Asia Blockchain Review recently spoke to David Henderson, Founder and CEO of DRVR, a firm that provides solutions and analytics for fleet management in Southeast Asia with the mission of turning the client’s vehicle fleets into the smartest and most cost-efficient in the world with the latest technology. Henderson talked about the challenges of operating in Southeast Asian markets, successful use cases, and potential uses of blockchain for logistics and more.
Asia Blockchain Review: Can you tell us about the services that you provide to clients? Why did you decide to offer solutions relating to logistics?
David Henderson: DRVR has been working with hundreds of different customers all across ASEAN. DRVR has two products — our fleet management offering, which is aimed at enterprise fleet operators across ASEAN, and our suite of insurance apps and analytics offering.
Logistics is one of several verticals we operate in. While we have several customers in this space, our sweet spot is actually leasing companies and car rentals. We found that the larger, enterprise-grade logistics companies in ASEAN have their own in-house solution and the smaller guys are harder to get to.
ABR: What are some of the key things to focus on in fleet management?
DH: We help customers in two main areas. The first is cost reduction through the reduction of fuel theft and improving driving behavior, which reduces the costs of maintaining vehicles. The other key area is optimizing the assets utilization of vehicle fleets.
ABR: What are some of the obstacles that your clients face, and how did DRVR help them to overcome these issues?
DH: Operating a fleet of vehicles in Asia is quite tricky and not an easy business to be in. There is intense competition, and, as a result, the margins can be quite low. One of the key issues our customers face is costs. The main cost we can influence is fuel. DRVR has developed a solution which utilizes AI to identify fuel theft and alert fleet owners.
One of our customers in Myanmar saved US$57,000 in the first month of operating our service, giving them a return on investment of 25 days! That’s world-beating. We did some work with a major ride-hailing platform (also in Myanmar), where we monitored driving behavior and coached the driver using an app. We had an 87% reduction in reckless driving! That led to a safer and more comfortable ride for passengers.
ABR: What is the key challenge in operating a startup like DRVR in Southeast Asian markets? Can you tell us about some of the successful ways that you have tackled these problems?
DH: By far, the largest issue we have is access to investment capital, followed by the availability of talent. We originally intended to establish our development shop in Thailand, but this turned out to be impossible due to fierce wage competition for a limited talent pool.
If you read books like the Lean Startup, it all seems so simple: you build out an MVP, demonstrate some traction, and the money rolls in. This is a million miles from our experience in Southeast Asia. We put together an awesome team of experienced ex-Silicon Valley folks and built an amazing MVP. Then, we went out and spent literally months chasing investment funding. The problem is that there is literally only a handful of VCs who have any risk appetite in the region. The CVCs in Thailand have no risk appetite at all and mostly invest in cement plants and huge “startups” like Grab.
We quickly realized that we could not follow textbook examples and had to adapt. We pared back our development team, tightened our belts, and set ourselves up for a longer road.
ABR: How is DRVR working towards becoming Southeast Asia’s leading IoT analytics platform?
DH: To become the best at anything, you have to be continually improving. Just look at Changi airport. World best for so many years, then they do the Jewel! A friend of mine, Benjamin Sherry, who runs the most successful development shop (Proteus Labs) in Bangkok, uses the analogy of going up a downward escalator. If you stand still, you’re back at the bottom. If you walk, you stand still. You have no choice but to run.
We instill this mindset in all of our staff. We have two main advantages — speed and smarts. We do things quicker and smarter. We don’t waste time. We talk to our customers and learn from our experiences.
ABR: With many companies experimenting with blockchain technology, what is the potential for using blockchain solutions in logistics?
DH: As your readers will already know, the best use cases for blockchain technology are ones where the issue of trust is front and center. In logistics operations, there is a huge amount of paperwork, and trust is and always has been an issue. If you go back to the days of Marco Polo, a mercantile family is placing a lot of trust in their transporter (back then, using camels, horses, and ships) to take their valuable products and bring back another, more valuable commodity – Venetian glass for Chinese Silks, for example.
IoT and Blockchain make a perfect symbiotic relationship. In real time, you can now manage and track your shipment and also know that the exchange of goods has occurred, that customs have been paid, and that the goods are legally in possession.
ABR: What are some of the new projects or expansions that we can expect to see from DRVR this year?
DH: Earlier this year, we signed a partnership with XYO. We see great potential in this partnership and will be working on a project jointly over the next few months. We have started to focus heavily on the insurtech space, and we see this area as being a key engine for growth in the next few years. We have an exciting project with one of the largest insurance companies in Thailand. We can’t give any details just yet!
ABR: Can you tell us about your long-term vision and targets for the company?
DH: We’re a company with a bold and passionate purpose. We want to reduce the number of people who die on the roads in ASEAN. In Thailand alone, three children die on the roads each day. We’ve been talking to the UN, Bloomberg, the IMF, and others about how we can reduce the carnage together.
This year, we have ambitious goals to triple annual recurring revenue and grow our business across the region. We have successfully expanded into Australia, and we look forward to building great partnerships across the region.
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