee Hau.
Another major challenge is manpower. “When we started the business, not many people were keen to join the team due to lack of job security and we couldn’t afford to pay much,” says Chee Hau. “The best option was to look for like-minded people who believe in the idea. This is still our focus right now; we are constantly on the lookout for passionate and driven individuals who can add value to the team.”
“It was quite challenging being a young founder – I didn’t have much management experience on how to manage a team. Eight months into the business, I had to manage a team of 10! My approach was simple – just do what I thought was right, learn and optimise on the go. We definitely made a lot of mistakes, but without those mistakes we wouldn’t be what we are today,” says Nadhir.