Upon returning to his home country after higher studies in Australia, Eugene Tan decided to get around Kuala Lumpur using his mother’s old car. Unfortunately, the car played spoilsport and the engine failed to turn over, owing to a faulty battery.
“Getting the car battery replaced seemed to be a daunting task; there was no transparency in the industry,” he revealed to e27. “After waiting for more than two hours, a mechanic came in and did the needful, but he overcharged me for the labour. I thought we could do better and that Malaysia needed a culture of transparency and reliability.”
This was the turning point for Tan to start a company, which would provide on-demand roadside assistance in his country. “And thus Carput was born.”
Launched in 2016, Carput can come in handy during sticky car situations in Malaysia. “We realise that the automotive assist industry is massive, and that the use of mobile tools is non-existent, especially in a market where the primary mode of transportation is a personal car and where mobile penetration is at an all-time high. That’s why we designed Carput,” he said.
According to Tan, Carput is a must-have mobile app for every car driver as it specialises in getting car drivers back on the road as soon as possible. “We focus on on-the-spot repairs such as car battery change, jumpstarts, spare tyre change, emergency petrol delivery, and if the car can’t be repaired on site, we are able to tow your car back to your preferred workshop.”
Carput was was co-founded by Tan (CEO) with his school mate Mark Chew Yihaur (COO). After their secondary education, they met again while pursuing higher studies in Australia. Post graduation, Tan worked as a Tax Accountant, and Yihaur as an Acoustic Engineer in Melbourne.
They met again in Kuala Lumpur in 2013, and decided to start something themselves, which led to the founding of Carput.
“Requesting a car breakdown services is easy, as it should be, during a stressful situation. That’s why we invested into developing an easy-to-use mobile app; to be more efficient and quicker,” he explained. “We envisage a future where automotive assist will finally be quick, reliable and transparent. Carput is an extension of an already growing business, The Battery Shop, and we are determined to expand our presence in this limitless marketplace.”
He observes that the automotive services industry in Malaysia is huge and has one of the highest car ownership rates in the world. However, things in this industry are still mainly done the traditional brick-and-mortar way. “Our goal is to shake up the industry by introducing technology, starting from automotive roadside assistance and then towards the many other services relating to owning a car.”
In the initial phase of building the company, Tan and team faced some big challenges, finding an appropriate business model being the biggest. “In those days, we had to meddle with different business models to ensure sustainability. The entirety of the business model was a challenge — how to market at scale, how to fulfil 100 per cent of demand efficiently, what are our financing options? For the most part, we relied on testing, failing and learning from our mistakes to be where we are today,” Tan shared.
The current challenges are manifold and are of a different kind. “In roadside assistance we are always trying to be quicker. In 2019, we are challenging ourselves to try and get our average response time to below 30 minutes. This might be far-fetched in a place like Kuala Lumpur, but we have leveraged on technology to get our response time down from 66 minutes to 42 minutes in the past two years. Thirty minutes is in sight now, and it will definitely be a challenge to achieve it,” he went on.
Indeed, Carput is not the only company providing roadside assistance in Malaysia. MisterTyre is another company (which we featured last year) that allows customers to buy tyres, battery and engine oil, and to schedule a fitting/service at any suitable location of choice, at the click of a button. According to its Czech Founder Dennis Melka, MisterTyre seeks to transform automotive aftermarket services in ASEAN through low prices and doorstep delivery of services.
Carput’s Tan, however, sees competition from a different perspective. “Competitors are always seen in bad light, but we embrace them. In fact, we have made partnerships with several automotive startups, including MisterTyre. We truly believe that the way to drive the automotive technology industry forward is to work together. We all have the same goal — digitisation to recreate an industry to be safer, quicker and more efficient for both service providers and customers. This will never happen if we are always locking horns with each other.”
Like MisterTyre, Carput also earns revenue through the products and services it provides. “We employ our own mechanics to execute these services while also partnering with other forward-looking workshops and tow truck providers. Having a balance of both internal and external service providers gives us more coverage and speed to scale,” he reveals.
When asked, Tan refused to disclose the traction, but he reveals Carput gets hundreds of calls per day.
Carput raised its initial capital from a friends and family round. “We do have plans to raise funding in the future, but upon reaching certain milestones,” Tan noted.