Undaunted in going up against better-funded competitors
Sacrifices in personal life toughest part of the journey
IT was the desire to move away from being a system integrator to actually owning his own technology product that led Nizran Noordin down the path of trying to build the best taxi-booking app he possibly can.
Before he can scale this however, his immediate challenge is to ensure he comes out tops in his home market of Malaysia, where competition is heating up with better-funded competitors.
But Nizran is an entrepreneur. This does not faze him. Instead it fires up his competitive desires. He shares with Digital News Asia (DNA) readers the journey thus far, and the lessons he has picked up.
DNA: At no other time has competition in the taxi app space been as intense as it is now. How are you responding to this?
Nizran (pic): In 2012, there were only us (TaxiMonger) and MyTeksi. This year saw the rise of taxi company-owned apps such UniCabLink by SunLight and EZcab by PublicCab, and also Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi.
Our growth has attracted more potential competitors. But I'm not fazed by taxi company-owned apps. I'm more worried of well-funded competitors such as MyTeksi and EasyTaxi. Facing challenges by such well-funded competitors is an impossible task for many, but I refuse to throw in the towel.
Despite our limited financial resources, our decision was ‘Let’s fight.’ My existing systems integration company has financed the operations of TaxiMonger for more than 18 months now, but this was limited to our operational expenditures.
Hence, we're left with a very limited budget for customer acquisition, both in terms of passengers and drivers. Imagine having to fight with such limited ammunition.
The greatest lesson that I learnt from having stronger competitors is to think out of the box.
In essence, our strategy is to look for touch-points with passengers and drivers, and then forge partnerships with the relevant stakeholders of those touch-points. In this way, it is almost free marketing for us.
We've forged partnerships with UniFi and HyppTV (Telekom Malaysia’s broadband and IPTV services), as well as several high-traffic blogs and websites. We’ve even run a pilot project with AirAsia.
Probably, the most important touch-point that we’ve partnered with was a company that operates the taxi counter at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). These two venues give us a combined audience of more than 3,000 passengers per day.
DNA: What’s the hardest part of being an entrepreneur?
Nizran: It’s definitely the sacrifices that you have to make when it comes to your personal life. My wife recently was posted overseas for two years, and I've made it a point to go and meet my wife and daughter every weekend.
It’s tiring, but I think it is a strong reminder for me of the huge sacrifice that my wife has made.
The other hardest part would definitely be the issue of financial resources. You can’t run a business without sufficient financial backing. I’m lucky that I have a partner who has backed us up to this level, and I guess not having enough [funds] will only make us work harder and smarter.
DNA: Is there any Malaysian entrepreneur you admire?
Nizran: It’s definitely Tony Fernandes for his grit and hard work. I’ve personally received tweet and email messages from Tony, whom I have never met personally.
Until today, I wonder how a guy who has dozens of businesses and 10,000 staff under him ever finds the time to reply to tweets and emails from a total stranger like me.
DNA: What are the two key lessons you have learned in your entrepreneurial journey so far?
Nizran: First, believe in the value that you create for your customers; and second, never take ‘No’ for an answer ... even when it seems totally impossible.
DNA: What have you learnt about raising money?
Nizran: It’s not easy to get investors to part with their money; and you shouldn't give up until you completely fall flat. Always hope for the best and things will fall into place.
Focused on TaxiMonger
Taxi-booking app space heats up; Sunlight to launch its own
MyTeksi ups the ante
Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi receives US$15mil in new funding
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