This time around we take a look at iMotorbike, for our Startup Of The Month segment which looks at business within Malaysia.
iMotorbike is the top motorcycle online classified-ads, E-commerce website in Southeast Asia which provides fast, secure and a hassle-free digital experience for both sellers and buyers of items related to motorcycles.
Apart from buying and selling, both motorcycles as well as parts and accessories, the site features news and reviews, contests (where you can even win a motorcycle) and includes services which allow you to renew your road-tax and insurance, plus seek financing options – truly providing a 360° solution for motorcycle owners and enthusiasts.
We speak with Gil Carmo, the founder and CEO of iMotorbike, who draws from his experience in corporations as large as Lazada, to the rapidly expanding startup Shopback, to find out more about what the business has to offer the motorbiking community.
Tell us a bit about your first introduction to motorcycles.
Well, to be honest, I was very young; I was about 10-years-old when I first learnt to ride. What I did was I used to ride the motorbike within my house compound while my parents were inside. And it has always been a very interesting experience, and as I grew up, I realised riding in Europe in the summer is great, but during winter, it’s painful!
However, when I started working in Vietnam, that’s when I really got into it, as the weather doesn’t change that much, so you can fully utilise your motorbike throughout the year, as your day-to-day ride. That’s also when I had several motorbikes when I was in Vietnam, and that’s when it became somewhat a passion of mine.
What then led you to starting up iMotorbike?
Well it’s a merging of two of my passions. First, my passion for motorbikes, as mentioned, and my career passion, which is the digital realm.
Basically what happened was, when I first went to Vietnam I was based in Ho Chi Minh and was fortunate enough to have a driver assigned to me. Yet, the roads are very hectic and it’s difficult for cars to manoeuvre easily, as there are a massive number of bikes on the road, and it was difficult to get anywhere on time.
It’s a motorcycle intense city, so I tried looking into getting my own bike by searching for one online, but there wasn’t much data to begin with. That was essentially the trigger that made me realise that there’s an opportunity here.
The number of motorbikes being sold must be high, and yet, there’s not much info to be found in the digital sphere. I then began to do my research; finding out how many bikes were being produced a year, looking at key markets, which also led to the broader scope of Malaysia as well.
I figured that there needs to be more done, to cater to this huge volume of people, literally millions, who are on the market for motorbikes and parts, but have not as much specialised support as there should be.
Give me the iMotorbike elevator pitch.
It’s the first online listing platform in Malaysia that specialises in everything to do with motorbikes and the biking industry, which provides a large and varied list of used second-hand bikes, accessories, parts, as well as in-house written reviews and news.
Please elaborate on how iMotorbike is useful to the biking community.
Essentially we’re a one-stop-shop solution for motorcyclists. We’ve everything covered from insurance to road-tax renewals and financing. Then we have news for users who are just browsing – which also helps to attract users to our site. But mainly we support dealers to reach out to customers, as well as customers who’re looking to purchase almost anything bike related – from a specialised part, to a second-hand or new motorbike.
Further in our Vietnam market, where the motorbike scene is thriving, we’re now launching services like towing, washing, mechanics and we’ll just keep adding as much as possible that is required by users, solutions that any biker would need basically.
Who would you say is your closest competitor?
Well, any platform of party which touches on motorbikes, we generally monitor; it could be social media influencers, or e-commerce platforms which also list motorbikes or accessories for sale, a news site etc. We respect what they do, and we try to gauge how we stand in comparison.
The good thing however is that none of these platforms solely specialise in motorbikes. In that sense, we’re sort of a niche, and we have now more than 4,500 dealers working with us, listing over 500,000 products and services in total. If you can’t find that specific motorbike part you’re looking for on our site, you likely won’t find it anywhere on the internet.
Plus, because of the level of specialisation, the user experience is unhindered, and those who purchase almost anything bike related from our site will have a super smooth process. This is because we know what you need to know about the product, and we give you exactly what you need.
And not to mention, we cover almost all major cities within Malaysia, with a presence in more than 260 cities locally.
You have an impressive set of dealers listed under your site, how do you partner with them?
Well on one hand our account managers go out and liaise with the companies and sort of recruit them on the site, but we’ve been around for awhile now, so we’ve fortunate to have a number of motorcycle retails and larger businesses come to us, and have enjoyed the benefits our platform brings to the brand, which then allows us to retain their business too.
What were some of the struggles the team faced while starting up the business, and how did you overcome it?
The main struggle was building both the buyer and seller base from scratch, and simultaneously. When you think about it, you can’t get consumers to your platform without anything for sale, and on the flip side, you can’t have retailers if there are no customers approaching you. Then the second challenge was the education of what exactly iMotorbike is and does.
How we overcame it? Well, we took a natural approach, because we’re here to stay, so we grew by offering trials for motorcycle dealers in the beginning, which yielded positive results, and that led to them signing on as clients. Then we also attracted users from the type of content we put out, and provide the best experience possible to our users, who are also an important part of the business. We also listen to feedback, and take the necessary steps to improve ourselves always.
Most would see guaranteed results, both consumers and retailers, although some may take longer than others, but we’ve generally had no complaints when it comes to the quality of service we provide.
But of course challenges will always be there, as we start up in different markets, and trying to acquire more traffic and users, the challenges never end, but we welcome it.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
Covid was sort of a digital enabler for most, and the good thing is that our business is digital. In a way, we sort of boomed, and we also helped smaller motorbike dealers sustain itself by signing up under us, thus being able to reach customers that they traditionally wouldn’t have been able to.
What is a proud moment about the business so far?
Well I guess just growing and sustaining through the adversity. We already have a presence in four regions. Starting in Malaysia in 2016, we then ventured into opening our Singapore headquarters and Vietnam office last year, followed by a having a mobile set-up in Indonesia. But for Malaysia specifically, I’m also glad that we’ve become more dominant in the market, which we’re almost doing in Vietnam as well.