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If you live within the Klang Valley, chances are you’ve probably taken public transport at least once in your life. And if you’re someone who doesn’t own a car yet, you probably rely on it to travel. 

But one issue I face as a commuter sometimes is the unpredictability of our tropical weather. Especially in recent years, a blazing hot day could quickly turn into a heavy downpour. 

This causes problems as our last-mile connectivity isn’t the best. Getting to the train or bus stations requires a good amount of walking, and most times you’ll be in uncovered walkways. So if you forget to bring your own umbrella then you’ll be stuck there until the rain subsides.

Understanding this, Kuek Yeong Chian decided to take a page from Shanghai’s playbook and launched PayungLah, a shared umbrella rental service. 

PayungLah at Prasarana LRT’s USJ 7 station / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Taking inspiration from abroad

Back when Yeong Chian visited Shanghai in 2018, he noticed that every Shanghai Metro Station had one thing in common—each was equipped with umbrella rental machines.

How it works is customers need to download the app, register an account, then pay only for the duration of using the umbrella. QR codes were used to determine the specific umbrella machine you rented from, which allows for tracking and returning.

He found this ingenious and thought, “Why not Malaysia?” But he brushed the idea aside because the adoption of QR codes wasn’t as prevalent at the time. 

Image Credit: PayungLah

That is, until COVID-19 happened and accelerated the adoption rates of QR codes. We began using it for cashless payments, digital menus, and the mandatory mySejahtera check-ins. 

It was then that Yeong Chian figured it was time. Thus, he brought the concept to Malaysia as a practical solution for commuters.

A convenient solution to not get soaked

Similar to the ones at Shanghai Metro Stations, PayungLah’s umbrella sharing service is unmanned. This means that you can rent an umbrella seamlessly with just the PayungLah app.

After downloading and registering an account on the app, you’ll have to top-up your PayungLah e-wallet. The minimum balance allowed is RM20.

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Once that’s set up, you tap on “Rent An Umbrella” and scan the QR code on the umbrella machine. Then you can go on your merry way and remain protected from the rain. To return it, customers just need to insert the umbrella into the machine.

At the time of writing, the rental for PayungLah’s umbrella is RM2 per day. The maximum number of days you can rent PayungLah’s umbrella is five days. If it’s still not returned on the sixth, users will be charged an additional RM20. 

On the other hand, to stop rental charges, you could opt to just purchase the umbrella for the same price (RM20). 

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

It requires conscious community effort

While the idea of a shared umbrella service sounds great, it doesn’t come without concerns. Mainly, it would be the upkeep of the products as not everyone would take care of it well.

Take Beam Mobility’s scooters for example. Many times while out and about in the city, I’ve seen people carelessly park and leave them in the middle of nowhere. So I was curious to learn how PayungLah would tackle this challenge.

Speaking openly, Yeong Chian explained that customers are given five minutes to check the umbrella’s condition before going on their way. During this period, there will be no charges to the user yet. But if you happen to get a damaged umbrella, you can report and exchange it for another. 

“Using our database, we can trace the last user and issue a call or message as a warning, with or without umbrella [damage] charges,” the founder shared. 

PayungLah at Prasarana LRT’s Taipan station / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

“If this occurs twice, we regret to inform that the user will be blocked from any future use of our umbrella service. While we encourage umbrella sharing, we do not tolerate vandalism to ensure the promotion of a sustainable and respectful sharing community.”

Offering over 2K umbrellas for rent

What started as a dream is now available in over 100 locations. Sharing with us, Yeong Chian said that 89 of those are Prasarana stations, meaning your LRT, BRT, and monorail stops. 

They’re also working in close collaboration with MRT Corp to establish a presence on the MRT lines.

The others are hotels, malls, and universities. This includes Royale Chulan Hotels, Furama Hotel, Dorsett Grand Subang, Lincoln University, and Great Eastern Mall.

The brand is looking to further expand its list of locations as part of PayungLah’s 1+3 Plan. Yeong Chian explained that they want to place three umbrella machines within a 1km radius from each public transport station.

The Prasarana team admiring PayungLah’s umbrellas designed in collaboration with local artists / Image Credit: PayungLah

“We aim to be wherever you might need an umbrella,” he expressed. In that same light, he plans to keep fees minimal so that people can have access to quality umbrellas. And in that sense, promote a sharing community.

Looking to make all Malaysian lives easier

At this point, you might be wondering how the brand makes money. Sure, it’s a rental service but I believe that it’s too passive for profit-making, especially in its infancy. 

Yeong Chian stated that PayungLah’s revenue model extends beyond rentals to include advertisements. With its umbrella machines set up in heavy foot traffic areas, it’s a good outdoor advertising opportunity for corporations. 

This is also one of the reasons they’re focusing on the aforementioned prime locations. 

Over the next three years, he has plans to expand the brand’s services throughout the country and possibly diversify its product offerings, like adding raincoats. Though, he shared that the challenge with raincoats is maintaining hygiene after repeated use.

PayungLah at Prasarana LRT’s Taipan station / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

The brand will also look into innovating a credit scoring system to create responsible community usage. While these sound like noble goals, PayungLah’s current presence in notable locations certainly lends Yeong Chian’s pursuits credibility.

Plus, with his business solving a real issue, it’d be interesting to see how it continues to grow.

  • Learn more about PayungLah here.
  • Read articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: PayungLah

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)