July 5, 2017
Robert A Vergara Jr.
Cover art Erka Capili Inciong
The increasing number of vehicles in Metro Manila not only aggravates traffic congestion but also the daily problem of where to park your car. So five months ago, a former executive built his own tech startup aimed at addressing this problem.
Thirty‑four‑year‑old Martin Luchangco spent a decade working at insurance company Philam Life and two years at banking giant Bank of the Philippine Islands. During those years, he was lucky enough to have been provided with his own parking slot, which spared him the trouble of finding a parking space. But in his daily trips to the office, he would observe the lack of parking spaces and their costs to many professionals, especially to those with 9‑to‑5 jobs.
“Parking becomes expensive after four hours, so what people do is they go down from their offices three times a day, move their car out of the parking lot, and put them back in just to avoid the additional ₱50 charge per succeeding hours,” he explained. “I found it a waste of time, but unfortunately these people have no choice.”
Aiming to provide a faster and easier way of parking, he took the plunge and swapped his career to launch Fetch—an app that provides an on‑demand valet.
Mr. Luchangco tested his idea of putting up Fetch last year by serving as a valet along with his family driver to some of his friends.
“The people I did parking for were very happy, they referred the service to their friends,” he recalled. “That’s the time I started bringing more drivers. That’s when I knew there was something good in this idea.”
Mr. Luchangco alloted ₱600,000 from his savings and started the business.
“I started saving money since I had the idea two years ago. I tried saving as much money as I can, so that when I start the business I wouldn’t need investors.”
He further said: “The hard thing about finding funding is convincing people how good your idea is. If people believe in your idea, it’s not hard to find funding sources. But if you have nothing but an idea, then the process becomes harder.”
At present, Fetch has about 170 active users and nearly 600 app downloads.
Users can choose from six pickup points to meet a valet at a particular time. The app sends updates on the car’s status, including a photo of the parking spot where it is located. Users just need to send a notification using the app to meet the assigned driver at the same spot or at a different pick‑up place upon leaving.
It charges users ₱45 for the pickup and ₱15 for every hour that their cars are parked. Payment is done via credit card for iOS users and cash for Android users.
“We want it to be affordable enough for people to use it everyday,” he said. “We want to change the notion that valet is a luxury service.”
The company has 13 drivers who were all outsourced from Newtrail Services, Inc.—a service contractor accredited by the Department of Labor and Employment. The drivers were also required to provide documents such as NBI and police clearances, professional driving license, and underwent medical check‑up and character reference.
“We make sure that we only get drivers who are trustworthy. We train them very well to make sure that they know how to handle different cars,” he said.
Fetch tracks its drivers via GPS and provides them with insurance coverage from BPI/MS Insurance Corporation for possible accidents and car damages.
According to him, the company has already raised about ₱3.5 million, which were all from his family and friends.
Fetch currently operates only in BGC from 7am to 8pm on weekdays, with plans to extend its operation to Makati and Ortigas and make its services available 24/7 by the end of the year.
The app is also currently available only for iOS users. Android users can book a valet by messaging Fetch on Facebook while the company has yet to release the app for the system.
By the end of the year, Fetch aims to raise about ₱8 million and develop its services. The company is also considering adding a carwash and other services, and extending its operations outside Metro Manila.
“Our goal is to really be able to grow our services. In this business, you need to invest in the service before you can start trying to grow your margins,” he said. “I’m really looking at serving more customers, I think the profitability will follow soon after that.”
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