Digerati50: ‘Professionalising’ dispatch boys

  • Aiming to be market leader in same-day on-demand logistics
  • Believes they have managed to crack the hiring model code

Digerati50: ‘Professionalising’ dispatch boys

This article formed part of the Digerati50 magazine that was published in Feb 2016. The digital version of that publication can be downloaded from the links at the top right corner of the page thanks to the sponsorship of Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Malaysia’s broadband champion.

HIS 15 years as a digital advertising professional helped pave the way for M. Kanashan (pic), fondly known as ‘Shan,’ to start hyperlocal delivery startup NeonRunner.

“I spent my career looking for ways for brands to differentiate themselves – to find that blue ocean to compete in and be truly relevant to consumers’ lives,” he says.

“And I guess having done this for so long led me to starting something on my own,” says the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of NeonRunner.

The startup was founded in September 2014, operating a fleet of motorcycle couriers (or runners) to deliver and pick up goods, perform tasks and errands – all within the same day.

Shan says ‘same-day on-demand’ logistics is a very underserved market, which is fortunate for him and his startup, although there were challenges at the start.

The biggest challenge was hiring and training the runners, although he believes that he and cofounder and chief finance officer Arvind Patmarajah have managed to crack the hiring model code.

“NeonRunner now has a fleet of over 150 people and this has turned out to be our biggest strength,” Shan declares.

The startup’s user base has grown approximately 20% month-on-month, and NeonRunner’s daily deliveries are “north of 600,” he adds.

Despite these promising figures, Shan admits that the real challenge for NeonRunner is navigating the venture capital (VC) scene.

“This includes getting the right partners to work with, as well as staying true to the vision we set out to achieve and not getting distracted by the day-to-day turbulence,” he says.

And what keeps him going is his fleet of runners. NeonRunner aims to ‘professionalise despatch boys’ by providing the runners with uniforms and proper training to carry out their tasks in a more professional way.

“This may sound clichéd, but having a fleet of over 150 people changes your perspective because these good people are depending on us for their livelihood,” says Shan.

“The dedication and the passion that we have from the runners and our staff keep me pushing forward.

“I just have to speak to a client or one of our runners to be reminded why we started NeonRunner in the first place, and why we must continuously push forward,” adds the 37-year-old.

As CEO, Shan believes he is head coach, vision-setter and shot-caller for the team.

He spends most of his time with his division heads, discussing strategy and helping the team to harness their skills in order to achieve the company’s goals; while Arvind heads the finance and legal aspects of the business, providing relevant data for business decisions.

“Arvind is my business partner in crime. He gives voice to ideas and opinions from the team that would otherwise get swept aside or discarded as noise.

“As a team, we can overcome any challenges that the market throws at us,” he boldly declares.

Overall, 2015 was a rollercoaster ride for NeonRunner.

“We had many highs, like getting VC funding in April, winning the Rice Bowl Awards, and securing the iPhone 6s launch delivery contract,” says Shan.

“But with the highs come the lows, in equal intensity.

“I guess such is the life of a startup. Regardless, we are committed to holding on to this ride and emerging as the true market leader in same-day on-demand logistics,” he adds.

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