Heading to pasar malams for freshly cooked street food is an ingrained experience for, dare I say, all Malaysians.
From food trucks to old-school tricycles, food sold on wheels is a familiar sight to us. Now, a Penang GreenTech startup, Eclimo is seemingly pairing two essentially Malaysian icons—food and motorcycles—to benefit small-scale foodpreneurs.
Enter: The EclimoES11 (ES11), an e-motorbike food “truck”.
The electric vehicles come equipped with a customised carrier bag which can power a grill or stove placed inside it.
This gives added mobility to foodpreneurs to cook nasi lemak, toss a pizza, or make satay on the go from their carrier bag, which can be rented for RM20 to RM30 per day.
It started with coffee
Eclimo was founded in 2008 in Penang by Dato’ Dennis Chua as a company developing EV battery packs, which are patented and a part of its e-motorbikes.
The idea to launch an e-motorbike food truck started with an idea to create a rescue bike for EVs that had run out of charge in 2021.
“The bike would be designed to go to your stranded EV, give it a fast charge of about 10km or so, enough that you can move your car to the nearest charging station,” said Dato’ Dennis, co-founder and Executive Director of Eclimo.
Around the same time, a client who was operating a mobile capsule coffee drinks business saw this rescue bike and asked if it had enough charge to power up the machines.
“They already had a rough design to run the coffee capsule machine off the back of an internal combustion engine (ICE) bike, powered by a car battery,” recalled Dato’ Dennis.
However, the design made the bike too heavy at the back, and the car battery did not have enough power for them to finish their work.
“So, we started with that. Then, when other customers saw this prototype, more requests poured in, from grilling satay to powering a microwave oven, and freezing ice cream.”
Dato’ Dennis told Vulcan Post that such an idea was always something his team had in mind. But the idea of putting an entire kitchen on the back of a bike never took off as a serious add-on until they discovered that banks were willing to fund these micro-mobility entrepreneurs.
“Bear in mind that at the time, financing and grants were only for food truck businesses, not for two-wheelers,” he noted.
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 also had a part to play in this, as entrepreneurs were afraid to take up retail outlets and were looking for something more flexible amidst the uncertainties at the time.
“We realised that if we could develop a two-wheeled solution for Malaysia’s fast-growing group of micro-mobility entrepreneurs, and it could help them to generate more income, then that’s where the demand would be,” Dato’ Dennis decided.
As these requests were coming from Eclimo’s customers, it was a market-driven idea from the start. Dato’ Dennis reported that the take-up for the ES11 has been organic growth as the market saw the solution provided and continued going to the company for more applications.
Turning delivery riders into foodpreneurs
When asked about how Eclimo intends to reach its target market of B40 foodpreneurs to capitalise on the ES11, Dato’ Dennis’s plan is to collaborate with F&B brands looking to expand.
Directly reaching out to Satay Jaybee, Boncafe, and Huckleberry, the deal is to target riders of a certain age and work with the F&B brands to help riders to grow their own food business.
“There are at least 170,000 e-hailing riders nationwide but not all of them would want to be riders for life,” Dato’ Dennis explained.
He elaborated that this is because income for riders is fixed, and the only way they can earn more money is to put in more hours, which won’t be viable in the longer term.
“It’s a targeted approach, so that we can match this outreach with our growth potential,” Dato’ Dennis expressed.
Cost-wise, the basic ES11 bikes are available for lease from RM600 per month, which is broken down to an approximate RM20 to RM30 per day.
The accessories, which include the carrier bag with various cooking appliances inside, can be customised to each user’s needs.
“These are purchased outright, and vary in cost from RM500 to RM5,000 depending on what appliances they require,” added Dato’ Dennis.
Say a foodpreneur plans to own an ES11 themselves, Dato’ Dennis shared that the average price for an outright purchase is RM24,500. This is inclusive of the extended power for the appliances, and two years’ maintenance.
“With financing, the feedback we get is that this is affordable, especially when compared to the cost of getting a food truck of around RM80,000 to RM200,000,” he weighed out.
In terms of Eclimo’s short-term product development plans, the team will continue their efforts in improving the batteries and engines for the ES11.
Dato’ Dennis also intends to keep Eclimo’s manufacturing and HQ in Penang, having been born and raised there.
For now, Eclimo has expanded to the Klang Valley where it operates a service and plate management centre.
Beyond that, the team reported that next year, they plan to expand their fleet of customised e- motorbikes for food vendors in the Asean region.
Featured image Credit: Eclimo