The transporters

THE Lorry is an epitome of a SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) success story, but things didn't always go smoothly for the founders, Goh Chee Hau and Nadhir Ashafiq.

They both started out as colleagues in their previous company dealing with aviation logistics, and later left to start TheLorry together in 2014. As Nadhir put it, "We wanted to disrupt and innovate the logistics industry with technology."

Penetrating a market that was previously – and still very much – traditionally driven proved difficult for the two. Nadhir and Goh trawled Mudah.my and the Yellow Pages for contacts of lorry drivers and contacted over 50, only to have two drivers agree to joining their online platform, which aims to connect customers with available lorry drivers and include prices, booking, live tracking and more. But with the two sole drivers, TheLorry took off and the rest is, as they say, history.

With both your experiences in the airfreight industry previously, did it make it easier to start TheLorry?

Nadhir Ashafiq (NA): There are similarities with the way our company was structured, although TheLorry has more departments. We have a marketing department because we are not only doing business-to-business (B2B) but also business-to-consumer (B2C). With B2C, we would need to get the word out, use social media, create some crazy viral campaigns, and more. That's why we have a marketing department as well as a creative person.

Goh Chee Hau (CH): Coming from an airfreight background, we had a bit of logistics knowledge, but that was more towards the business side of things, not so much on land transportation.

NA: We had zero experience in land transportation. We didn't even know what a one-tonne or three-tonne lorry was when we first started.

What were the hurdles you faced when you first started TheLorry?

CH: The first thing was to build a product. When we wanted to sell TheLorry, we needed lorry drivers. We went out and tried getting lorry drivers in, but it was extremely difficult. We called up about over 50 drivers by going through Yellow Pages and Mudah.my. We told them our idea and tried to get them on the platform. Out of the 50 drivers, only two turned up. Basically, most of them didn't believe this could work. They still wanted to continue their traditional ways of doing things.

How did you manage to solve that?

NA: It was difficult for us because the lorry drivers thought of us as middlemen. Prior to us coming into the market, there were already other middlemen who would broker for jobs. Although in essence we are the same, we have the technology to have a more advanced way of doing things.

We may have only managed to convince two lorry drivers, but with those two, it served as a base for our customers. Then, word started to get out that we have jobs, and that we exist in the market. We were also starting to get featured in media, and that's where we sealed the deal. From there, suppliers would come to us to register.

CH: It has a lot to do with brand awareness. We started from zero; nobody knew about us. Now, there are more lorry drivers who know us, but it's still a long, ongoing journey to build brand awareness so that people would think of us first when they want to book a lorry. When lorry drivers see that a lot of people use this platform, they would want to join too.

Do you think operating your company in a more "youthful" way is working in your favour?

NA: Definitely. Our campaigns have done pretty well on social media. We are doing things very differently compared to our competitors. One simple example is that we got a local actor, Shaheizy Sam to endorse our product. I don't think many transport-related products or services would have a celebrity endorse their product. The way we do our copywriting and social media is also more youthful and Generation Y-centric.