Typically used to refer to the one responsible friend who stays sober, designated drivers play arguably one of the most important roles at a party.
But as appreciative as we are for these reliable pals who abstain from alcohol so as to drive everyone else back home, they deserve a break too.
Thus came the rise of hired designated drivers. A popular service in South Korea, these “replacement” or “substitute” drivers’ jobs are to operate the owner’s vehicle for them.
Of course, this service is useful not only when the car’s owner is inebriated, but also for various situations when the owners are unable to operate their own car. Reasons could include lethargy or even injuries.
And compared to calling for a taxi or Grab, using designated driver services negates the need for the owner to find their way back to their cars the next day. Overnight parking fees are certainly not a joke.
Seeing the potential of such a business, Chong Zhao Xian founded MYDD (or MY Designated Driver) in December 2020.
With no prior experience with entrepreneurship, Chong knew he had a challenging task ahead.
“However, I have seven years of ERP project management experience, and I believe that I could run this business and lead it to a successful path,” he shared with Vulcan Post.
Although he’s still working as an information systems manager at K.K. Metal Processing, a local metal processing factory, he gives MYDD enough attention and work for it to be considered his second full-time job.
After a series of obstacles such as the pandemic, the company finally launched its designated driver service in June 2022.
Hygiene as a competitive edge
Especially considering that Buddy Driver is operating under a well-established peer-to-peer car-sharing platform known as TREVO, it seems like breaking free from the competition would pose a challenge to MYDD.
However, the MYDD founder believes that his service is differentiated in a few ways.
For one, on Buddy Driver, the earliest timeslot users can book is one hour ahead. However, Chong claims that MYDD’s booking is “instant” and therefore more convenient.
Beyond that, something else featured by MYDD is its emphasis on hygiene. MYDD drivers are equipped with hygiene covers for the car’s seat, steering wheel, and gear shift to give the car owners peace of mind.
One other thing I noticed was Buddy Driver is currently housed under the TREVO app. When downloading the TREVO app, users must first have to sign up before they can even access the Buddy Driver service, which can make it a little confusing.
As such, MYDD’s app arguably may help in making it more recognisable and searchable.
Price-wise, however, MYDD appears to be less competitive.
Buddy Driver’s rates are fixed at RM30 for the first hour and RM20 for every subsequent hour. Considering that a full hour can get you to many places within the Klang Valley, this seems to be reasonable pricing.
However, MYDD charges a flat RM35 booking fee and RM4 for every kilometre travelled.
While I could get home from my office for RM30 via Buddy Driver, it would take me RM90 via MYDD.
The search for skilled drivers
Compared to being an e-hailing driver, working as a designated driver can be more demanding because such drivers must know how to operate different types of vehicles.
MYDD serves both auto and manual cars, including sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs, and MPVs. As such, its drivers are expected to be able to handle all of them.
The one type of car the app doesn’t serve are supercars, as Chong believes most drivers will not be able to operate them.
To sign up as a driver with MYDD, the applicant must fill in a form online or via the MYDD driver app. The MYDD operation team will then contact the applicants for a face-to-face interview.
According to Chong, MYDD drivers must have at least four years of driving experience without any involvement in crimes or serious car accidents before. He also said that drivers should have no addictions to alcohol, though that may be hard to measure.
MYDD drivers start off with 30% of the fares, though Chong said it will increase based on completed trip counts.
As a plus, the company reportedly arranges transportation for MYDD drivers to reach users’ locations and also commute home.
“We will also cover parking fees for the drivers if applicable,” Chong shared. “I think it’s something different from our competitor.”
Prompted by inquiries from users, MYDD has also introduced short-term and long-term driver services on its website.
Those looking for a non-recurring driver for the day with a minimum of nine hours will benefit from the short-term driver service. On the other hand, the long-term driver service is a monthly driver subscription.
Both short-term and long-term driver services are not available in the app yet, but customers can reach out to the MYDD team by email or social media for any inquiries.
Challenges of a new startup
Due to the more demanding nature of the job compared to e-hailing, recruiting drivers has been a struggle for MYDD.
“To get ones who are confident in driving multiple types of vehicle is quite challenging,” Chong admitted.
Training such drivers can be costly as well, making it something a new startup like MYDD wouldn’t really want to get into.
Thankfully, Chong has been able to secure funding from individual investors, with the major ones being directors from Chong’s workplace, K.K. Metal Processing.
“Our future plan is to invite venture capitalists to join our business,” Chong added. “We need funds to build a complete operational team to grow the business faster, especially as we have competitors.”
Other than investors, another kind of partner MYDD would benefit from would be an insurance agency.
While every car on the road in Malaysia must legally be insured, if any accidents were to occur, there might be excess fees that need to be paid. In such unfortunate cases, Chong said that the team would be willing to pay up if applicable.
However, he believes that these incidences should be protected by another, more specific kind of insurance.
“In Malaysia, we do not have the proper insurance to cover on-demand designated driver services,” Chong said. “We know this [kind of] service in Taiwan is covered by insurance, and the business [was able to] go successfully.”
Chong hopes to replicate that success locally, with plans to expand beyond the Klang Valley and reach Johor and Penang by the end of this year or early next year.
Featured Image Credit: MYDD