Digerati50: Nasir Habizar Takes The Pain Out of Parking
By Tan Jee Yee October 31, 2021
- Persistence key advice to entrepreneurs, and collaboration within the organisation
- Plans to grow beyond parking, already offering insurance renewal, more to come
Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its series that profiles 50 influencers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 2020-2021 (Vol 4), a special biennial print publication released in July 2020. The digital copy can be downloaded from the sidebar link.
The following in an expanded version of the article which first appeared in print edition in June 2020.
Yes, his startup isn’t about providing healthcare nor is it meant to deliver social impact. But what he’s doing is injecting much needed innovation towards solving one of Malaysia’s longstanding woes – parking.
Muhamad Nasir Habizar is the founder and CEO of JomParkir Sdn Bhd, a startup that is providing parking payment solutions to local councils and parking operators. Street parking in Malaysia has always been plagued with problems, from parking meters that always break down to a reliance on parking coupons.
With JomParking, users can easily pay for parking using an app. Things have gotten even easier now that JomParking has been integrated to some of the country’s biggest e-wallets, including Boost and GrabPay. For councils, however, they get access to simple yet effective tech to check and issue compounds.
This is no doubt helpful to the 149 councils spread across Malaysia, all which have their own means to collect parking revenue, but it’s especially a boon to small councils. “I try to help, because I can see that small local councils have the parking sites but are unable to collect revenue because of limitations due to manual (pen and paper) systems or the high cost of maintaining machines,” says Nasir.
How Nasir helps isn’t just in providing a system that eliminates the need for parking meters and coupons – his startup offers its JomForce parking enforcement system to councils for free, charging no maintenance fee and only taking a small cut of each collection.
It’s a business model that is proving successful. In 2018, JomParking recorded 5.5 million transactions, versus 2.8 million in 2017. This, and the solid feedback received from users is what drives Nasir. “This gives us the positivity to go beyond.”
And go beyond he has. JomParking currently operates out of 20 parking sites, which – besides the street parking with local councils – also include off-street parking areas and their JomValet valet solution. But Malaysia isn’t the only place with a JomParking touch. In Oct 2019, they launched the service at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, their first site outside of Malaysia. Soon, Nasir will be launching in Sir Lanka, with Indonesia down the pipeline.
There is a five-year plan to expand to other countries within Southeast Asia, including Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar. But Nasir is not losing sight of the true goal – tap into the entirety of Malaysia – a plan he hopes to achieve within two years.
Solving parking woes isn’t exactly a lifelong goal for Nasir. Mobile and telecommunications, however, is part of his DNA. Nasir’s career began with a telco in 1994. He left in 2002 to start his first company focusing on mobile content.
Back then, “mobile content” denotes to SMS-related content, from picture messages to wallpapers. It is, as we know now, a business that has seen its sunset. In 2012, Nasir started AppCable Sdn Bhd in order to focus on mobile app development (the company still exists).
It was in 2008 when Nasir was invited to participate in an open tender to provide a smart parking solution for Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS), a bus terminal for long-distance trips in Kuala Lumpur. It didn’t work out, but it motivated Nasir and his team of developers to work on their own parking solution. Four years later, their SMS-based parking system was born.
JomParking would pivot into an app-based solution in 2015, with Taman Tun Dr Ismail marking their first collaboration with the Kuala Lumpur City Council.
While early versions were bug-ridden and incomplete, the service has since seen tremendous improvements, with new features being added consistently (including being able to automatically detect the right council for the parking site using GPS). JomParking has also integrated with e-wallets like Boost and Grab, allowing their respective users to pay for parking without using JomParking’s app.
Collaboration, Nasir says, is at the heart of JomParking. They’re not here to replace or displace council parking operations, but to work with them in ensuring a seamless experience for drivers. If anything, collaborations have been great for the startup – integration with the e-wallets have seen an increment in users.
Nasir admits that the pressure of running a startup is “always there”. His solution is to grow more leaders – leaders who will help him achieve their targets. “I’m not doing this alone. We’re doing this as a team. As a team, we’re able to achieve more, and achieve faster, than what we could do alone.”
Nasir believes that new technology, especially 5G connectivity, will change the way parking works. Allowing parking operators to collect data faster means that councils will be able to effectively delegate their parking enforcers to the right area, as well as help in town planning.
As for JomParking, he plans for it grow beyond just providing parking solutions. The app technically falls under fintech, and parking is one of its pillars. In time, JomParking may be able to do things like help promote local businesses and points of interest to people driving across states, or deliver other vehicle-related products like car insurance, or allowing users to pay for compounds.
Nasir’s journey is one of changes and adaptation. “Persistence” would be one of his biggest advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. Equally important is ensuring a minimum viable product (MVP). This is something he learned from experience. JomParking isn’t his first product. Prior to this, he created a digital distribution platform that, while interesting as an idea, was something he didn’t validate before putting to market, thus failing.
Beyond that, he goes back to the importance of collaboration. Not just with other companies, but within the organisation itself. “You cannot do this by yourself. Collaboration will and always be key.”
Digerati50 2020/2021 is proudly sponsored by Maxis - Powering Malaysia's 5G era.
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