In this era of rapid e-commerce growth, the demand for delivery services is higher than ever. Providers like Lalamove, MrSpeedy, and GrabExpress are constantly growing their fleets to keep up. In fact, Lalamove expanded to Penang and Johor recently in April.
But the demand for delivery services also means a higher carbon footprint, especially since these delivery services are running on fuel-based vehicles like motorcycles, cars, or vans.
This was where Jordi saw a gap in the delivery services market, and as a cycling enthusiast who wanted to monetise his hobby, he founded Vélo Express in 2016. However, Jordi is no longer with Vélo Express since he’s migrated.
Not your average delivery service fleet
Since its inception, Vélo Express gradually got the attention of many like Jordi himself, who were both passionate about cycling and wanted to make a living from it.
Because bicycles have their limitations, their services are currently only available in these areas:
|KL City Centre||Greater KL|
They can cover up to 20km in a delivery radius, and their pricing ranges from RM5 to RM25, depending on the distance travelled. This pricing is quite standard when compared to other delivery couriers like GrabExpress and Lalamove.
On average, it takes Vélo Express just under an hour to make a delivery, which honestly isn’t too long of a wait unless you need something done urgently.
Among what they can deliver include groceries, parcels, and documents, plus they can execute printing, banking, and other errands too.
Vélo Express doesn’t have an app where you would book a cyclist, instead, you’ve got to call 03-41611766 to make a personal booking. While this may seem like a less convenient method for accessibility, it makes sense because the team is still small and would probably be overloaded by requests if they had an app.
Bring your own bike
Since Jordi left Malaysia, Vélo Express has now been taken over by Syahril, who started out as a part-timer. He wasn’t happy with his full-time job and decided to quit since someone needed to handle Vélo Express.
Today, Vélo Express has 2 admins, 2 full-time cyclists (including Syahril), and 8 part-timers. Anyone who wants to join the company must have their own bikes, and their team currently uses a mix of fixed gear bikes, road bikes, and cargo bikes.
Fixed gear bikes are the regular ones that you’d probably have at home, road bikes have shiftable gears and are suitable for long-distance cycling, and cargo bikes are ones that can carry heavy objects.
“We can carry anything up to 5kg with our special messenger bag, our bike rack also can carry up to 5kg, and our cargo bike can carry up to 15kg. Boxes in front of our bikes are called racks which help us carry extra things,” Syahril explained to Vulcan Post.
Taking on challenges along the way
Sometimes, the MRT or LRT is used to assist their delivery services for long-distance trips, but the team will shoulder these extra charges without passing them on to customers.
“The heaviest thing I delivered was animal food and sand that weighed 15kg, which we delivered with our cargo bike. And the strangest thing we had to deliver was a large drawing board,” Syahril recalled.
“I think there’s no difficulty in delivering things, but a challenging delivery is when someone orders a lot of things at the same time which requires more than one messenger.”
Cyclists with Vélo Express can earn from RM200 to RM1,000 per month, depending on how many jobs they take on. Vélo Express also currently works with 6 collaboration partners (local coffee roasters and restaurants) whom they help deliver food and coffee beans. These collaborators will pay by request, allowing the team to have immediate income when their services are needed.
During the pandemic, they’d request for their services around 5-10 times per month, which Syahril admitted isn’t as many compared to back then when they worked with law firms and offices. Now that those offices are practicing WFH, Vélo Express had to find other segments to serve.
It’s a job that really requires passion
While their concept as a delivery service is still unique, in Malaysia, it’s not likely to be one that can be scaled easily. After all, despite operating since 2016, their base of operations is still largely contained within the Klang Valley.
Furthermore, there aren’t any other players in this space that we could find, which points to it being a difficult concept to pull off if you’re chasing profit, and one that’s maybe not even worth the effort.
There are multiple challenges that lie ahead of the team each day, from battling misconceptions that a bicycle-based courier service is less reliable, to navigating dangerous KL roads thanks to poorly planned and maintained bike lanes.
If Vélo Express wanted to expand to other states, they would have to open up small offices in those areas and hire more manpower such as team leads to oversee and grow the operations there.
To add, Syahril was clear that the team doesn’t earn a fixed income, and couple that with the fact that cycling to and fro for deliveries is a highly laborious process, it’s not the most attractive job to your standard Malaysian.
Ultimately, one would conclude that Vélo Express is a job best done by those who have a passion for cycling in the first place, and have other sources of income to sustain them.
Based on our interview with Syahril, it doesn’t seem like the team is chasing growth in terms of expansion either. Raising their brand awareness, collaborating with more local brands and small companies, and improving their facilities and customer service is what they’re focusing on instead.
- You can learn more about Vélo Express here.
- You can read about more Malaysian startups we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Mior Syahril of Vélo Express