This startup is turning your neighbours into self-collection points

This startup is turning your neighbours into self-collection points
(L - R) Erik Cheong, 28 (Co-Founder & COO), Bryan See Toh, 32 (Co-Founder & CEO), Tan Gan Hong, 29 (Co-Founder & CFO) of Park N Parcel
PHOTO: Park N Parcel

How often is it that we wait weeks for our online purchases, only to receive a call about its arrival…but with no one at home to receive it?

For the luckier ones among us, a water riser cupboard next to our doors acts as a temporary storage spot, or a friendly neighbour offers our parcel homage in their houses; but for many, this just means a delivery slip at our doors, informing us that we need to proceed to the nearest post office or POPStation to collect our item.

With our busy schedules, rushing down to the post office (which is only open for a limited amount of hours) is more often than not a chore, and there have been many times that personally, I put off buying items because of the unpredictability of their arrival.

"There must be an easier way to do this," we would've thought countless times to ourselves.

Well, this startup is taking that thought and making it a reality.

A Hassle-Free Way To Collect Your Online Shopping Packages

Founded by 3 Singaporeans, Erik Cheong, 28 (Co-Founder & COO), Bryan See Toh, 32 (Co-Founder & CEO), Tan Gan Hong, 29 (Co-Founder & CFO), Park N Parcel wants to provide online shoppers an "innovative way to collect parcels in a hassle-free manner by parking their parcels with the neighbours".

What this means is that instead of worrying about when you'll get your parcel, the delivery person will simply head to your neighbour's house and drop it off there, and you'll be able to pick it up at your convenience.

For the 'Parkers', those acting as collection points, they'll be paid $1 per successfully delivered parcel.

But what's interesting is the background of its founders - none of them were from the logistics industry prior to this.

They were actually equity dealers from Maybank Kim Eng Securities, and have been working together for the past 4 years - possibly explaining the undeniable chemistry among each other.

Says Erik, "While being equity dealers, we decided to embark on our own business and were once in the hospitality industry, where we managed a hostel and the operations. After the experience and knowledge we have attained from the hostel business, we felt that we all have individual skills that complement one another very well."

After starting Park N Parcel in April 2016, they have since quit their day jobs and are now running it full-time.

"We have always wanted to start something of our own, and so we decided to step out of our comfort zone. Moreover, the rise in startups has been emerging recently in Singapore over the past few years and being part of such an industry makes us feel honoured."

Photo: Park N Parcel

From A Personal Pain Point To A Startup Idea

The rationale for starting up is like many other startups we've featured - they experienced a problem, and instead of complaining, decided to do something about it.

Amongst the trio, the common reasons cited were the multiple calls from delivery people at inconvenient timings, consistently missed parcels, and the risk that came with leaving the items at their gates.

"I am usually not home to receive the parcels and thus, that caused a lot of inconvenience for me. Moreover, on some occasions, I needed the items urgently and scheduling for a redelivery will take more time for the parcels to be delivered to me. Sometimes, the parcels are left behind my gate which I felt was risky," shared Bryan.

Added Gan Hong, "As for me, receiving multiple calls from the delivery during my working hours especially during meetings, was definitely distracting."

Thus came the birth of Park N Parcel.

Photo: Park N Parcel

And if you're thinking that it's wordplay on the phrase "part and parcel" - you're absolutely right!

Quipped Erik, "We hope to position Park N Parcel to be part and parcel of the E-commence boom in Southeast Asia. When you conduct online shopping, you will definitely remember 'Park N Parcel' as an essential lifestyle service that one might not be able to live without!"

"'Park N Parcel' also sounds catchy at the same time which might bear resemblance to 'Park Your Parcel' and 'Park Parcel'. With such a name, we hope that people will think about using our service when they are planning to receive a delivery or when purchasing something online."

Making Park N Parcel, Part And Parcel Of Our Lives

While established in April 2016, they only launched Park N Parcel this year in January, and started with 100 Parkers as collection points.

"We spent the first 8 months on prototype, test bed, conducting market research through surveys, tightening up our concept, conceptualisation the design, and lastly on fund raising."

But given that this was a new concept - where did they find individuals willing to have their houses as collection points?

Revealed Erik, "The first 100 Parkers were mainly from roadshows and events, flyer distribution in neighbourhood areas, door-to-door surveys and word of mouth. We relied heavily on the surveys to attain feedback about our idea which we felt was important because ultimately, they would be the ones utilising our platform."

"We also have a presence on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and also leveraged on influencers and bloggers which have helped us tremendously."

Photo: Park N Parcel

Parkers also have the responsibility of being at home so that the process can be successfully carried out, and Erik shared that when they first started out, 50 per cent were residential, consisting of housewives, retirees, students and home-based business owners; while the other 50 per cent were made up of commercial businesses like cafes, minimarts and retail stores in shopping malls.

Yes - commercial businesses can also be used for parking parcels!

"For residential Parkers, there are interested to earn additional passive income. For commercial Parkers, they are more interested in the footfall of their premise. This works more as a collaboration for them as people who collect their parcels at their premises can potentially be a sale for these commercial Parkers. Thus, this is a win-win situation for both parties."

As of this month, the number of Parkers have increased to 500.

But the journey hasn't been completely smooth-sailing, and problems came mostly from limited resources, and general skepticism about this new concept.

Revealed Erik, "The fact that Park N Parcel is using neighbours as parcel collection points is constantly faced with skepticism because some might feel that it is risky to receive unknown parcels. In the beginning, due to such skepticism, we were searching for constant validation through a few testbed neighbourhood estates such as Punggol, Sengkang and Serangoon."

Reviving The 'Kampung Spirit' Among Singaporeans

Photo: Park N Parcel

Writing the article, I couldn't help but think about how the startup's service is somewhat rekindling the 'kampung spirit*' in our usually introverted lives in Singapore.

(*Kampung Spirit refers to a sense of community and cohesion among neighbours)

Erik heartily agreed with the sentiment, declaring that it is one of their aims to do so.

"With the rise in technology and smartphones now, we are so glued onto our tech gadgets that sometimes we forget how to interact with one another face to face. We hope that through our platform, we can help the community to connect, such as having millennials which in this case are the users of our service and the Parkers, majority of them being the older generation, to connect and simply to share a word or two."

"In fact, many of our Parkers have [given us] feedback about how they have made a couple of friends through this service. They have also seen more familiar faces around the neighbourhood. I believe that some of these Parkers feel that the networking experiences far more fulfilling and it's beyond just making extra income."

Park N Parcel In The Present, And Future

Erik shares that so far, reception of the service has been positive, and the number of parcels going through the process has been gradually increasing.

"Park N Parcel is similar to Grab, Uber and Airbnb - we adopt a sharing economy model where it is a shared community for people from all walks of life to connect. Due to the success of sharing economy services like these established companies, many people are more open to the idea of a sharing economy."

"We believe there will be more Parkers joining us in time, [and] with more Parkers, this will cause a ripple effect on the users as well. With more Parkers covering more parts of Singapore, the distance between a Parker and a user will most likely be shorter. Thus, users will be more inclined to use our service knowing that there is a Parker situated near his or her premises."

As for expansion plans, or adding related services to its current lineup, Erik reveals that they're currently aiming to hit 1,000 Parkers solely in Singapore, and they are currently discussing partnership plans with companies like Playe, an online retailer, and logistics companies such as Qourier, Gogovan, Roadbull and Aramex.

"We hope these potential collaborations can boost the traction of company and make our operation more efficient."

Further down the road, they are looking to expand overseas, firstly to markets like Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Words Of Advice For Fellow Entrepreneurs

A resident of startup hotbed Blk 71 under NUS Enterprise Incubation, Park N Parcel was selected to become one of their portfolio startups in March this year, and Erik "strongly recommends" new startups to join them there.

Photo: Park N Parcel

"The environment of the working space here is full of energetic and young entrepreneurs, sharing the same mindset of a startup. This is a great opportunity to share experiences and ideas to other startup businesses and even special guests such as William Tanuwijaya from Tokopedia!"

As for advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Erik shares, "Firstly, it is important to build a great team. It is never good to work alone and we are thankful that we have the support of one another. Secondly, to take action. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take risks! Everyone have great ideas but success only comes through action."

"Thirdly, know your customers. Your customers are the most important part in building your business and are the greatest source of learning. They are the ones that you can look upon for solutions so as to serve them better. Let unhappy customers share with you their bad experiences on your products or services and do not be discouraged."

"Lastly, learn from mistakes. Be humble and acknowledge your mistakes. If you make a mistake, fret not. The more you learn from your mistakes, the closer you are to success."

We thank Erik and the Park N Parcel team for their time - check them out here!

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