Doris Leung, Founder & CEO of Diamond Cab tells us about taking care of the aged passengers for medical visits.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Doris Leung: My family and I are fine. Here in Hong Kong, we had SARS experience in 2003, which gave Hongkongers heads-up how infection diseases coming from China can be uncontrollable as we have a very close border with thousands of commuters every day. That’s why, right starting from Covid-19 in 2020, Hongkongers wore masks and increased the personal and environmental hygiene standard long before it became the government policy. And the nearly daily press conference organized by the Health Department and Hospital Authority did help the Hongkongers to locate where and how the infected areas and groups are so that we could avoid going there and thus decreasing the risk of infection. Luckily up to now, my family, including the elderly, are healthy without infection.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Diamond Cab.
Doris Leung: Why and how I founded Diamond Cab for Hong Kong, you may watch my TED Talk.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Doris Leung: As Diamond Cab mainly takes care of the aged passengers for medical visits where the locations like hospitals or clinics are at high risk, the pandemic did affect our cab business, having dropped from 30% to 50% in the daytime. In Hong Kong, since we have Diamond Cab launched in 2011, the elderly will enjoy night outings even in wheelchairs for social or entertainment purposes; with the pandemic, all these non-emergent outings are cancelled, so our night time business has dropped to nearly zero, the same case in weekends in which the Church visit or family gatherings, etc. are all cancelled, so the elderly don’t need to take Diamond Cab.
As the drivers of Diamond Cab are self-employed without basic salaries, we must offer them subsidies to overcome the most challenging periods and also support them to apply for government subsidies tailor-made for taxi drivers. While at the same time, we asked our Cab Owners/Partners to decrease the rental charge so we can save our operation costs too.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Doris Leung: We are quite passive to cope with the infection of Hong Kong as a whole; sometimes, when the figure of infection drops and the cab business rebounds, we have to decrease the amount of subsidy for the drivers in order to have sustainability of our business in the long run. My Management Team will keep checking the latest cab business performance and adjust to balance the benefits for all stakeholders. We have learnt that sincere, accurate and timely communications are important when we deal with sensitive financial arrangement with the affected drivers under pandemic.
What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Doris Leung: Instead of just seeing the cab business up and down during pandemic passively, we have initiated new service ideas during the crisis and successfully bringing new income to support the business. For example, we have launched the Community Ride project under Diamond Cab Foundation, calling crowd donation to support the underprivileged wheelchair users to take the legal barrier-free transport services, including Diamond Cab. This is particularly important during the pandemic; the underprivileged passengers have the same right to enjoy hygienic and high-quality barrier-free transportation for medical visits in need.
And recently, we have also launched Diamond Wish, a new service idea to support End-of-Life patients to finish their dream trips in Hong Kong with Diamond Cab. Once the Covid-19 patients are infected fatally, they cannot see their family members until death. These sad stories remind me how important that “No Regrets in Life” is, as I am also a cancer survivor and was a carer for my mother suffering from cancer too. The post about launching Diamond Wish has reached over 14.2k people so far; obviously, it hits what the market is missing here in Hong Kong.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Doris Leung: Our competitors are other barrier-free wheelchairs accessible transport service providers, including taxis or hire cars which operate with a hire car permit, the legal license issued by the HKSAR government. Diamond Cab is the pioneer and game-changer since 2011; with the vision and mission in our mind, other than just providing the transport service, we always initiate new service ideas to keep the movement of aging care innovation upgrading. Diamond Cab, Diamond Leisure, Diamond Wish are all in brand series of “Diamond”, which inspire the aging community of Hong Kong. Looking forward, we will keep our position as game-changers to systematically transform the aging care culture in the long run.
Your final thoughts?
Doris Leung: We are quite helpless when this pandemic has prevailed to attack our world for over a year. But stay calm and think deep; everyone, every business may have a new role to play with the new normal. Just keep the sense of humanity and empathy; business innovation may be inspired to meet what is missing in the new market.
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