I was headed to Mid Valley Megamall one Wednesday afternoon. It was past lunch hour and I was giving myself a pat on the back for waiting patiently for the lunch crowd to go back to their dreary offices so that I didn’t have to wage war against them for parking (at the time I was not yet an Uber user and was therefore quite ignorant towards the availability of such an app).
I drove into the underground parking lot thinking that finding for a parking should be easy peasy. I shall choose a lot that is closest to the elevator entrance. Hah! But that was not the case.
I implemented all of the Malaysian parking strategies that I could think of. I stalked people carrying grocery bags who were walking back to their cars, but they sneakily weaved through the parked cars to another parking section; I chose a particular spot for a stake out, and I waited for someone who was parked near me to exit so that I could take over their spot.
I spent the next 40 minutes driving around like a lost puppy while participating in the “So You Think You Can Find Parking?” competition with many other drivers. True story.
However, things were now looking up because it seems like the Parking gods finally answered my prayer.
Warren Chan, like most Malaysians, is no stranger to the frustrations of searching for parking. “I bought tickets to watch a movie. When I arrived at the mall, I had huge difficulty finding a parking space. I couldn’t find any in the normal car park, so I tried premium parking and then valet parking. Both of which were full! Eventually, I went back to the normal parking area and found a parking space. All in all, I had spent more than half an hour trying to find a parking space and I was late for my movie,” he shared.
“I kept thinking how great it would be if I could book my car park just like how I had booked my movie tickets through an app. A month later, I met Eric, my technical co-founder who had exactly the same idea.”
And thus, the idea of ParkEasy was born.
How Can We ParkEasy?
ParkEasy, functions based on a bluetooth-powered indoor navigation system that will take users straight to their reserved parking bays which will have their license plate displayed above it in an LED signboard. Before entering a mall’s parking lot, we can overview the mall’s available spaces—so we can still change our mind before even getting there.
In the mall, the app will present us with a bird’s-eye view of the parking area so that we can easily spot available spaces and book the space that we want. The ParkEasy app will then help us navigate to the reserved parking space with the shortest route possible so that we don’t have to roam around, frantically. Finally, after shopping, we don’t have to worry about forgetting about where we’ve parked because we can just use the app to locate the car.
Essentially what ParkEasy aims to do is to help users save time and fuel, while also saving the environment by reducing carbon emissions from vehicles. After all, every little bit matters.
Potential Challenges Ahead
While the novelty of the idea is commendable, knowing how kiasu and competitive Malaysians are, I wondered about how they are to control drivers who park their cars at spaces which are already reserved for someone else. Or what if someone doesn’t have the app and wishes to park wherever he pleases?
Warren explained that they have given this some thought and they have various methods to curb this problem. Since they are relying on a bluetooth navigation system, the system will be able to identify if a certain parking spot is being used by the correct person via the user’s location.
Aside from an LED signboard displaying the license plate of the car which has reserved the spot, they will also install a loud beeping alarm which will go off if someone parks at a reserved spot which is not theirs. The LED signboard will also flash to indicate that the spot has already been reserved by someone else. If that doesn’t deter an extremely thick-faced person from ‘stealing’ someone’s parking space, perhaps a fine will—a wrongly parked car will be clamped and a fine of RM100 will be imposed.
Initially the ParkEasy team thought of installing some hardware which will block a reserved parking spot and will lower itself when the rightful driver drives in. However, Warren said that it would be too expensive and they want to keep the parking reservation fee as low as possible for users.
Currently, the parking reservation fee that Warren has in mind for ParkEasy users will be about RM3-4 per parking (payed via the app itself), depending on the location of the mall and on peak/non-peak hours.
According to Warren, they do not intend to change the current parking system of malls. If there is no booking made for the parking space, then anyone from the public can park as per normal. Only if a parking spot is already reserved, then that particular spot will be kept for the ParkEasy user.
Creating A New Norm
The ParkEasy team, which is made up of 10 full-time staff and powered by 1337 Ventures, have pretty big ambitions—they want to disrupt the way people park. “Just as how buying tickets for movies or flights online is now a norm, we want buying parking tickets online to be the new norm,” Warren said.
Warren Chan (CEO of ParkEasy), Eric Tan (CTO of ParkEasy) and Loo Wen Hoi (COO of ParkEasy) also plan to eliminate paper ticket entry and have payment all done through the app so that there will be no more hassle of autopay machines in the future.
These may be big plans, but they are wisely starting it small first by beginning the implementation of the ParkEasy system in small malls with designated areas for ParkEasy users, before later on expanding the system to the whole parking lot of the mall.
Tentatively, ParkEasy will soft launch in three malls between July to September, with an official launch during the mid of September. They are also targeting Jakarta, Singapore, Manila, and Bangkok for the next 3 years as these cities have high smartphone penetration, high dependency on private transport (except Singapore), and their shopping malls are the public’s focal points.
I’d say ParkEasy is an idealistic concept that we might find hard to imagine being fully functional, but one can only hope. Having said that, implementing this is no easy task (despite the word ‘easy’ being in its name). Getting the malls to consent to installing the necessary hardware in their parking lots and convincing users to pay RM3-4 in return for quick parking will be some of their challenges.
If this takes off, it will definitely change the way we perceive shopping because we won’t have to grumble about parking each time we want to make a trip to the mall. And that is a change I welcome wholeheartedly.