HK offers just the ticket to Ryde for expansion

Mr Zou says he hopes to build up membership in Singapore to more than 50,000 by the middle of this year.
Mr Zou says he hopes to build up membership in Singapore to more than 50,000 by the middle of this year.PHOTO: RYDE

Local carpooling app raises $2m in funding and is all geared up to enter regional market

Armed with $2 million in funding, and after garnering 20,000 members in Singapore, local carpooling start-up Ryde is planning to expand in the region.

Founder and chief executive Terence Zou yesterday said he wants to launch the app - which matches private-car drivers to commuters on a similar route - in Hong Kong in the second quarter of this year.

Mr Zou, who founded Ryde in September 2014, said Hong Kong is an ideal market because it is a dense city, with similar laws, regulations and transportation needs to those in Singapore.

"You can compare - there are 500,000 cars in Hong Kong, in Singapore, 600,000 cars," he said. "Even if there's 5 to 10 per cent penetration, it's a decent number."

Optimising the use of private cars - an under-utilised transport mode with an average occupancy of just 1.7 people per trip - was one of Mr Zou's reasons for starting Ryde.

GOOD ENOUGH

You can compare - there are 500,000 cars in Hong Kong, in Singapore, 600,000 cars. Even if there's 5 to 10 per cent penetration, it's a decent number.

RYDE FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE TERENCE ZOU, on venturing to Hong Kong which, he points out, is similar in many respects to Singapore.

He hopes to build up membership in Singapore to more than 50,000 by the middle of this year.

Ryde faces competition from other carpool apps and websites such as Tripda, SwiftBack, ShareTransport.sg and Carpool. Cab booking app GrabTaxi also has a carpooling option called GrabHitch.

In Singapore, all carpooled trips must comply with laws passed last March which stipulate, among other things, that drivers cannot solicit for passengers on the road, and can make only two carpool trips a day.

Mr Zou said Ryde is tackling two barriers to carpooling - poor information exchange and a lack of mutual trust.

Besides matching drivers and passengers using Global Positioning System technology, a new version of the app launched yesterday also allows drivers to post their ride offers.

Ryde requires users to submit photo identification to verify their membership, and a rating system helps to weed out users with poor behaviour.

From an initial $500,000, the app has raised $1.5 million more from a seed-round funding exercise in November.

For a Ryde trip, a passenger pays the driver between $5 and $15, depending on the distance, to help defray the cost of the journey, such as petrol and road tolls.

Separately, drivers and passengers have to pay Ryde an annual fee of $30 and $15, respectively, for unlimited matches. There is also a $5 package for five matches.

Asked whether this was enough revenue-wise to sustain the business, Mr Zou said: "Out of the four million in the labour force, if just 10 per cent, or 400,000, take up carpooling.... there's immense potential."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'HK offers just the ticket to Ryde for expansion'. Print Edition | Subscribe