Picture yourself back in the early 2000, you’re at the taxi stand trying catch a cab ride to someplace and you’ve decided that getting squeezed in a smelly bus would be much of an inconvenience to you. You figured that RM20 bucks crumpled in your side pocket should be enough to cover the fare while the voice of Frank Sinatra is singing Luck Be a Lady inside your ears. By usual estimate, you’ll reach your destination within 45 minutes if the taxi you’re trying to catch will arrive…just about now. Or soon enough. Well, guess now it wouldn’t be too late to reach there in 1 hour would it?
During those times, that’s the way of commuting we were accustomed with. Nobody would have ever anticipated that in the not so far future everybody could just whip out their phones, book a ride for a specified rate, know ahead of time the name of the driver, and see it in real time how far the car is on its way coming to pick you up. Today, ride hailing services are the lifeblood of the city duelers, leaving only crumbs of the market for the traditional taxi businesses.
Changes are inevitable. Instead of resisting, the only way forward is adopting. Today, you’ll be as practical as a steam engine if you insist to only make calls using those big stationary metal boxes called the public phones. Remember those?
Grabbing Opportunities Amidst the Challenges
Grab as a tech start-up company when it was called MyTeksi back in 2012 had went through several rocky roads before making it as big as it is today. Even when there were already other ride-sharing precedencies like Uber and Indonesia’s Gojek, the take up rate among Malaysian drivers initially were very slow. Convincing them to try out the new system was like trying to convince an apprehensive grandma to try online shopping.
Will it be safe? Will it be cheaper? Is it sustainable? Is it regulated? Concerns arose from every angle weren’t sounding very promising to the company either. The government back then simply didn’t have the framework to regulate this kind of service since it was very new. Putting forth new legislation isn’t something that a civil servant can pull an all-nighter on and comes up with the result the next morning. Hence, the lack of legislative rulings to govern the operation of what we now know as e-hailing services didn’t mean that it was prohibited, but simply is more data need to be collected before anything is set in stone.
On top of that, the constant whining and back lash from the traditional taxi industry made things more difficult. The pending regulation was their primary choice of ammo used to shoot down Grab’s operation. Of course, these weren’t the biggest among all setbacks but like grains of sand inside your shoes, it makes your whole walk uncomfortable.
Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling saw the challenges in a different light. As the founders of Grab, the two Tans believed in improving safety of e-hailing services and their deep understanding of the local needs and culture give them an edge to slice through the Malaysian market cake.
Two decades later, the company is approaching USD40 billion in valuation and extending its tentacles into most of ASEAN’s major cities. It’s evident that once the initial hurdle is conquered, the road ahead will be much wider and smoother. While Grab is leading the ride-sharing service enterprise, you can also use it to get your tummy filled up (Grabfood), send your parcels away, pay your purchases, top-up you prepaids, and even book your hotels. These are all additional services integrated seamlessly into one superapp. Technology does open up more opportunities for those who embrace it.
What Didn’t Stop Grab, Will Not Stop Gathercare
Now, picture that you can use your smartphones, launch an app, get your well-deserved care and treatments, get better, and get all your medical bills taken care of. It’s a reality of the changing world that we’re living in now. The cost of medical treatment is unquestionably ever changing but the only way the change goes is upwards.
Gathercare is yet another tech start-up like Grab was, but it was brought about to counter the effect of wallet pinching medical cost and provide a new solution for Malaysians to get access to necessary medical treatments at a very affordable cost. It’s the Malaysia’s first Medical Cost Crowd-Sharing app set to become a cheaper alternative to health insurance or medical Takaful. It’s amazing what some fiddling with the concept can do to reinvent medical protection and bringing the cost of coverage by a very significant amount.
Finally, the day you don’t have to commit to monthly fee for a medical protection is dawning. The same level of protection you get by paying north of RM300 monthly can now be yours at rock-bottom cost and no fixed monthly fee. That’s how technology and some proper use of the grey matter can generate ideas that revolutionize the way we do things. 2017 was the year Life Engineering was launched, and was later rebranded to Gathercare in 2020. The idea stemmed from the concept of crowdfunding which started to make headways as more and more of the global population are connected via the internet. Crowdfunding works using the compounding effect of contributions from a lot of people, each chipping in a little of their resources into one big pool, for a certain great cause. In this case, the cause of focus is the call for lower cost of medical treatment.
What Didn’t Stop Taxi Alternative, Will Not Stop Medical Insurance Alternative
From crowd-funding to crowd-sharing. The Sharing term fits better in this context since the crowd in Gathercare effectively share the burden of medical treatment incurred upon one or more of them in a month. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to different from conventional medical insurance of Takaful plans. Like e-hailing does what traditional taxis do, Gathercare does what conventional insurance or Takaful do except there’s a significant tweak to the whole mechanism that allows the cost to be pushed way, way down. We’re not delving too much into how Gathercare makes the money works to achieve the low cost benefits. For more info on that, you can read here.
Being a new player, Gathercare might appear to be coming against the established old-timers (read insurance companies). Just like Grab a few years ago, we’re at the initial stage where pushbacks are expected from the industry and the public alike. Convincing people to open up to this new alternative is like trying to persuade the grandma who’s just got into online shopping to up her game and start learning to code. With that said, at the rate of the community is growing, there’s reason to be optimistic and the public are starting to open up.
Will it be safe? Will it be cheaper? Is it sustainable? Is it regulated? The same concerns all over again. Yet they are not without merits. It’s the people’s money after all. Mismanagement, frauds, or outright scam are serious fears of most. That’s why Gathercare does not hold, invest, use up, nor do we have any control over the participants’ (sharers) money. This great responsibility is handed over to an appointed Trustee.
Of course, this would have been so much easier with the sought after Bank Negara’s regulations. But as of now, it is the matter of proving to the authority that Gathercare is worth cracking their heads for in order to craft a whole new set of rules and regulations, on fresh pieces of papers to govern a pioneering initiative such as Gathercare.
It’s completely the company’s own prerogative to present its monthly updates to Bank Negara as an indicator of how serious the intent of this venture is. As of January 2022, Gathercare has successfully managed 122 legit medical cases, amounting to more than RM600,000 leaving the beneficiaries with joy in learning that this concept works.
The number of sharers is growing each day. That’s the testament to its sustainability. The Grab story is only going to be emulated again. We’re currently actively looking at ways to grow the Gathercare app platform. More services and features are going to be added and upgrades are already in the pipeline. It doesn’t take much imagination anymore to picture yourself hailing a ride-sharing service to the hospital of your choice, to get a fully paid-for treatment via a Medical Cost Crowd Sharing app.