Salt trader crystallizes PH logistics industry

A former salt trader and entertainment magazine publisher has discovered the power of mobile application and is now using it to transform the logistics sector in the Philippines.

Dennis Ng developed a mobile app for delivery vans, which he hopes will change the logistics sector in the same way ‘Uber’ and ‘Grab’ revolutionized the taxi cab service.

“I was into a salt business 10 or 12 years ago. I saw the need for delivery service for SMEs when my small customers found it hard to transport sacks of salt that could not be loaded in an ordinary taxi. When I went to Hong Kong where I have an office for a magazine business, that’s where I discovered a van delivery service model that worked. That’s what I wanted to bring here,” Ng says in an interview in Makati City.

Ng, an accountant by profession and currently the publisher of entertainment magazine Chismax, decided to pursue the idea, amid the rise of mobile apps. He himself was attracted by the power of information technology and led a team that provided the mobile booking app for leading taxi company R and E.

Mober Technology Pte Inc. founder and chief executive Dennis Ng

“I thought that if ‘Uber’ could do it for taxi passengers, why not a mobile app for delivery vans,”Ng says. He says using the same taxi booking system his team designed for R and E, “we tweaked it slightly to become a van delivery app.”

Entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises do not have to buy expensive trucks or vans to transport goods, according to Ng, who started as a salt importer and trader in Manila. All they have to do, he says, is to book a van at, a mobile app that connects individuals or business owners directly with van drivers for real-time delivery needs.

Mober, a play on the word ‘mover’, is a revolutionary way to transport goods and parcel for on-demand customers and suppliers around Metro Manila, he says. As a mobile app, with GPS tracking, it connects individuals and small businesses to a fleet of pick-up trucks and delivery vans that registered as Mober partners.

At the click of the app, customers can book a delivery van nearest their location to pick up the goods and transport them to their desired location within Metro Manila.

Ng is the founder and chief executive of Mober Technology Pte Inc., the startup company behind which had a soft launching in Manila in December 2015. Ng, who goes to Hong Kong regularly to supervise Chismax magazine for OFWs, saw how small businesses in the Chinese territory rented vans from owners for their transportation needs.

“I have an office in Hong Kong, where I have a showbiz magazine. That’s where I drew inspiration from. In Hong Kong, there are individuals called ‘uncles’ who buy their own vans and they receive calls from those who request for delivery service. In the Philippines, there is no similar service. That’s what we aim to serve here, using mobile app technology,” Ng says.

Ng established Mober, with a $180,000 investment, mainly to buy five vans, to start up the business. He leads an eight-man team, with Jade Adrienne Hugo as the managing partner and Sergei Iscarov from Belarus as the chief technology officer.

The soft-launching of Mober was well received in December 2015. It served as the logistics partner of retailers that participated in the Noel Bazaar at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. Its target clients also include appliance stores, furniture outlets, e-commerce players, restaurants with catering service, party planners and event suppliers.

Among its business-to-business partners are Mandaue Foam and Dimensione Furniture. Mober can also shuttle pets, furniture and appliances of households, he says.

“SMEs used to buy their own delivery vans. But those vans were not fully utilized, because their business was just starting. With Mober, they don’t have to buy their own vans, which means less capital expenditure. At the same time, we can use the underutilized delivery vans of those who have already bought their vehicles to transport the goods of others,” he says.

“So we are solving two problems here. One, we are solving the need of those that require delivery service. SMEs or individuals don’t have to buy their own vans, just to cater to one or two minimum requirements. All they have to do is book with Mober. The cost of booking with Mober is a little bit higher than taxi service. For five to eight kilometers, it is only around P500. For 10 kilometers, P800, with full load,” he says.

“The next problem we are solving is that for SMEs that already purchased their own vehicles, we can provide them additional income. All they have to do is after they met their own transportation requirements, they could join Mober,” says Ng.

Ng says cargo delivery through Mober can be tracked. The fare depends on the type of vehicle requested and the distance between the pick-up and drop-off sites. Minimum fare is P500 for van and P750 for a VanPlus service, which goes along with a van porter who can help load and unload the items. The base fare is P250 for van and P450 for VanPlus, with additional P25 per kilometer and P2.50 per minute. Average arrival time of the van is estimated at 30 to 60 minutes upon confirmation.

Ng says over the past three months, Mober handled 800 bookings from over 100 customers, mainly using the five-company owned vans. He expects the volume of transactions to pick up substantially in the coming weeks, as the company begins accrediting van partners.

“Our target by end of 2016 is to have 500 van partners,” Ng says. “Profit is expected in three years.” He also plans to bring Mober to other major cities in the Philippines this year.

“We are looking forward that by the end of 2017, we will have at least 7,500 van partners. By early or mid-next year, if everything goes well, we will go to Singapore and Hong Kong. In the next five years, or once e-commerce booms in the Philippines, Mober is ready to accommodate all SMEs,” he says.

Mober also provides insurance coverage. “All the delivery as of the moment are insured with P50,000, in case the cargo is lost or destroyed. Eventually, we will require all our van partners to have insurance coverage of P500,000 to P1 million,” he says.

Ng says Mober is now actively attracting more van partners. “The biggest challenge we are encountering now is how to get van partners. We are now trying to reach out to all van owners. In-house, we have five. We brought five brand-new vehicles just to validate our business model and use them for marketing and promotion,”he says.

“Three weeks ago, we started recruiting van owners to join. We have approved 50 vans and they will soon be deployed,” says Ng. “The five company-owned vans are fully booked. With the entry of 50 more vehicles, we can now start accepting partnerships from other B2B clients. Demand for delivery is really there.”

Ng says similar mobile apps from Thailand and Indonesia, backed by venture capitalists, are about to enter the Philippine market soon, but he is confident that Mober will beat the competition, with his innovative and generous financial model.

He says Mober plans to provide 20-percent equity to van drivers to counter the competition. “We want happy drivers,”he says.

Ng describes Mober as a 100-percent Filipino-owned company. “This time, I am looking forward to see a Filipino company become well known in Asia. Our plan is to go to Hong Kong and Singapore hopefully by early next year. Eventually, we want to become the biggest logistics company in Southeast Asia,” he says.

Source: The Standard