Anthony Tan, co-founder and CEO of MyTeksi, attributes the success of the start-up abroad to hyper-localisation. The company adopts each country it operates in as its own, is attuned to the local culture and nuances, and is hence seen as a local company.
“If you want to build yourself as a regional company, you cannot say one 'market' is your country. In the Philippines, we’re seen as a Filipino company. In Thailand, we’re seen as a Thai company. In Vietnam, we’re seen as a Vietnamese company etc.” he says. That MyTeksi has local shareholders in each market lends further credence to it being local.
“Here, our tagline is ‘Ride safe, ride sure’, which is a very Malaysian way of speaking. In Indonesia, it’s ‘Aman’, safety, because people see only one brand as safe we’ve aggregated the rest. In Singapore, it’s ‘I like it fast’ because they require speed That hyper-localisation is very important when you’re going regional,” Tan adds.
Ching Wei Lee, Group CEO and co-founder of iMoney, could totally relate to the importance of localisation, having seen the difference in the approach taken by a local manager who knows the market well running the operations, and a foreigner who may look good on paper but does not necessarily know the market.
“In Indonesia, we hired a young and determined local who has some experience working with small companies and growing them into medium-sized big companies; and he’s still the country manager for us in Indonesia. Whereas in other markets, we’ve hired foreign MBA grads who looked very good on paper but did not have the long experience on the ground Lesson learnt!” he says.
Tan stresses the need to be on the ground, to constantly talk to the consumers and paying points/customers in this case, the drivers to really understand how MyTeksi (known as GrabTaxi outside of Malaysia) could solve their problems faster. Tan and his team travels to 3-5 countries each week for that purpose.
“I encourage all start-ups to constantly talk to their paying customers, to really understand their point,” he advises.
According to Tan, MyTeksi is always finding ways to help the masses as it believes in achieving a ‘social bottom-line’ while striving for an economic bottom-line. “How can we solve real problems in such a way that people will pay for it?” MyTeksi then realised that in Vietnam, many people could not afford taxis, but the country had motorbikes aplenty. That was where GrabBike, a peer-to-peer motorbike transport app/service, was born.
“Now we have students and others making spare money with their motorbikes,” he says, adding that there are over 70,000 motorbike riders across Southeast Asia on the GrabBike platform. “Passengers who cannot afford GrabTaxi could go on GrabBike we gave them a lower-price alternative.”
Understanding and respecting the cultural nuances of each market is critical, Tan says. He highlights the importance of mutual respect, to treat others as peers, to create a bond. He adds that there must be no ‘favouritism’ based on where the employee or driver hails from, or to which fleet the latter is attached. It is amusing that Tan calls himself the ‘chief slave’, stressing the role of serving.
He also emphasises the importance of respecting local laws. “We don’t believe the need to go head-on against the lawmakers. We have grown in scale 20% week-on-week, sometimes 30%, depending on the city. We grew 10-11 times last year. We did it by being the only approved transport app in all the countries we operate in. To push innovation, you don’t have to be a disruptive disruption. We work hand-in-hand with the governments, even as we push the boundaries and constructively disrupt.”
Ching agrees that “even if it can be potentially frustrating at the beginning, it is the right thing to do. More so with the financial industry 'where iMoney is in', which is heavily regulated.”
Tan also stresses the importance of having a playbook that works early. “You want to get the best practices out there,” he says.
Ching concurs with the need of having a consistent way of doing things across the markets. “Now, we have in each country a set strategy and everyone knows what they are doing but in the past, we had issues where the local country manager might think something is great for business but it’s misaligned.”
Talking Heads: Creating conversations around Malaysians who have successfully gone global. Produced by the Economic Transformation Programme.