CarPal was featured in Kyodo News, Japan’s leading news network. “The resource which is used for that is basically sharing. You have a lot of cars and bikes already out there, so if you’re going from A to B, why not take a package along?” said Maarten Hemmes, CarPal’s 29-year-old founder and CEO.
By Siti Rahil
SINGAPORE, June 15, Kyodo
Thousands in Singapore have recently signed up to become freelance or part-time couriers, collecting and delivering parcels for on-demand delivery companies that have sprouted up in the wealthy city-state in the past year.
These new courier companies employ high-tech platforms they have developed that can be accessed on smartphones, linking up clients’ orders for delivery services with the couriers, who can accept assignments using their phones.
They have attracted a huge pool of freelance or part-time couriers, usually those who own cars, vans or motorbikes and who are keen to earn some extra income as couriers while holding full-time jobs elsewhere.
Although the concept is new in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia, it has already become so popular that these companies are planning to expand their business to other cities in the region within months of launching the businesses.
The demand is fed by decades of strong economic growth in Southeast Asia which has created a faster pace of life in the region’s bustling cities, made consumers more sophisticated and led to the success of e-commerce. Yet logistics services in most cities in the region can still be improved.
“If you look at Southeast Asia, there are no strong logistics networks that are equivalent to the logistics network in the U.S., for example, from technology, quality of service and so on, and the logistics structure is very highly fragmented,” said Noam Berda, the founder of RocketUncle.
His colleague Sumit Mathai added, “What we find (is that) Southeast Asia is behind. Even in the big cities, there is still no same day delivery service that is available.”
RocketUncle, which describes itself on its website as “Singapore’s guaranteed same day delivery” service, has about 5,000 people who have recently signed up as freelance or part-time couriers.
Another on-demand delivery company, CarPal, which touts itself on its website as “your personal same-day delivery courier,” has about 3,000.
One of them is Tino Leong, 36, who runs a valet business at night. Leong had registered to work as a part-time courier with CarPal six months ago and has since been zipping about in his Mitsubishi Colt, delivering a variety of items such as flowers, cakes and fruit juices for CarPal’s clients.
One Sunday night last month, he got a beep on his mobile phone and responded to a job order to collect and deliver about half a dozen bottles of fresh fruit juices from the eastern part of Singapore before 9 a.m. the next day. That job took just 30 minutes and earned him S$16 (US$11.8).
“The resource which is used for that is basically sharing. You have a lot of cars and bikes already out there, so if you’re going from A to B, why not take a package along?” said Maarten Hemmes, CarPal’s 29-year-old founder and CEO.
“We use people like you and me who have their own car, and take something along while they drive, so we have more resources. This also means we can dispatch a driver (at the) very last minute, so we can have more volume.”
The Dutchman, a former lawyer in Amsterdam, said he got the idea to start the company after seeing with his own eyes an on-demand delivery service in action in San Francisco.
However, as this kind of service seemed to be already “mature” in the United States, he started exploring for opportunities in Asia.
“In Asia there are many countries where I believe I can apply this model, but Singapore is by far the most business-friendly country and Singaporeans are very open to try new things,” he said.
He arrived in Singapore in May last year and launched the company soon after. The company has been growing by leaps and bounds — about 20 percent each month — in the past year.
He believes he can apply the business model to other busy Asian cities like Taipei, Manila and Kuala Lumpur.
“People want things faster than they used to want in the past,” he said, explaining the demand for this kind of service.
The part-time or freelance couriers — who already have other jobs such as sales or insurance, real estate agents or cab drivers — tend to be aged between 30 and 60. There are also a lot of retirees. Most are locals and men, Hemmes said.
RocketUncle is focusing on expanding in Southeast Asia this year, in particular the Philippines.
“We will start to offer services in metro Manila soon, and then obviously go to other cities in Southeast Asia,” Berda said.
Muhammad Syahid Sarifi, 23, who delivers parcels five days a week for RocketUncle with his motorbike, says he can earn about S$1,500 to S$1,700 per week.
Syahid who has just finished his national service and has not found a full-time job yet, said the courier job with RocketUncle appeals to him at the moment as “it’s very, very flexible, I can choose my own working hours, I don’t have to take instruction from anyone and I can be my own boss.”
Angeline Tan, 57, joined RocketUncle last year after being retrenched from her sales job in 2013.
She was jittery at first about having to use the app provided by RocketUncle on her smartphone but now finds it addictive.
“It’s really very high-tech, all in the handphone. You just tap and pick up the job,” said Tan who drives her seven-seater multipurpose van all over the island delivering parcels five days a week.
“You have to be very fast to pick up the job. Sometimes in the middle of the night I also check my phone to see if any job comes in. The orders just keep flowing in.”