The Heart of ParkEasy

My name is Warren Chan, I am the CEO of ParkEasy — a small, mostly unknown Malaysian startup which has suddenly become a hotly debated topic in Malaysian media as of this morning. It all began with an article in The Star and has now become publicized on several other media including radio stations. Last I heard, we were just debated over on Mix.fm (wow!).

Enough said, if you’ve reached this article you may have already seen us on some of this media and you would know that the reviews are mixed. Nonetheless, to any one who took their time to give their thoughts on us via comments or private messages, I would like to start this post by giving a great big heartfelt thanks.

When I see so many people discussing the topic, I know that it is one which people feel and care for greatly. The last time I saw so much discussion was regarding the implementation of English as an official language in Sarawak. Obviously matters that matter evoke emotions that spur action.

And speaking of people who care about parking, I can assure you that those who care most about it are the ones who left their cushy jobs and bright careers to work right here at this small Malaysian startup — ParkEasy.

One of our teammates working while in hospital today (we told her not to).

Thus the reason I write this blog post- as much as I would like to respond to each person individually, it’s a bit difficult with the resources we have. Hence, this post is to communicate to you as directly as I can, the heart and spirit behind why we at ParkEasy do what we do and address some concerns that have been raised. To start things of…

How we began

The idea of ParkEasy arose out of a common problem faced by myself and many other Malaysians. Malls are an integral part of Malaysian society and any urban Malaysian will need to visit one some point in their life. Unfortunately, there is simply no way that a single mall can adequately have sufficient parking. A 100 persons, either in their cars or just standing next to each other are vastly different in the space occupied. To have sufficient parking, the parking area would have to be many times larger than the mall itself!

credit: http://www.citymetric.com/

Hence the problem — there is simply insufficient parking. The result of which is that many Malaysians spend a good amount of time circling car parks looking for that elusive car park so that may leave this carbon-monoxide filled car park purgatory. And this is where ParkEasy comes in…

It was a year ago and I had a movie date in a popular mall. With the wonders of technology, I had booked my movie ticket via an app and did not have to queue for it. Unfortunately, though I did not queue at the box office, I did have to ‘queue’ at the car park. Although arriving a good time earlier than my movie, I ended up being late because I simply could not find a car park. By the time I reached the cinema, I was faced with an angry date and had to jump into a movie well past the intro.

All this while I was circling the car park, frantically searching for a spot, I kept thinking to myself why not apply the same process I had used for my movie ticket to parking. Hence the idea was born — ParkEasy.

The heart of ParkEasy was never to extort parkers for their last dime, nor so people can be more ‘kiasu and lazy’. ParkEasy was born to solve a real problem faced by many Malaysians — the long search for finding parking.

Here are some of the recurring comments:

If you only want to make parking easier, why charge people for your service?

When we came up with the idea, ParkEasy was FREE. But we soon found that setting it for free would lead to abuse. People who were not intending to park would simply book up the entire day, leaving an inefficient, empty, car park.

How does this solve the parking problem? We don’t need a booking system, we need more car parks!

As briefly covered above, the amount of car parks needed to adequately service a mall would need to be several times larger than the mall itself. Unfortunately, it simply isn’t commercially feasible for any mall developer to do this. There are some promising solutions abroad (e.g. car park elevator), but are still too expensive for Malaysia.

Sure, but that still doesn’t mean that booking will solve the problem.

To answer this, imagine you are the owner of a restaurant which has more customers than tables, you have 3 options:

  1. Increase the number of tables.
  2. Remove the need for tables (offer a take-away service).
  3. Implement a booking system.

Solution 1 is difficult for malls as stated as above. As for Solution 2, there are already amazing innovative apps doing this, such as another Malaysian startup I personally admire: MyTeksi which will remove the parking hassle for you entirely. Solution 3, this is where we see a gap in the market and where ParkEasy comes in.

A booking system will decrease the number of people who get to enjoy a mall as you will have empty bays. First come, first served is the most efficient.

Imagine a doctor who can see only one patient every 15 mins. If she works for 8 hours, she can service 32 patients in a day. If all 32 patients come early in the morning, they will have to wait a long time til they are attended to. If more than 32 patients show up, they are likely to wait the whole day and finally be turned away.

This is a classic case of limited supply and overwhelming demand. It is the same for parking in Malaysian shopping malls.

Do you remember the last time you spent circling the car park looking for a park even though you ‘came early’? Have you ever experienced going to a shopping mall only to leave frustrated a while after because you could not get parking?

The future that ParkEasy envisions for shopping mall parking is that people come to the mall when there is space available for them, rather than circling the car park waiting for that space to appear. In the perfect scenario, we want the experience to be that you come in right after the previous person leaves and that is the level of efficiency we will strive towards.

This service is only meant for the rich! Why is this needed when premium parking and valet parking exists?

We exist because most people can’t afford premium parking or valet. What has not been clear in the media thus far is our pricing. Usual valet services charge at least RM15 and above. We plan to charge only RM2–5 one-off per booking, a fraction of what a valet would cost. In a way our tagline could be ‘Now everyone can valet!” (kudos to another Malaysian startup I admire). And once again, the objective of the fee is just to limit others from abusing a free service and booking up the entire day.

You are promoting laziness

Personally, I believe I am a very productive person and I love the idea of ParkEasy. I am not sure how others will use it, but I plan to maximize my time. Instead of arriving at 10am for a 12pm lunch appointment, I plan to arrive at 12pm. With the two hours I save, I plan to use my time to do other important things with my day.

What about those who are not tech-savvy, or do not have smartphones. (OR) I do not want to have to book a car park every time I visit a mall.

It is our last wish to force you to do something you don’t want to. Even after ParkEasy is implemented, you can still go about parking the usual way. We are not going to occupy every single bay in a car park. We are a service available for those who want it and thus will only occupy a section of the whole car park. Furthermore, we offer you FREE services to help you find your car park (if you have a smart phone).

Free services?

The free services our app offers:

  • Our birdseye view function allows you to see all available bays in a car park and can navigate you to them free of charge.
Birdseye View
  • After you’ve parked, our app remembers where you’ve parked so you don’t have to.
Remember your Carpark

Your app is buggy

You are wrong. Our app is very buggy! ParkEasy hasn’t actually launched yet. The article that was published was supposed to be a tag-along article regarding innovation. Some things happened and long story short, it somehow became our launch article, haha! Although unintended, we are grateful for whatever has happened because the feedback has been immense and will only serve to further strengthen our product for when it is ready to officially officially launch.

In the meantime, you can still download our app if you have an Android and catch a glimpse as to what the potential of the idea could be. But for now, we really do appreciate your patience in waiting for when the proper app is released.

Closing thoughts

When I say the feedback is mixed, I mean really mixed. One social media commentator called us ‘capitalist blood-suckers’ whilst another private messaged that we ‘embody the innovative spirit of Malaysia that will make a mark on the world’. If this post receives the same level of publicity, I’m sure the feedback will be mixed too. Either way, we’re really just a bunch of Malaysians trying our level best to solve a problem in this world and the feedback received thus far tells us that it’s definitely a problem worth tackling.

Malaysia, thank you for your patience, support and thoughts. -Sincerely, Warren Chan, CEO, ParkEasy.
We’re nominated on Asia tech portal Vulcan Post for ‘Most Promising Startup 2015’. Vote for us! (Psst..don’t let Singaporeans win :P ). http://awards.vulcanpost.com/#/parkeasy