Elim Chew's new app aims to have 'social impact'
New courier service app FastFast aims to help those struggling to find work
Though she is best known for her alternative fashion clothing chain, Ms Elim Chew is moving into the world of disruption.
The founder of 77th Street is looking to make her new venture do for the courier service what Uber did for taxis and Airbnb for holiday accommodation.
Her FastFast app is also designed to help those struggling to find work.
The inspiration for the 48-year-old comes from a problem she often faced, thanks to sitting on about 20 boards and committees.
Frequently stuck in meetings, she had difficulty getting couriers to deliver documents "on the double".
"With traditional couriers, you have to call before 11am to have the item delivered by 4pm. They don't deliver after 6pm or do immediate delivery. It is frustrating," she told The New Paper.
Ms Chew, who was named a Forbes Philanthropy Hero in 2010, also wanted this venture to be a "social impact business".
"I want to make it a platform where people who need money can earn some cash while performing an essential service.
"I was thinking of those who are in between jobs because of retrenchment or those who have retired but don't have enough savings," said the self-proclaimed "serial social entrepreneur".
One of her other social enterprises began in 2006 with PaTH (Pop and Talent Hub) at VivoCity. It is a space for individuals from marginalised groups to sell arts and handicrafts.
To kick-start the courier service idea, she turned to Mr Adrian Ng, the 40-year-old founder of app development firm Codigo, for help.
That was in May and the two thrashed out the idea for FastFast - along with the Singlish title.It was an easy choice.
"Singaporeans often use 'fast-fast' when they want things done urgently," said Ms Chew.
It did not take Ms Chew and Mr Ng long to set up the app and create the business. (See report at right on how the app works.)
The basic requirement for applicants is to have their own transport - be it a bike, car, van or truck.
"We ran digital ads on various social platforms and job sites," said Mr Ng. Many applicants also came through word of mouth.
"We started in August and a month and a half into service, we have signed up about 500 freelance couriers," he said.
It is still early days for disruptor businesses, and FastFast is only months old. Its success remains to be seen in a market with similar delivery systems such as CarPal and RocketUncle - to name a few - in place.
In the realm of taxi disruptors, Singapore has already seen one casualty. Will FastFast be GrabTaxi and thrive or be like the recently departed Easy Taxi?
I want to make it a platform where people who need money can earn some cash while performing an essential service. I was thinking of those who are in between jobs because of retrenchment or those who have retired but don't have enough savings.
- Ms Elim Chew
HOW FASTFAST WORKS
1 Choose the type of delivery:
One-way or return trip.
2 Key in details of the recipient, and the type of item to be delivered (document, parcel, fragile, etc). You may even upload an image of the item.
3 Couriers nearby will bid for the assignment.
4 Confirm the delivery and the courier will be identified. An estimated trip distance and cost of delivery will also appear.
5 Customers pay the courier in cash.
6 Track the package until it is delivered.
7 All packages should be delivered within two hours.
Disruptors or service providers?
Uber, Airbnb and now FastFast.
Apps that bypass traditional business models.
They are disruptors, causing long-established services to take up their cudgels to defend their turf.
Yet, in this day and age, they have become essential in providing a platform for information to be shared, matching demand with supply at a customer-to-customer level, joint managing director of TSMP Law Corporation Stefanie Yuen-Thio said in The Business Times recently.
"They enable individuals to monetise their unused time, skills and/or assets, and offer consumers interesting (and often cheaper) alternatives to the traditional options."
She added that these ventures are "not without their risks and detractors".
Professor of Information Systems (Practice) at Singapore Management University Arcot Desai Narasimhalu told The New Paper that such services challenge traditional companies to change their game.
"It is similar to how Mustafa started a 24-hour service, forcing NTUC FairPrice and Cold Storage to also keep at least selected outlets open for 24 hours.
"However, it will not cause well-established companies to become obsolete, if they have built up their brand and earned the trust of their customers, he said.
Agreeing, Adjunct Associate Professor Lynda Wee from Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Business School said: "Such apps will force existing businesses to leverage on technology to better deploy resources."
Prof Narasimhalu added that in the cases of some apps, they could force a pricing war, or a larger, more established firm may buy over the disruptor.
Meet the couriers
Two years ago, Mr Adrian Lim, 40, was retrenched from his job in the tourism industry.
He has been unable to find another full-time job. Having a son and bills to pay, he decided to sign up as a FastFast courier while continuing his search for a full-time job. It is a job that suits his needs.
"I get to choose if I can do the delivery and it gives me time to go for potential job interviews and to spend time with my son. He's only five," Mr Lim said.
He says he can make an average of $80 a day, delivering documents and small packages.
The only unusual package he has had to deliver was a set of juices for a woman's juice diet. But it was not that difficult as he could use his car.
Mr Rick Franciscus, 42, had a trickier task - delivering a bouquet of flowers on his motorcycle.
"It got there in one piece," said Mr Franciscus, who had opted for early retirement.
He spotted the FastFast ad on Facebook and decided to "sign up for the gig".
"I love the open road and this takes me sometimes to areas of Singapore I have never been before. It also gives me a bit of an allowance to spend," he said.