Moving houses but don’t know where to find a truck? Shifting furniture but don’t know who to call? Want your things to be secure so that you’re not “sorry naik lorry” if they are broken or lost? Worry no more because The Lorry is here to help! The Lorry is an Uber/Grab-like service but for trucks started back in 2014 by two people, Goh Chee Hau and Nadhir Ashafiq. FLY was privileged enough to get the chance to interview the former, who also serves as The Lorry’s Managing Director.
Mr. Goh Chee Hau, or Chee Hau, as he likes to be called, is a graduate of HELP university and is also listed as a Forbes’ 30 under 30. As the co-founder of The Lorry, it is no surprise that he likes reading about economics and tech-related news. His role in the firm has changed a lot since they first started. “Back then, Nadhir and I would do everything ourselves but now, we have a team of about 35 people.” Now, his main role is in Human Management. When he is not busy with work (which is seldom in his opinion), he would play badminton with his friends and sometimes, he would go for hiking.
Working in a startup company is not as easy as some people might think. Mr. Goh starts his day by reading articles in the morning to get himself updated with recent happenings in the world. Once he gets into his office, he would have a meeting to see how the company is doing and to reflect on what the company did right (or wrong). “Usually, mornings are about looking at our recently updated data.” Mr. Goh would also sometimes meet up with customers, investors, and the drivers themselves. “What we do is connect our customers with our drivers.”
The topic soon changed to the one thing he learnt in university that he still uses to this very day — microeconomics’ demand and supply. “In this platform, demand and supply is key. Most of the other very complicated theories are not being used at all; I was lied to,” he joked.
When asked about the common mistakes he sees people starting their own business make, he immediately states that it is the act of pouring a huge amount of money while not focusing on demand. “When we started The Lorry, we spent a minimal amount just to see if there’s demand. But right now, some startups create perfect products without validating if there’s demand for it and in the end, if it fails, they end up wasting a lot of money.”
The conversation caused Mr. Goh to reminisce about the first time he met his partner, Nadhir. Back then, they were working in a logistics aviation company which managed the cargo operations for multiple international airlines. He noted that the way they used to manage their operations was very backwards; they were keying in every single piece of data manually. This made him and Nadhir to consider bringing technology to logistics, particularly in the airlines industry. However, given the complexity and scale of the task, they decided to start small and focus on the ground. A revelation came to them: it was hard for people to rent trucks and they wanted to change that. “People would go on classified websites and search for rental trucks and would have to go through a lot of contacts just to get one.” Thus, The Lorry was born. At first, they weren’t sure if it would last but there has been a steady stream of customers, and look where they are now!
As an entrepreneur, there’s many projects that Mr. Goh finds interesting, the most interesting of which is an internal one. Now, drivers working for The Lorry can upload their schedules and they will be visible for customers to check. “Before this, our drivers would go to Penang from KL for a job but would drive back without a job. With the new system, drivers can fully utilize their capacity.” Because of this, both parties can be equally satisfied.
Starting something new is always challenging, especially if it is something that is unheard of. The biggest challenge Mr. Goh and his partner faced when starting the company was to convince the drivers that this is the new way of doing things. “When we started our business, no drivers believed in us. To make matters worse, most lorry drivers didn’t have smartphones back then.” According to Mr. Goh, out of 50 drivers that they approached, only 2 agreed to join them. The four percent success rate disappointed them, but they remained patient and everything eventually worked out. “After the first batch of drivers started to see the benefits of joining us, they told their friends and our numbers started to grow.” As of this year, they have over 4000 drivers! In fact, one of his proudest achievements is helping struggling drivers find jobs.
When asked about the one thing he would change about his job, Mr. Goh paused and eventually opined that there is nothing that he would change about his job. He enjoys his work very much, but claims that he would like to go back and correct some of his past mistakes. Back when they were starting out and growing rapidly, they had a relatively lax recruitment process. As such, some hiring mistakes were made that cost the company quite a bit.
The Lorry already operates in both Peninsula Malaysia and Singapore. In the future, Mr. Goh hopes to expand to Thailand. He expects the expansion to take place in either late-2017 or early-2018. After Thailand, The Lorry plans to expand further outwards to other ASEAN countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Philippines.
What separates The Lorry from other ways of renting trucks is that it gives customers freedom and security. Similar to how Uber and Grab works, The Lorry’s app allows users to order a truck and set their location and destination. They will then be quoted a price. After that, it is the user’s choice to proceed. This is much safer than in the past where one would have to call the numbers advertised at roadsides, not knowing whether it was a scam or not.
Mr. Goh shared that he is a firm believer in keeping an organization flat, especially if it is still a small company. As of today, The Lorry’s organizational structure consists of only 2 layers, the Head of Departments (HODs) and the team members. “I firmly believe that when you are small, it is better to keep it flat rather than to complicate stuff.” He also believes that employees are a startup company’s greatest assets. “It’s all that we’ve got because when you’re a small company, you don’t really have other assets and those people are your assets.”
Mr. Goh then opined that a startup is reaching success when they are no longer dependent on their founders. “If I’m able to be absent for one month and the business is still going, I consider that to be a successful business.” Is The Lorry already at that state? “We’re getting there,” he said with a smile.
Mr. Goh stated that when The Lorry first started, they joined an accelerator program called WatchTower and Friends (WTF). “Usually, with these programs, you get a lot of mentorship from those who are experienced.” With these mentorship programmes, he believes that new companies can avoid costly mistakes that could potentially lead to an early death for new company. In fact, Mr, Goh believes that the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) has played, and will continue to play, a very significant role in shaping Malaysia’s entrepreneurship scene.
We ended the interview by asking Mr. Goh for his opinion of the “brain drain” problem that has been plaguing Malaysia. He asserts that there are plenty of reasons why it is happening, ranging from better quality of life elsewhere to the depreciation of our currency. “Even some of my friends are not coming back to Malaysia.” However, he urges local talents to think of the next generation. “The local talents should make the next generations’ lives better, not by moving to another country, but by using their talents to make Malaysia a better place for the future.”
You can check out The Lorry at the website, thelorry.com or download their app on Google Play and the Appstore.