Pivot & Change to Survive & Thrive

…a lesson from Co-Vid from MUTE Garage Bali, Indonesia

“What if 2020 isn’t cancelled ? What if 2020 is the year we have all been waiting for? A year so uncomfortable, so scary, so raw – that it forces us to grow. A year that screams so loud finally waking us up from our slumber. A year we finally accept the need for change. Work for change. Become the change. A year we finally band together, instead of pushing each other apart“

LESLIE DWIGHT

Somewhere around early March, the CoVid Pandemic became very real.

Infiltrating every conversation during that time in Bali was the borderline panic and confirmed uncertainty of the future.

Would businesses all have to close? Would everyone get sick? Do we all have to leave Bali? What will happen with our visas? Is it safe here? Is it safe anywhere? Will tourists still travel? When will they come back?

And, how long will it last? Is 2020 over?

Well, hindsight is a fabulous thing and makes for a great story. Businesses did have to close, some people did get sick, tourists were not able to travel, people left Bali. When they will return, and how long this will last are still unanswered questions.

Uncertainty is still the overwhelming vibe here in Bali for many families and businesses, but there is also an upside as we move into a “New Normal’ way of thinking.

How MUTE not only survived but flourished during the pandemic is a testament to the “New Normal” approach to business. Flexibility, adaption, and proactive attitudes are the key to success.

Bums on Seats

During the initial lockdown in Bali, non-essential businesses were required to close. As a result of this, many long term residents and expats needed to reconsider their spending and lifestyle.

MUTE Bali has welcomed over 3,000 riders in the 24 months from 2018 – 2020. In early 2020, MUTE found itself with a large fleet of unrented petrol bikes usually allocated to short term tourist hire so developed a marketing plan to target these long term residents of Bali as a new market – offering a competitive monthly rent, no lock-in contract and an easy monthly payment system.

New long term, or monthly rental customers grew by 72% (12 to 43 riders) from February 1st to August 1st, and long term rental revenue was up 50% from 2019. Utilization of the MUTE fleet is currently at a 87% level, with long term consistency projected. Attracted by the lower cost, the high level of quality service, safe bikes, and the minimum commitment required during an uncertain time, MUTE was offering the best deal in town.

Membership and Community

The MUTE Lifestyle Membership was launched in February, just before the Co-Vid outbreak. The membership entitles all riders of MUTE to discounts on dining, experiences, and retail as well as offers monthly community events such as workshops, social gatherings and charity focused collaborations.

With most businesses on hold as the year progressed, this was the perfect time to reach out to like-minded partners who shared MUTE’s vision of creating a community of eco-aware people.

Without the usual rush and chaos of managing a demanding tourism clientele, we had time to talk to people and develop ideas. The lifestyle membership concept was eagerly embraced and businesses have enjoyed the additional exposure from MUTE’s Lifestyle Membership through social media and direct email marketing.

A big drawcard for partners has been the promise of future opportunities that will arise with our sister group in Shanghai when travel reopens. Shanghai has operated the Lifestyle Membership Program for 2 years and has a well established, 3,000 strong membership. Loyalty to MUTE amongst it’s Shanghai members is legendary, with Shanghai ‘mutants’ being responsible for keeping many dining and recreation outlets afloat in 2020. MUTE is now a major social influencer in the city.

MUTE Bali’s membership base has reached almost 200 in the 4 months since the pandemic hit and continues to build traction. Partners are selected based on their business values and commitment to a better future. The space that Co-Vid allowed to build this new concept in Bali with meaningful networking has been instrumental in the newfound success of MUTE’s Lifestyle Membership.

A Greener Awareness

Dolphins in the canals of Venice, clear skies in China, record reduced carbon emission counts. A decrease in economic activities and a drop in both road and air transport has led to temporary cleaner skies and decreasing levels of air pollutants.

“Build Back Better” is a new business phrase being embraced globally as people are seeing the tangible effects of reducing carbon emissions and listening to consumer demands to make things right. This shift has been experienced locally in Bali.

Bali was already a place of heightened eco-awareness. Personal health and the health of the planet are priorities for many. Weekly beach clean ups, no-plastic campaigns, zero-waste grocery shopping, and chemical-free cleaning products have been widely embraced by the community even before the pandemic but have skyrocketed (carbon-free!) over recent months. People can see the changes in their environment and have time to invest in making their own changes. People are starting to understand that even the smallest change makes a difference when many people make a small change.

This shift coincided beautifully with the launch of electric scooters to the MUTE fleet. From the Bali launch in 2016, MUTE has always worked towards offering affordable electric transport, driven to be the first and best company to offer zero-noise, zero-emission, zero-fuel transport to short and long term riders. It took 4 years to have the new e-bikes licensed and legal in Bali, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

The MUTE Electric fleet is growing each month, and the constant waiting list for electric scooters proves the community is ready to embrace a cleaner way of life.

All MUTE’s marketing, branding, and planning are directed to electric technology. The current petrol fleet is being gradually replaced with all new electric bikes. A new look website, new electric-focused social media platforms, and a dedicated business development team have had great success with sending a message to the community that being greener need not be more expensive or inconvenient.

MUTE is now a well-known brand in Bali’s expat community. You can spot a MUTE or two during any ride through the most popular suburbs of Berawa and Canggu. This brand building has been leveraged through person to person communication and a clear, strong message that we can all work together to make change happen.

To other businesses struggling with this challenging and ever-changing economic environment – keep going. We firmly believe that being creative, staying positive, and seeking a new (unriden) path is how we have made it through so far, and how we will continue to stay growing. Think outside the square. Do things differently. Invest in your beliefs. Anything is possible.

Build Back Better.

Simone Rogers, MUTE International
Bali, August 2020
@mutegaragebali

Shanghai scooters to go global

AFR correspondent

Michael Smith

Patrick Davin’s subscription-based model for leasing e-scooters has proved popular with Chinese consumers. PHOTO: MICHAEL SMITH

China An Australian expat is spruiking the ‘Netflix of transport’.

Shanghai | Patrick Davin is unlike most of the Australian entrepreneurs who come to China to seek their fortune.

Instead of exporting an existing business model into the world’s biggest consumer market, he wants to take his Shanghai start-up – MUTE International – global.

Mr Davin, who spent years manufacturing electric scooters in China, now leases them to consumers through a Netflix-style subscription-based model that has been booming in the postcoronavirus economy.

‘‘I like to call MUTE a start-up that has already started up. We are the Netflix of the transport industry. You pay a subscription fee and we give you the product,’’ he told The Australian Financial Review in an interview at his Shanghai showroom.

nitially popular with expatriates in Shanghai, many of MUTE’s 4500 members are now Chinese who no longer want to own their own scooter or car as they cut costs in the post-coronavirus economic downturn.

Chinese consumers have also gone off the bicycle-sharing platforms that were booming three years ago when Mr Davin set up the company.

‘‘I launched MUTE three years ago during the biggest boom in sharing platforms. People said I was mad,’’ he said.

‘‘But I realised the world was changing. Millennials and post-Millennials had all grown up with the emergence of transport on an app such as Uber. Car sales were going down.’’

An unexpected twist of coronavirus, which hit China in late January and February, was that while many of his expatriate members left, they were replaced with locals who did not want to catch public transport or use shared bikes. The subscription fee is 300 yuan ($60) a month.

‘‘Our Chinese customers went through the roof during COVID because everyone was so paranoid about touching a handlebar other people had touched. People were reluctant to get on a subway, train or taxi because of the last person there,’’ he said.

China was a logical market for Mr Davin – who founded ASX-listed Chinese scooter manufacturer Vmoto – to set up shop. There are 15 million scooters in Shanghai alone, which has a population of 24 million.

MUTE now has offices in Indonesia, the UK, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and France, and is trialling a small number of scooters in Australia. He has ambitious plans to take the business global. Indonesia, including Bali, is the second-largest market with 500 members. He said membership was growing at 100 a month.

Mr Davin is in talks with potential investors in Singapore and Hong Kong for the funding to boost membership to to 20,000.

He said the company wa profitable and has a market cap of $US25 million ($36 million) but that could increase tenfold in the next 18 months.

‘‘We see it as a unicorn business as the market is so big it won’t take long, The only limitation is capital to purchase the bikes,’’ he said.

‘‘People laugh at me when I say we are going to a quarter-of-a-billion dollar valuation. but if you have 20,000 members and those members are generating, for example, $60 a month, that’s $US1.2 million a month in revenue.’’

Longer term, the targets are even higher. Mr Davin sees potential for a $US10 billion market capitalisation if they can get to 1 million members in the next three to four years.

Mr Davin is not happy about the deterioration in China-Australia relations but said it was not hurting his business so far.

‘‘It is run by Australians, founded by Australians and we still see ourselves as an Australian company,’’ he said.

‘‘Most businesses open locally [in their home market] and then aspire to go into the Chinese market. China has been great to deal with and we’ve learnt a hell of a lot from opening here.’’