Entrepreneur

This M’sian Startup Shows How And Why It’s Okay To Say “Tumpang, Bro” To A Stranger

Travelling a journey alone is a debatable matter.

Some may agree that driving solo is a calming activity and prefer those long hours of silence. Others seek companionship and search through their immediate contacts to find people that can be roped in along with them.

It only begins to be a worry when those relatives and friends give excuses on why they can’t join you and you find yourself having no choice but to endure the tiring journey by yourself. This was also the thought process of two Malaysians who decided to start a service that could potentially solve this.

Droupr is a new carpool and ride sharing service for Malaysians that helps pair car owners heading off to a certain destination with a passenger looking to go the same way. This web-based startup is looking to connect locals with the surrounding community, where they can experience safe travelling while also saving costs on the expenditure of the overall journey, all done with just a few taps on their website.

Save Money, Gain Company

Image Credit: Droupr
Image Credit: Droupr

The name of the startup, Droupr, was inspired by the old Scottish tongue “drowper” which translates to spiritless person. When that is applied to the overall theme of Droupr, it gives the meaning of an empty space that needs to be filled up to bring life to a journey. The team decided to opt for a foreign word instead of a local slang due to its uniqueness, memorability and global-sounding effect.

The two founders, Shukri Saad and Hisham, thought of this idea when Hisham continuously whined how he felt so alone during his bi-weekly long journeys from Kuala Lumpur to other states. What he wanted was a travel companion to chat along and split the fare of toll and fuel for ease of convenience. He was also alternatively looking for someone who could be behind the wheel as long journeys regularly can be both straining and dull.

Shukri took his friend’s complaints seriously and began toying with the idea of a ride hailing service for long journeys but that was immediately scrapped due to high cost and the lack of diversity to what cab drivers offered. The project was stopped momentarily when Shukri moved to Cardiff for a year but even in the UK, he continued playing with the service idea, He saw examples of it being successful there, so he wanted to bring this joyous feeling back to Malaysia with him.

In summer of 2015, whilst taking a short course in Cardiff University and juggling his daily work as a full-time househusband, he started to study the model and developed the system. In October 2015, he showed the prototype to Hisham who jumped on board with the idea and thus began Droupr.

How the system works is, the driver is able to drop you off anywhere that doesn’t divert from his/her original route. Other passengers can also be picked up along the way to save a few bucks on the cost of petrol and tolls as well as provide friendly company for what would otherwise be a dull long ride. The idea behind this isn’t exactly something new but it could provide Malaysians with a new option.

Starting A Ride-Sharing Culture

Image Credit: lexusenthusiast.com
Image Credit: lexusenthusiast.com

Ride sharing is not a foreign concept to the local community, but it does tend to be grouped under the same category as ride-hailing services such as taxis. Droupr aims to change this perspective by emphasising on the fact that their goal in the end is not to cultivate a profit ride sharing service. Whether or not the seat ends up being filled up is not a primary concern since the journey still goes on, but to be able to have people willingly share rides for the same destination is Droupr’s end goal.

And it seems to be well received. In less than a month, 500 users have already registered with more than 200 rides offered around Malaysia. The feedback received is generally mixed, which is expected from a concept still budding in our home country. But the overall reception towards the idea was positive and exceeded the team’s projection by months, a feat to be commended as they have not even launched their mobile app yet.

“Droupr is engineered to create a trust-based community with declared identities and full member profiles. Users register in the system using their real name with a valid e-mail address and phone number. To ensure passenger safety, the system offers members the option to include their identity card and house address verification,” said Droupr.

The team chose to debut their service in time for the festive season to promise shared rides that are a fraction of a ticket for the usual public transport service, with claims that the app is programmed so that there is no overcharging and stays in line with the philosophy of car pooling.

“Each passenger makes a fair contribution for their seat to cover fuel and toll costs. Droupr only charges a small booking fee from passengers to cover overheads. If you fail to get public transport, the next best thing is to share a ride with someone heading the same destination,” said Droupr.

With plans to launch the app for Android and iOS mobile users before the year ends, Droupr needs to continue to think bigger in differentiating themselves from others. Their next plan is to add a new feature for event-based journeys where users can specifically find people heading to concerts or festivals to hitch a ride with them. They also have plans to expand their service to Indonesia.

#TongTongJe?

Image Credit: Droupr
Image Credit: Droupr

While trying to explain its concept clearly and easily to the public, Droupr’s co-founder came up with the idea of #tongtongje, which means that everybody contributes to the costa youthful slang that would resonate well with the community they wish to reach.

By allowing registered users on their website to customise their preferences to which car owner they’d like to share a ride with, Droupr gives a lot more control on how you want your travelling experience to be like. Ranging from choosing to have non-smokers to knowing their music taste so that the music playlist playing during the trip is not cringeworthy to even specifying gender, should that be a concern, the app allows a level of comfort and security in areas where not a lot of ride sharing apps offer much leeway.

The idea behind saving cost by splitting the rates with all the passengers is beneficial as well, seeing as the overall cost encompasses the trip expenditure and is not for profit purposes. This makes it feel a lot more like a roadtrip instead of a mere driving service that may charge slightly higher for commissions. Though the price may not vary significantly, it still provides an alternative for those seeking options.

However, is that sustainable enough to keep this app relevant?

Having just recently launched, it remains too early to say how efficient this startup’s service compares to others that may be more known throughout the community. Will they get enough people on their platform to make the services viable?

How much can a person customise, if they are fussy, particularly if they want to return to a faraway place that not many people would travel to?

It’s also questionable if Droupr can make enough money to have a sustainable system if they really are only taking so little as the overhead costs and booking fee.  Also, outside of the festive season, are there really that many long distance travellers that will use this service at all?

It may sound like an appealing idea to certain people with an adventurous sense to get into a vehicle with someone introduced through an online portal but there may also be those who hold paranoia and skepticism at the idea of staying in a car for a 4-hour drive with a stranger.

Though this startup may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it does opens up the possibility of finding new travel buddies that could even be formed into lifelong friendships and initiate a mindset where you can just ‘tong-tong je’.

 

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