Korean chauffeur service firm aims to cater to global tourists in Asia
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam -- Vietnam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, attracting more than 15 million visitors in 2018. Despite this, the transportation systems of its major cities are far below international standards and inconvenient to use compared with those of other Asian cities such as Tokyo and Seoul.
Not only that, but an endless stream of motorbikes racing on the roads in Ho Chi Minh City makes driving here an impossible task. The first subway line is still under construction and the bus system is not quite tourist-friendly, especially for those who don’t speak Vietnamese.
To address these pain points, Seoul-headquartered startup Movv launched a chauffeur service in Ho Chi Minh City two years ago.
Jung Jong-tae, co-founder and chief operating officer of Movv. Son Ji-hyung/The Investor
“Transportation is one of the biggest hurdles for most independent travelers, and I believe providing a safe transportation option can help complete their trip,” Jung Jong-tae, co-founder and chief operating officer of Movv, told The Investor in an interview at the company’s Ho Chi Minh City head office.
Jung has been running a mobile platform called Botdari for around six years, offering travelers to Vietnam tourism information -- for example, about must-eat local dishes, must-go destinations and accommodations -- but he decided to streamline the services on the platform and shift the focus to mobility after witnessing the increasing demand.
“Mobility businesses, like the cab-hailing service Grab, have been growing fast in recent years in Vietnam, and I thought I needed to jump on the wagon,” he said.
Convenience and relatively low fares are the service’s competitive advantages, according to the COO.
Once a customer books Movv service, a 16-passenger van comes at a scheduled time to a predetermined place. For about $100, customers can use the chauffeur service for 10 hours to go anywhere, inside or outside the city, and fully enjoy local attractions in an upscale manner without worrying even a bit about driving on roads packed with roaring motorbikes. While the customers take a walking tour, the chauffeur waits somewhere else. They can call in the van whenever they are ready to hit the road again by sending a request on the app, just like Uber.
“In Ho Chi Minh City, it is hard to travel long distance by taxi or Grab because they are too expensive,” Jung said.
He said his company is also prioritizing safety by working only with local car rental companies authorized by the local government.
Although the Movv app currently targets South Korean tourists, it will start to support English later this year, catering to international tourists to the Southeast Asian country.
In addition, from late this year it aims to bring its business model to other parts of the Asian market, such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and even Korea. These countries are where Jung has found demand for means of transportation that help customers enjoy safer, more affordable long-distance trips.
“Language and transportation have been identified as the biggest challenges when traveling in Korea,” said the Korean entrepreneur. “With the chauffeur service, foreign tourists will be able to get immersed in local culture.”
For the business model to land in the global markets, he said, the company will seek partnerships with airlines, hotel chains and established car-hailing companies.
The Korean firm currently works with low-cost carrier Jeju Air, offering a package for Korean tourists consisting of flight tickets and chauffeur service, and has recently partnered with Korean automobile firm KC Motors to deploy the carmaker’s minivans for the mobility service in Vietnam.
When asked for tips for entrepreneurs who want to enter the Vietnamese market, he said agility was more important in the Vietnamese market than in any other market.
“Some 70 percent of the population here are those in their 30s, and many of them first accessed the internet through mobile devices, not PCs,” said COO Jung, mentioning the fast penetration of mobile devices in the nation.
“The fact that the market changes so fast can present both an opportunity and a risk,” he said.
By Kim Young-won and Son Ji-hyoung (email@example.com) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This article is the result of collaboration between the Korea Herald and Antara, sponsored by the Korea Press Foundation.