Kay Woo x Prime Time Radio Interview

2022-09-06


On August 8th, Prime Time from 89.3 Money FM in Singapore held an interview with CEO Kay. Prime Time is a radio program that focuses and shares news on market movements and economy in Singapore, Europe and the US. 


The interview mainly talked about ONiON Mobility’s electric three-wheeler T1 produced in Cambodia.


Please refer to the link below to listen to the full version of Kay’s interview. 

👉 https://omny.fm/shows/moneyfm-evening-show/market-view-why-is-a-singapore-based-startup-makin#description


Thank you.


Trust-driven 

MVL




[Host]

Good afternoon, I am Chua Tian Tian with your market view today. We want to take a closer look at the EV industry.

Now when It comes to EV, many might think along the lines of NIO, BYD and Tesla. Basically, sedan and passenger cars sold at high prices. But did you know that one Singapore-based company is doing just the opposite by rolling out the first E-tuk tuks in Cambodia? What are the reasons behind this move and which are the overlooked areas of the EV market?

Well let’s find out more from Kay Woo, he’s the CEO of MVL Labs and at ONiON mobility. You might also know him as the person behind blockchain-based ride-hailing service TADA. Now Kay, thanks for joining us on the line.


[Kay]

Thanks for having me.


[Host]

First of all, tell us a little bit more about your E-tuk tuk business. What is your business model? Do you make your own E-tuk tuks? Are you selling the tuktuks? Or are you offering tuktuk services as part of TADA’s ride-hailing service?


[Kay]

We are actually offering tuktuk service through TADA ride-hailing service in Cambodia, but we actually took a look at the Cambodian market back in 2018 and then, we decided to actually electrify the three-wheelers. So, we are actually producing the electric three-wheelers here in Cambodia and we are selling the vehicles to our drivers with the financial product that we have, combined together with our strategic investors. And the business model behind this is very simple and straightforward. Two things. Manufacturing the vehicles and we sell the vehicles to our drivers with low interest rate financial products and the other side is actually, we are providing the energy infrastructure. It’s not charging at home. They’re actually coming to the station to swap the batteries. And this swapping batteries’ infrastructure business, we are working together with energy companies such as PTT and TotalEnergies.

 

[Host]

Kay, just to make it simpler for our listeners to understand, would it be right to say that you produce your own E-tuk tuks and you sell them just to your riders or your fleet of drivers who drive these three-wheelers all around Cambodia? Is it right to understand it that way?

 

[Kay]

That’s right. So we produce it and we sell it to our TADA platform drivers, but also any individuals or any other drivers who can purchase from us. And then, they are also free to drive for other platforms, if they want to. And interestingly, we prepared this vehicle for their commercial use, but interesting things are happening here in Cambodia. Individual families and users, they come to our office, and they are purchasing it for their personal use.

 

[Host]

Sounds interesting. What is the price if I may ask?

 

[Kay]

So the MSRP, selling price is 4,999 and this is like compared to the price for the drivers for electric vehicles. Now we are giving more discounts for the drivers as a first mover.

 

[Host]

It’s very interesting. I just want to find out what made you decide to go into e-tuktuk out of all types of EVs. What are the opportunities that you see in there?

 

[Kay]

Right. So our decision is quite simple and straightforward. Every time we make a decision, it’s all about expanding the benefits for our drivers. When we opened service here in Cambodia, it was quite interesting to see a little bit of a different and unique culture here in Cambodia. People are using three-wheelers as public transportation every single day. And if you go on the street, you can hail three-wheelers very easily. It’s cheap and it’s safe. If you look around Phnom Penh only, there are more than 20,000 three-wheelers running around. And it's a very genuine decision for us to electrify these vehicles and host them into our platform for future development.

 

[Host]

When it comes to three-wheelers, one would think of Thailand and its fleet of tuktuks. Why did you choose to enter Cambodia at this point of time?

 

[Kay]

First thing, in Thailand, you’d think that three-wheelers are the most common transportation for their passengers. But if you talk about the whole public transportation in Thailand, Bangkok, only a couple thousand three-wheelers are there, which are mostly for tourists. Those local people who are commuting from home to work, they don’t use three-wheelers. They use motorbikes or other.

 

[Host]

So, it’s mainly catered to the regular people, the men on the street in Cambodia, right?

 

[Kay]

Right. So here in Cambodia, three-wheelers are public transportation and in general, it’s everywhere. The reason why we came to Cambodia, actually entering Cambodia was not a genuine decision that we firstly planned. But I was invited from one of my Japanese partners and they wanted me to visit their office to see their operation and I came to Cambodia. And I was surprised that Cambodia was very well developed. Now, they’re growing super fast and almost all people use smartphones to call the vehicle and taxi. And there’s no taxi company here. So, all taxi companies went bankrupt ever since the starting of this platform service era.

 

[Host]

And I know there’s the pilot partnership with Hyundai and CP group at this point. Tell us more about the pilot, what is the current fleet size, what are the insights from the trial?

 

[Kay]

So, currently we are testing with CP group and Hyundai Glovis with the last mile delivery for the 7-Eleven, Lotus’s and Makro. But interestingly, CP group already finished the testing of the last mile delivery with the small cargo versioned of vehicles because they already concluded that this motorbike delivery with grocery or fresh-ingredient delivery is not sufficient enough. So, they were seeking for a new alternative transportation that can actually fulfill this requirement. And it happened to be that we were the ones who were only making these electric three-wheelers and cargo versions as well. So, we sent 6 vehicles and 4 vehicles are being tested on the 7-Eleven delivery and 1 for Lotus’s, 1 for Makro. And Now it’s testing.   

 

[Host]

So, it's right now in the testing stage and let us know when the E-tuk tuks will be fully operational. What is your target fleet size? How big or how profitable do you expect your E-tuk tuk business to be in the next 3-5 years? 

 

[Kay]

Right. So right now, currently, we actually produced more than 400 vehicles in the passenger version and it’s up and running here in Cambodia first. And the testing version for cargo, we sent 6 vehicles to Thailand. As of now, we are testing it, but we expect to be fully functioning the cargo version by next year’s first quarter. And we are targeting to deliver close to 2000 + units of cargo version in Thailand and Indonesia next year. For passenger version only, for this year, we are planning to deliver close to 2,000 vehicles here in Cambodia.

 

[Host]

Wow, Kay, one would think that the Cambodian market is more like a blue ocean at this point of time. But how do you view your competition? So many big players out there?

 

[Kay]

Right, so I would say that if you only talk about producing the electric vehicles and selling it, there would be lots of different players who's doing it. But interestingly, there's no one who's actually producing the electric three-wheelers and selling it for commercial use and for passenger use here in Southeast Asia. So, as a first mover, we are actually setting up the unique local practice with, including energy infrastructure approach together with the product. So, because of this unique approach, we are setting the standard together, so that actually gives us the competitive advantage of first mover. So, that's how we see it. And you know, there's no such thing that lasts forever but now we are having more advantages as a first mover.

 

[Host]

Pardon me for asking this question, but I got to ask you since you're here. How easy is it for, let's say players like NIO, BYD or Tesla to just come in and make a three-wheeler?

 

[Kay]

Well actually, making three-wheelers, to be honest with you, technically, it's not that hard to make it. But you need a car that makes it completely different from four-wheelers. So, Tesla, making three-wheelers doesn’t make any sense because these three-wheelers are actually made specifically for commercial use, but the Tesla is for passenger users and high-net worth people. But the 3-wheelers, if you don't have your own platform, let's say for example, a ride-hailing platform like TADA, then you don't want to make it. Because it has a very slight margin. So, if you don't have any value-added or synergy that you can create with the platform, you wouldn't want to do it. 

 

[Host]

So, you are creating this based on the synergy you see with your ride-hailing platform TADA at this point, yeah? 

 

[Kay]

Exactly.

 

[Host]

Okay, if you are just tuning in, I am speaking to Kay Woo, CEO of MVLLABS, also the CEO of ONiON Mobility. Kay, I also want to touch on charging infrastructures. How convenient is it for users to charge their E-tuk tuks, I understand you don't do charging, so changing up the batteries, how does it work?

 

[Kay]

So, it's very very easy to change the batteries. So, as a first mover in this market, we are actually firstly educating the drivers to come to the stations and change the batteries. And so, it's simple and go! So, it's like you go to the gas station and you fuel the gas and you go on the road. It's the same. So, the drivers come to our station, and then our operators actually have to change the batteries. And then, they go. It's like 2-3 minutes of operation of changing the batteries. And they just go. So ,within our energy stations, we are charging like 500+ batteries at the same time. So, whenever they come, we serve them. 

 

[Host]

And how big do you target your charging infrastructure, be given your target fleet size?

 

[Kay]

So, it's going to be nationwide. It's going to be everywhere. The reason why you can do this is because we are working together with PTT and TotalEnergies. As an energy infrastructure player, they also want to diversify their own energy portfolio with the electrification and also the battery infrastructure and charging infrastructure. So, with the help of them, we just need to focus on the expansion of our platform and our vehicle coverage. And they are the ones who are helping us to cover the whole energy infrastructure together. So, it's just only a matter of time.

 

[Host]

Kay, market observers were saying that Russia-Ukraine War is disrupting supplies of rare industrial metals, used to make EV batteries. What are your thoughts on this?

 

[Kay]

So, to be honest with you, the price of batteries actually increases, and the price of the car parts are also increasing. But every condition is the same for everybody. It's not just only increasing of the battery price, but it's also the increase of gas price and LPG price. Everything is going higher. But the energy price is even much higher, going much higher than the battery price. So, all in all, drivers who are driving the electric vehicles are actually saving more money than gasoline vehicles. So, all in all, it's good, but we have to deal with it anyway.

 

[Host]

And what is your outlook for the EV market in general, both for the likes of Tesla, NIO and also for E-tuk tuks and your value proposition? Where do you foresee growth in the next 3-5 years?

 

[Kay]

So, I think that it's only a matter of time. The full adoption of EV has actually already been happening in European countries, for example like Sweden in the Northern Europe area. Their adoption rate of EV is more than 30%. It's just only a matter of time. And, those EV players, there will be lots and lots of different big players who are coming like Tesla or NIO. But one thing for sure is actually if you become only a producer of EVs, you will end up becoming an OEM player. But if you do have your own soft power, such as a platform like Tesla, like an autonomous vehicle, cutting-edge technology you have, then that will give you additional value and the people will value your own EV and also the platform together. Then that's the way that we can actually have a better future.

 

[Host]

And finally, just before we go, any exciting plans or upcoming developments that our listeners should know about?

 

[Kay]

Well, so, first quarter of next year, I think that my PR team would not let me say anything specific, but in the 1st quarter of next year, lots of interesting things will be introduced, including energy infrastructures and new types of vehicles. But also, before the end of this year, there will be big news as well. So, stay tuned, but I cannot tell you.

 

[Host]

Alright. One very quick thing. How can we invest in your company? Are you going public any time soon, in the foreseeable future?

 

[Kay]

So, we are planning to go public if everything goes well. But first thing first, we need to actually go through this downturn of economics like this year and next year. After we go through 2023, we see that there will be huge opportunities for us as well. So, 2024 and 2025 will be the time for us to think about and prepare for that idea. 

 

[Host]

Thank you very much, Kay. That was Kay Woo, CEO of MVLLABS and ONiON Mobility, joining us on the line.

 

[Kay]

Thank you very much.