Photo Credit: Diamond Cab (Hong Kong) Limited
Doris Leung, Founder, and CEO, of Diamond Cab, tells us about its premium wheelchair-accessible taxi service.
First of all, how are you and your family doing?
Doris Leung: My family members have been infected with Omicron, but we all recovered successfully in about a week.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Diamond Cab.
Doris Leung: Diamond Cab (Hong Kong) Limited was founded in 2010 with the social mission to provide 24hrs booking available, point-to-point barrier-free taxi service in Hong Kong. The main reason for me to start the Diamond Cab business is related to my late mother, who suffered from brain cancer which caused her mobility challenge and eventually disability. I realized that there was a serious lack of convenient barrier-free taxi service in Hong Kong when I took care of a mum who had been using a wheelchair since 2007. Instead, the illegal market is vibrant with the uninsured and unhygienic vans for wheelchair boarding. Hong Kong is a metropolitan, I think middle-class families are willing to pay for a much premium wheelchair-accessible taxi service, and I am definitely one of these family members.
I partnered with Social Ventures Hong Kong, the venture philanthropic fund, to found the company named Diamond Cab, reminding my mother that even if she is disabled in a wheelchair, she is still our beloved mother with great eternal value. Actually, just like many other women, my mother loves Diamond too!
Other than Social Ventures Hong Kong, we also invited the key persons in the taxi and elderly care industries to join the shareholding and the board seats, creating a great, long-lasting synergy for Diamond Cab service. On the one hand, we can leverage our taxi partner’s great resources of taxi licenses and operation support. On the other hand, we can easily collaborate with the elderly homes to develop our taxi and related aging care business.
How does Diamond Cab market its product/services online?
Doris Leung: We are active in promoting the stories of Diamond Cab on our Facebook Page with lovely photos. As a journalist before I founded Diamond Cab, I like writing touching stories that show how Diamond Cab makes a great difference to aging Hong Kong. Starting from our barrier-free taxi service, we also create Diamond Leisure, Goodnight, View Hong Kong, and Diamond Wish, which provide the elderly barrier-free outings and entertainment in different stages of life until they have become end-of-life patients.
Also, we keep posting new photos and simple stories on Google, and our new official website is under construction, which will improve the SEO after it.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how did you get through it?
Doris Leung: The pandemic discourages the elderly from taking Diamond Cab for medical appointments or much other leisure or family gathering opportunities. Our cab business is greatly affected. It has dropped by over 50% for the Day shift and Night Shift by over 90%. Our cab owners are willing to offer a rent discount which is named as Drivers Subsidy, to support our frontline drivers who have no basic salaries.
Other than the subsidies, we also started the charity service Community Ride under another company called Diamond Cab Foundation Limited with the mission to support the underprivileged wheelchair users to enjoy quality barrier-free transport services not limited to Diamond Cab. As Diamond Cab drivers are most experienced in serving wheelchair users, most of the Community Ride orders go to the Diamond Cab fleet. This creates long-lasting demand for Diamond Cab business as the donations for Community Ride have been increasing since Sep 2020 after we launched this project.
We understand that the elders have been suffering from fear, loneliness, and even hopelessness during the year-long pandemic. Riding on the much bigger need for entertainment, we start the new project Good Night Club, the monthly cross-generation live-streaming music and entertainment beginning at the end of June. We will invite the elders to join the show on-site with the Diamond Cab fleet, and at the same time, we will invite elderly homes to watch the live show together. Those young families who have emigrated overseas are welcome to dedicate songs to their parents staying in Hong Kong, which is meaningful and touching.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Doris Leung: As mentioned, we mainly promote Diamond Cab online on Facebook and Google. We like to share stories that can visualize the great value of Diamond Cab services. When we have an extra budget, we will advertise on Facebook and invite more new fans of Diamond Cab to follow the page. For Good Night Club, we will have live-streaming so that not only Hong Kong but overseas viewers can share this new innovative entertainment service for the cross-generation.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Doris Leung: Since Diamond Cab is the pioneer of a wheelchair-accessible taxi company in Hong Kong, all the competitors learn from our experience and create their own taxi brands. Syncab, launched in 2015, is the first biggest competitor as they have over 70 wheelchair-accessible taxis, ten times more than Diamond Cab. And they have created the Apps for the passengers to book the cab online. For Diamond Cab, the most competitive edge is our dedicated drivers with both caring and professional strength. Diamond Cab drivers, once committed, must make the order allocated by the centralized 24hrs Call Center, while the other competitors may not be able to control the drivers who can cancel the wheelchair passenger orders on short notice. Our passengers told us Diamond Cab is always the first choice because we give them a sense of security, no need to be afraid of sudden cancellation by the drivers. Also, we use Toyota Noah Welcab, which is the most spacious Welcab in Hong Kong. Noah Welcab can accommodate two wheelchair users plus two carers or one wheelchair user plus four carers on the same trip. It gives much flexibility, especially when we organize the Diamond Leisure or Diamond Wish activities which will have more passengers in our cabs.
Your final thoughts?
Doris Leung: In Hong Kong, over 30% of social enterprises have been forced to close under pandemics. Others have cash flow issues. Luckily, we have dedicated drivers, supportive shareholders, and cab owners committed to sustaining Diamond Cab to buy time to grow new business during the low tides. Starting in 2020, we successfully launched Diamond Cab LITE, a different taxi model for wheelchair accessibility, so it is much easier to expand the number of cabs. Now we have two Diamond Cab LITE (Comfort) and three Diamond Cab (Noah Welcab). Then I launched Community Ride to take care of the underprivileged elders who cannot afford the cab fares. Within the social distancing restriction, we transform Diamond Leisure in big groups into Goodnight, View Hong Kong in small groups, mobilizing Inchcape corporate volunteers to help the singleton or doubleton elders to enjoy the night tours with Diamond Cab. As the pandemic has killed millions of people, probably without a chance to say goodbye to their family members, I innovated Diamond Wish giving the end-of-life elders the dream trips and fulfilling their wishes with no regrets in life. And lastly, it comes to Good Night Club, which will live-stream to everyone online in the post-Covid stage.
During the century pandemic, only innovation and persistence win. We have to have a sharp market sense to react to the immediate social needs of our service targets. Once we make it, the funding will come naturally.