Malaysian supply startup in KL utilizing bicycles

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In times of rapid e-commerce growth, the demand for delivery services is higher than ever. Providers like Lalamove, MrSpeedy and GrabExpress are constantly expanding their fleets to keep up. In fact, Lalamove recently expanded to Penang and Johor in April.

However, the demand for delivery services also means a higher carbon footprint, especially since these delivery services are operated with fuel-based vehicles such as motorcycles, cars or vans.

Here Jordi saw a gap in the delivery service market and founded Vélo Express in 2016 as a cycling enthusiast who wanted to monetize his hobby. However, Jordi has not been with Vélo Express since his migration.

Not your average delivery service fleet

Since its inception, Vélo Express has gradually caught the attention of many like Jordi himself, who both had a passion for cycling and wanted to make a living from it.

Because bicycles have their limits, their services are currently only available in these areas:

KL city center Larger KL
KL Sentral
Brick fields
Pudu
Chinatown
Chow kit
Star hill
Wangsa Maju
Jasmine garden
Sentula
Setapak
Taman Melawati

They can travel up to 20 km in a delivery radius and their prices range from RM5 to RM25, depending on the distance traveled. This price is pretty standard compared to other delivery couriers like GrabExpress and Lalamove.

On average, it takes Vélo Express just under an hour to deliver, which honestly doesn’t take too long unless you need to do something urgently.

You can deliver groceries, parcels and documents, as well as print, bank and other errands, among other things.

Vélo Express doesn’t have an app that you would use to book a cyclist, instead you need to call 03-41611766 to make a personal booking. While this may be a less convenient method for accessibility, it makes sense since the team is still small and would likely be overwhelmed with requests if they had an app.

A two-wheel delivery / Photo credit: Vélo Express

Bring your own bike

Since Jordi left Malaysia, Vélo Express has been taken over by Syahril, who started out as a part-time worker. Unsatisfied with his full-time job, he decided to quit because someone had to deal with Vélo Express.

Today Vélo Express has 2 admins, 2 full-time cyclists (including Syahril) and 8 part-time workers. Anyone wanting to join the company must have their own bike, and the team currently uses a mix of fixed-gear, racing and cargo bikes.

Fixed-gear bikes are the normal ones you will likely have at home, racing bikes have shiftable gears and are suitable for long-distance cycling, and cargo bikes are those that can carry heavy objects.

“With our special shoulder bag we can transport everything up to 5 kg, our bike rack can also carry up to 5 kg and our cargo bike can carry up to 15 kg. Boxes in front of our bikes are called luggage racks, which help us carry extra things, ”Syahril told the Vulcan Post.

This is what their cargo bikes look like / Photo credit: Vélo Express

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Accept challenges along the way

Sometimes the MRT or LRT is used to aid their long-distance travel delivery services, but the team covers these additional costs without passing them on to customers.

“The heaviest thing I delivered was animal feed and sand weighing 15 kg, which we delivered with our cargo bike. And the strangest thing we had to deliver was a big drawing board, ”recalls Syahril.

“I think there is no difficulty in delivering things, but delivery is a challenge when someone orders many things at the same time, which requires more than one messenger.”

From oddly shaped packages to bulk cargo, these guys don’t dodge a challenge / Photo credit: Vélo Express

Cyclists with Vélo Express can earn between 200 and 1,000 RM per month, depending on how many jobs they take on. Vélo Express is also currently working with 6 cooperation partners (local coffee roasters and restaurants) whom they help with the delivery of food and coffee beans. These employees pay on demand, so the team has immediate revenue when their services are needed.

During the pandemic, they called for their services about five to ten times a month, which Syahril admitted that there are not as many as when they worked with law firms and offices. With these offices now practicing WFH, Vélo Express had to find other segments to serve them.

It’s a job that really requires passion

While their concept as a delivery service is still unique, it is unlikely to be easily scalable in Malaysia. Because although they have been in operation since 2016, their base of operations is still largely in the Klang Valley.

Additionally, there are no other players in this area that we have been able to find, which suggests that it is a difficult concept if you are looking for profit and one that may not even be worth it.

Each day, the team faces several challenges, from tackling misconceptions that a bike-based courier service is less reliable, to navigating dangerous roads in KL due to poorly planned and maintained bike lanes.

Cycling for the more environmentally friendly good / Image source: Vélo Express

If Vélo Express wanted to expand to other states, they would have to open small offices in those areas and hire more workers such as team leaders to oversee and expand operations there.

Plus, it was clear to Syahril that the team did not make a steady income and, coupled with the fact that driving back and forth for deliveries is a very tedious process, this isn’t the most attractive job for your standard Malaysian.

Ultimately, one would conclude that Vélo Express is a job that is best done by those who are primarily passionate about cycling and have other sources of income to support it.

Also, based on our interview with Syahril, it doesn’t seem like the team is hunting for growth when it comes to expansion. Instead, they focus on building their brand awareness, partnering with more local brands and small businesses, and improving their facilities and customer service.

  • You can learn more about Vélo Express here.
  • You can read about other Malaysian startups we’ve covered here.

Photo credit: Mior Syahril of Fast bike

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