Vietnam is a motorbike nation. Surrounding countries like Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia, with similar populations to Vietnam, have slowly made the transition into cars. They’re full of car traffic. But Vietnam’s traffic jams are unique. And that presents a huge market for motorbike products and services.
Enter Digi-Gps: SmartLock and SmartBike
Two such solutions are the SmartBike and the SmartLock, made by a team of engineers out of a company called Digi-Gps.
Now, let’s imagine you have a motorbike first. And just for the sake of storytelling, your motorbike is really nice, and lots of thieves want to steal it. That’s where the SmartLock and SmartBike come in.
The SmartLock, which costs 500,000 VND ($25), is a bluetooth-enabled device that basically locks your motorbike if you walk more than 10 meters away from it. 10 meters, and it automatically shuts off and locks. Within 30 meters, it will send a text message to your phone if anyone touches or tries to steal your motorbike. Beyond 30 meters, and you won’t be able to get those text messages. But basically, no one will be able to turn on your motorbike without your bluetooth activated smartphone nearby. The SmartLock is tapped into your motorbikes electrical system.
Now, let’s say you’ve got some extra cash. The SmartBike goes for 1.6 million VND ($80) and it’s much more sophisticated. The larger device takes all the basic features of the bluetoothy SmartLock and adds a SIM card to the equation. Thus, you can text your motorbike to turn it off (with a smartphone or dumbphone) via SMS or your iOS app. On top of this, you can track exactly where your device is via GPS. Basically, SmartLock is about locking, and SmartBike is about tracking and locking. Both of them also use the bike’s own honking system to turn into an alarm.
Now, if you’ve got a motorbike, devices like these are a big relief.
Sound familiar? Remember SetechViet
Now, if you’ve been reading me, you know that I wrote about a startup in Vietnam in early December last year called SetechViet. This company has been manufacturing a device called the S-Bike, which basically does the same thing as the SmartBike. There are just a few differences:
- SetechViet engineers will themselves install the S-Bike device into your motorbike. SmartBike, on the other hand, ships with a manual that enables any motorbike engineer to install it.
- The S-Bike has its own alarm system.
- The S-Bike already went through one iteration in the market, selling 1,000 units.
- SetechViet has an angel investor (amount undisclosed).
- SetechViet started with the motorbike solution first, whereas Digi-Gps comes from a history of device making with cars.
- The Digi-Gps founder speaks English, the SetechViet founder speaks French.
- Digi-Gps just won DEMO ASEAN 2013, SetechViet won the S-Idea competition in 2009.
But at the end of the day, their products essentially do the same thing: they prevent motorbike theft.
The roots of Digi-Gps
Digi-Gps is a company that always specialized in locking and tracking vehicles, but in the past, it’s been in cars. The company has been around for two years but motorbikes are a new frontier for them. With cars, the company made its money early from selling over 2,000 blackbox units to car manufacturers and distributors. These blackboxes are required by the Vietnamese government and therefore presented a clear opportunity to Digi-Gps’s founder, Quan Dinh. The blackboxes basically use GPS technology to track cars throughout the country.
Thus, it’s a natural next step for Quan to look at motorbikes. After all, Vietnam has over 33.4 million motorbikes in the country and that growth is not abetting. Although cars have been increasing in Vietnam, the high tax on car importation and the small streets in Vietnam make cars an inconvenience. Motorbikes are here to stay.
On top of this, Vietnam’s motorbike delivery market is taking off. Folks like GHN and Zship are in heated battle, the food delivery market is still growing, and there are increasingly more e-commerce businesses investing in their own motorbike fleets. That means they need to have technology to manage all their motorbikes. Quan says this is a big opportunity.
We’ve been talking to delivery businesses about our device and they really need it. It’s a clear opportunity because they have to manage so many motorbikes across the city. We’re interested in selling directly to them.
The incoming competition and device future
Now, SetechViet is about to face some competition from Digi-Gps. Currently, Digi-Gps is looking for $2 million in seed funding to manufacture, ship, and market their device. That’s not an easy sum to find, despite what the latest numbers out of Vietnam’s investments and exits indicate. In addition, their product hasn’t been tested on the market yet. Whereas, SetechViet has already sold 1,000 devices since mid last year.
On the other hand, SetechViet has been struggling to get the second version of its device onto the market, despite recent refreshes to its website and securing an angel investor.
The interesting thing is both companies are interested in getting devices into the homes of Vietnamese people. After motorbikes, they want to allow Vietnamese people to control things like lights, TV’s, and karaoke machines from their smartphones. By the middle of next year, we’re bound to see some heavy competition in this arena.
(Editing by Charlie Custer and Willis Wee)