We talked to Leon Foong, CEO at SOCAR about the No.1 Car-Sharing App and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Leon Foong: I’m fortunate enough to say that my family is in good health during these challenging COVID times. Technology has made it a lot easier for us to stay connected across the many different countries that we all live in.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SOCAR.
Leon Foong: I’ve always had a passion for technology and how, when applied in the right way, it can have a substantial impact on the communities we live in. I’ve been in the mobility space for the past 7 years. The one thing that has amazed me the most is the positive correlation between mobility access and improved economic and social outcomes. At SOCAR, we have the vision to empower Malaysians to go carless and achieve their financial dreams. Being in the market for over 3 years, we are so excited to further scale our business to other parts of Southeast Asia.
How does SOCAR innovate?
Leon Foong: At SOCAR, we first embrace a data-first culture. No decision is ever made without having data points that reject or support a hypothesis. With such a heavy emphasis on experimentation, we celebrate failure and learn as much as we value success. The key building blocks to any significant innovation are these incremental learnings that come from a commitment to experiment constantly. This, combined with an internal obsession with customer happiness, has allowed us to come up with new features such as SOCAR-2-U and our one-way SOCAR services.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Leon Foong: The pandemic has been a humbling period for many businesses. During this time, we realized that whenever there is a lockdown and people stop going out – any mobility business is bound to have their revenues decline. We were fortunate enough that we had a resilient short term (<6 hours) rental business that facilitated essential travel and business deliveries. However, our longer-term bookings suffered a substantial decline during the first phase of the Movement Control Order. Since then, we’ve seen a healthy recovery in numbers and even experienced our best ever month in terms of revenue and profitability in August. Moving into 2021, we want to continue leveraging our platform to onboard new partners who might benefit from our extensive customer database and utilize our technology yield on their assets.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Leon Foong: In a business like ours, making difficult choices and having tough conversations are part of our growth journey. While we did not have to reduce the size of our workforce, we made an active decision to stop hiring for certain roles that we had previously planned for. We also had to focus on stripping out any inefficiencies from our P&L, and this included streamlining vendors, reducing internal marketing spend, and creating new processes to encourage more accountability when it came to managing spend.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and SOCAR in the future?
Leon Foong: First of all, it is important to know the impact that stress can have on your body and the amount of sleep you get. I find that having a strict calendar around your daily activities helps with the prioritization of activities, but another important skill is knowing when to say no to meetings or activities that could proceed without you. Sometimes, just even scheduling an hour a day for exercise really helps clear your mind and take away the stress.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Leon Foong: We are a customer-focused company rather than a competition-obsessed company. We believe that as long as we keep on hiring and retaining the best people to work at SOCAR, we will be able to execute our strategy and make our SOCAR vision come alive. Internally, we also have an unspoken rule of disrupting ourselves before anyone else does it.
Your final thoughts
Leon Foong: As we enter the new year, we at SOCAR would like to remind people to “Share more, worry less.”
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