How JomParking is creating a parking ecosystem for Malaysia
By Tan Jee Yee December 31, 2019
- JomForce allows councils to more effectively manage parking operations
- JomValet is a digital valet platform that improves valet operations
Parking is, and has always been, one of the great Malaysian woes. Finding one in the thick of the city is already hard – often drivers are faced with a variety of other issues, payment being one of them.
It doesn’t help that parking in different cities and councils require different payment methods. Some entail running around in the search of parking meters that aren’t broken, while others saddle you with parking coupon booklets that you may only use once. Drivers also need to stock up on spare change – there’s no pain quite like needing to pay for parking only to have notes in your wallet.
Thing is, parking systems are a problem to the respective councils as well. Those that rely on parking operators to run and maintain meters incur high maintenance costs – in 2017, the Petaling Jaya City Council moved back to using coupons and terminated their partnership with a local parking operator in part due to various maintenance issues.
Councils that stick with the use of parking coupons face an issue of littering and wastefulness – not exactly a good thing if the country is looking to promote greener initiatives.
Technology is the inevitable solution, and already we have parking payment apps that allow users to make parking payments easily and without the need for cash. And at the forefront of this revolution is a home-grown solution called JomParking.
The way JomParking works is simple: users merely need to download the app, register their car license plate and purchase some credits. These credits are used to pay for parking at the areas JomParking operate. The app will prompt users 15 minutes before the parking duration expires, in which the user can decide to extend the time remotely or go and retrieve their vehicle.
JomParking’s initial concept of a mobile parking payment system in 2015 utilised SMS messaging for parking payments, before shifting into an app-based system in the same year. It’s one of the many roadblocks that JomParking’s founder and CEO, Muhamad Nasir Habizar (pic), faced when conceptualising the service.
The second roadblock was convincing councils to accept JomParking as the way forward. Early response to the system was sour, Nasir tells Digital News Asia, but the councils gradually started coming around when the company explained its many benefits.
“Ultimately, our vision is to reduce the cost to the parking operators and councils, at the same time making it convenient to consumers,” Nasir says – a vision now shared by a growing number of councils around Malaysia.
JomParking is developed locally, made from scratch by Nasir’s team of programmers he calls, “young and talented”. The early days of the app development was tough – since JomParking was among the pioneering parking service in the country, Nasir and his team had no existing framework to refer to. There were also bugs and issues that needed smoothening out when the app launched in 2015.
Nasir’s decision to keep an internal team of developers paid off, however, as they were able to rectify problems quickly – something he wouldn’t be able to do with external developers.
Building an ecosystem
The JomParking app is actually just one part of the whole equation. Nasir says that the company has three main platforms, with JomParking serving the consumers. For the councils, however, they utilise JomForce.
Nasir describes JomForce as a platform for parking enforcers. Using the company’s handheld devices, the enforcer can scan the license plate of parked cars to see if a parking payment has been made. Besides that, the device will also tell enforcers if the particular car has any unpaid parking fines or compounds.
It’s a solution aimed at reducing costs of the councils. Nasir says that councils generally face manpower challenges when it comes to enforcing parking. JomForce, however, allows councils to track their parking officers and monitor the number of cars they check and how many fines they issue. With the data, councils can more properly study and plan for more effective manpower allocations.
Beyond this is another service under their belt: JomValet. This is a digital valet solution, targeted to valet operators. Nasir says that valet operators tend to use a purely manual method – that is, with pen and paper – to record the cars they’ve parked. The operators then have to manually key in each entry into a system, as their management will surely need to know how much collection they’ve made in a day.
It’s a hassling system, further made difficult by the likelihood of operators keying in entries wrong or losing receipts. JomValet, however, allows operators to record each car digitally, the information which is automatically filed into the system for easy auditing.
This being 2019, the JomParking app isn’t the only way smartphone users can easily pay for parking. E-wallets, and the state of Selangor’s own Smart Parking app, are vying for a slice of that parking payment pie.
Nasir, however, doesn’t see them as competitors. “That’s the beauty of us as a platform: we don’t see them as competitors, but as partners,” he says. “We’re a neutral party, whereby our system can integrate with all the wallet providers in the market today.”
Sure enough, JomParking has integrated with Boost since 2018, and has more recently partnered with GrabPay to offer similar services. “Rather than compete, we believe it’s better if we complement one another,” Nasir elaborates.
This basically means that rather than segmenting their own users, JomParking is able to cater to a bigger market. Boost, for one, has nearly four million users in 2019.
It all goes back to the core idea of JomParking – convenience. “We let the consumer choose whichever wallet they want to use. In the end, this is all in line with the (Malaysian) government’s cashless initiatives.”
JomParking’s near-future plans are to cover the whole of Malaysia, and also expand to other countries. Earlier this year, JomParking expanded to Sri Lanka as part of their first international expansion. They’re now in talks with operators in Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia.
With the advent of 5G technology, Nasir believes that the parking industry will see a slew of innovations. The higher bandwidth and connectivity, for one, will allow sensors to be implemented, essentially allowing users to be able to accurately identify available parking spaces and thus minimise the time needed to find parking spaces.
“5G will increase the usage of the system and definitely help consumers save on time and cost,” Nasir notes.
There is still a major hurdle to overcome, however, and that’s awareness. “You can have the best system but if you don’t know how to present it to the public, then it’ll be useless,” Nasir admits. “Once we teach the public on how to use parking apps, and how it benefits them, they will adopt it. We’ve been lucky, as we have been assisted by the providers we’ve partnered with.”
Boost, for one, helps JomParking raise awareness through its app. The company has also taken to doing on-ground activities and campaigns to approach consumers. That may be true but Nasir believes that word of mouth is powerful, and once people can see JomParking’s convenience, they will come.