Diamond Cab (HK) Limited -- barrier-free taxi providing wheelchair accessible transportation service for the wheelchair users

Diamond Cab (HK) Limited -- barrier-free taxi providing wheelchair accessible transportation service for the wheelchair users

Hong Kong S.A.R., China
Organization type: 
for profit
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Traditionally for decades, wheelchair users are not the target clients for taxi industry because the design of taxi vehicles is not user friendly and cost effective to meet their needs. Transportation of wheelchair users becomes the social service subsidized by government or the illegal service operated without taxi licenses. Either of the above is not sustainable when the population is rapidly aging. Working hard to build up the strategic partnership with taxi licence owners in Hong Kong, Diamond Cab showcases the groundbreaking innovation with a socially driven business model which is scalable with more potential partners joining in.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Hong Kong is the gate of China in the world with its unique colonial history which nurtured the place with international infrastructure, from hardware to software for over hundred of years. China is getting more and more attention in both economic and political arena but still, Hong Kong, with 90% population in Chinese, is the best place to start with. Diamond Cab, as groundbreaking social innovation, is benefited by the media reporting from both overseas and Mainland China news agencies. Fast Company made the breaking news internationally about Diamond Cab online while Phoneix TV feature story impressed the audience in China.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Diamond Cab, with the newly adapted vehicle tailor made for the wheelchair boarding is innovative itself. Details of cab mechanics: http://www.diamondcab.com.hk/en/taking-diamond-cab.php That’s why it is always described as the legend of taxi industry in Hong Kong. Moreover, in order to secure the sustainability of business with priority for wheelchair users, strategic partnership is also important for Diamond Cab. Elderly Nursing Homes, Oil Company, Car Manufacturer, Car Agent, Bank, Land Developers, Theme Park Practitioners, Drivers’ training body, and NGOs, etc are all strategic partners of Diamond Cab contributing to daily operation of the cabs.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Diamond Cab imported five wheelchair accessible vehicles from Japan and modified as taxis to meet the operation requirement in Hong Kong. With its easily boarding configuration, wheelchair users and their carers enjoy the hassle-free transportation in every trip. Diamond Cab rent the licenses from the owners and becomes the management agent to facilitate the cab fleet operation including matching with drivers. Diamond Cab is also responsible for marketing and promoting the services and managing the 24 hours call center to cater for the need of wheelchair passengers at any time. Over 10 drivers are trained not only to operate the mechanic wheelchair boarding facilities but also to comfort the wheelchair users with excellent driving attitude and skills. Drivers are self-employed with his passion to serve the disabled community and contribute to the groundbreaking social venture in Hong Kong.
About You
Organization:
Diamond Cab (HK) Limited
About You
First Name

Shuk Yi, Doris

Last Name

Leung

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About Your Organization
Organization Name

Diamond Cab (HK) Limited

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

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Innovation
What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

From a Journalist to a Social Entrepreneur
Doris Leung, CEO, Diamond Cab was a veteran journalist working at i-Cable News since graduation in 1993. Doris has been reporting and anchoring the community news programs for decade and therefore she has hands-on knowledge on the community issues. Also the fruitful journalistic experience equipped Doris with tremendous social network, from an underprivileged worker to a Legislative Councillor, from top government officials to grass-root social leaders. These all contribute to the talent and knowledge pool which helps Doris to realize the Diamond Cab with more effective and efficient way.

Inspired by Mom in Wheelchair
In 2006, Doris’ beloved mom was diagnosis with brain tumours which seriously affected her right limbs’ mobility. In 2007, after two operations, Doris’ mom has become permanently disabled and needs to live in wheelchair in her rest of life. The real life experience of taking care of wheelchair users inspired Doris on the serious lack of decent, convenient and barrier-free point-to-point transportation in Hong Kong. Doris thought in such a rapid aging society like Hong Kong, it will become a great problem very soon and the life of the elders in wheelchairs will be even sadder.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Diamond Cab has successfully launched five cabs tailor made for the wheelchair boarding with top quality of taxi service. We provide 24 hours bilingual booking hotline for the wheelchair users to reserve the cab at their most convenience. The drivers are also standing by in 24 hours with advance bookings. We can provide maximum 100 single trips every day from days to nights catering for the specific and different needs of wheelchair users. The flexibility and availability of the bookings pioneers in the market whereas the similar service provided by social service organization or illegal van operators can’t provide the same convenience of service.

Since launching in Feb, the five cabs have been serving over 3,000 wheelchair user orders in which repeated customers are found. Only in hospitals, Diamond Cab serves over 450 single trips a month, making nearly four times increase since the first month of launching. Over twenty thousands pamphlets and rolling up banners have been circulating around the hospitals, nursing homes, elderly centers, property estates, special need schools, etc.

The launching of Diamond Cab has been attracted numerous, both overseas and local media reports with face value over millions Hong Kong dollars. Part of the interviews is posted in our website: http://www.diamondcab.com.hk/en/media-coverage.php

The Innovation of Charity Tour with Diamond Cab helps to bridge up the underprivileged wheelchair users with the corporate sponsors with barrier-free tour. In the past four months, over 40 deprived wheelchair users and their carers were benefitted by the success of Charity Tour. The idea also attracts the support of Disney HK Resort which promised to provide unlimited complimentary tickets for the beneficiaries of Charity Tour with Diamond Cab. The first batch of complimentary tickets is 500 costing HK$197,500.

Another innovation of Mobile Gallery for Artists with Disabilities also attracts corporate to support a group of graduates of special need schools to create their artwork as taxi advertising. The sponsorship has broken the record of normal taxi advertising! After the first success, Diamond Cab is planning to make another series of Mobile Gallery for Artists with Disabilities named as “12 Artwishes @ Diamond Cab” . The project will last a year and also invite the arts students in university to teach the disabled artists to make new artwork for Diamond Cab. Then the decorated cabs will visit the school every week and totally 52 schools will be benefited after a year. Finally there are Award Presentation and Gallery plus Diamond Cab show at Shopping Mall to further attract public to learn about the Mobile Gallery achievement. The project costs over millions Hong Kong dollars.

The prospect of Diamond Cab has been attracting different investors and a local bank has committed to offer a loan over a million Hong Kong dollars with privileged rate to support this new venture to further develop the business in coming years.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

We start to have tourists booking Diamond Cab by emails or by travel agents. This is no wonder highly potential market as our cabs are ready with bilingual communications and flexibility of bookings. More strategic partnerships will be achieved with travel industry in same pace of the development of tourism like cruise hub in Hong Kong.

With the ease of transportation, a lot more innovation of tour planning can be realized with new ideas. For example, there are many elders in wheelchairs home alone and have burning desire to go out. Diamond Cab is ready to develop the local barrier-free tour for the elders including innovative site-seeing service. Actually some drivers have started to equip themselves as professional tour guides too.

Sustainability
What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Night Business of Wheelchair Users
One of the greatest challenges for Diamond Cab is the night business. As usual, most wheelchair users in Hong Kong won’t have too much social life at night other than going to banquets occasionally. The demand of using Diamond Cab has to be created with innovation. Doris is planning to promote more entertainment with Diamond Cab by generating more partnerships with cinemas or karaoke shops, especially in the weekdays from Monday to Thursday when the entertainment venues are less full than the weekends.

Uprising Oil Price
Diamond Cab is fuelled by gasoline which is more than HK$16 per litre in Hong Kong. The petrol tax $6.06 is included in the retail price. Before launching the service, Doris has collaborated with Exxon Mobil to issue a discount card for the Diamond Cab drivers to save the fuel cost. And then after delivering the promising service to the community, Doris will lobby for the government policy on decreasing or even waiving the petrol tax with the reason of facilitating the barrier-free transportation. The policy change is the best showcases for social enterprises which bridge the service gap between the subsidized social service and pure commercialized business.

Availability of Drivers with Mission
Taking care of wheelchair users by cabs is the new career choice in Hong Kong since Feb 2011. However, it is a great challenge to secure a steady pool of drivers whom have mission in mind and in action. Instead of searching for the drivers in the existing taxi industry, we have got the help from the Integrated Vocational Development Center (IVDC), the subsidiary of Vocational Training Council. The newly launched Top Quality Taxi Driver Course at IVDC has attracted the students to learn being the taxi drivers. Diamond Cab has worked together with IVDC and started the recruitment talks for the graduates in which we can further pick up the talents. As the cab fleet expands, Doris has been working with the youth services center to organize more talks about Diamond Cab, further educate the young generations to consider Diamond Cab Driver as a life long career.

Availability of Patient Investors
Even though the prospect of Diamond Cab is positive, the high running cost of the gasoline fuelled cabs is always challenging. Only by expanding the cabs, we can enjoy more economies of scale and only by inviting more patient investors, we can buy time to make the business more sustainable in long run. Taxi License is a kind of investment with lucrative return in Hong Kong, so we need to find the more compatible taxi license investors who are willing to get more social return than financial return with the Diamond Cabs, at least for the first few years. Doris will promote the idea with the partnership with Bank and through the Finance news. Riding on the momentum of Impact investing, we hope we can find and secure more committed visionary and patient social investors on taxi licenses.

Tell us about your partnerships

Taxi License Owner
We must get a legal license to run the point-to-point transportation service for passengers and taxi license is the unique and scalable choice for us. However, the taxi license costs 4-5millions Hong Kong Dollars each and it’s very difficult to persuade the taxi license owners to change the new vehicle and try the new venture. Diamond Cab successfully makes the partnership with one of the biggest taxi license owners in Hong Kong and changed the five cabs into barrier-free taxis. Also, Diamond Cab does not need to buy the licenses but only rent from the owners to run the business. The leveraging is perfect for starting up with limited capital in Diamond Cab.

Vehicle Manufacturer and Sales Agent
Even we got the license in hand, if the car manufacturer does not support the project, Diamond Cab cannot be achieved. To test the brand new market and operation, we can only afford to make five cabs to Hong Kong. The vehicle type we chosen is Toyota Noah Welcab which is only domestically sold in Japan. We spent over months to persuade Crown Motors which is the Sole Agent of Toyota vehicles in Hong Kong to make the small deal for Diamond Cab. Crown Motors showed their excellent CSR partnership with us and support the venture by working closely with Toyota in Japan.

Taxi Call Center
We need to make the booking of Diamond Cab with convenience so the 24hours Hotline is a must for the operation. Instead of setting up a brand new taxi call center for the cabs, we leverage the existing taxi call center to share the experienced manpower to manage the hotline. Taxi Call Center becomes our outsourcer so that Diamond Cab can enjoy hassle-free operation on booking and scheduling of the orders. Also, riding on the existing taxi call center, it saves a lot on the capital to set up the business.

Elderly Nursing Homes
When we have secured the supply of licenses, vehicles and call center, we must get the support of demand side for the cabs. We have got in touch with the biggest elderly nursing home group in Hong Kong and the Executive Director who is also running the nursing home joined us as one of the Shareholders. This can largely help our wheelchair orders coming from the nursing homes. Actually we sold the discounted coupons to them and they will become our Sales and persuade the families of the elders to buy the cab service.

Bank
It is extremely difficult for the small venture without track record or any securities to get the loan from bank. But Diamond Cab has made it. The bank Top Executives believes in the prospect of our business and also shows their true support to Diamond Cab. The loan is over HK$1 millions with a prime rate and instalment period. The Bank has become the Strategic Partner and when we plan for the expansion of the cabs which need more financing, they can be benefited with more investors joining in too.

Explain your selections

Before starting up Diamond Cab, Doris Leung, CEO, Diamond Cab joined as volunteer at Social Ventures Hong Kong which is the first venture philanthropy fund in Hong Kong supporting social enterprises financially and non-financially. The funders for SVhk includes the visionary individual investors who look for SROI and fund recycle for the social enterprises.

With the same vision and mission, Diamond Cab got the first round support to get the funding or vice versa, Diamond Cab is the most attractive project ready for the investors to join in the loop of SVhk. The showcase of Diamond Cab is good for the future of SVhk which has become more popular after launching Diamond Cab as flagship project.

Apart from the individual investors, more and more corporate would like to set up Charitable Foundation to better make use of their profit for social good. AFH Charitable Foundation contributes to SVhk and become the indirect shareholder of Diamond Cab. The close network of prominent business sector can also enhance the portfolio of Diamond Cab to further seek the future capital in expansion.

Also, as the story of Doris who found Diamond Cab largely because of her mom in wheelchair, she can attract the support from friends who know well about her family. This shows how the
dedication of social entrepreneurs mobilizes the people closely around. The spiritual and emotional support is even more obvious with family-like friends contributing financially to Diamond Cab.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

First of all, I will plan for the expansion of the cab in two ways:
1. Getting more Impact Investors to join as Taxi License Owners so that the rent of the license can be tapped with more reasonable level. Impact Investors who put SROI before ROI and hopefully they will put how many wheelchair orders we made before how much money we can pay for the license rent.
2. Training more caring drivers to stand-by can help to expand our service. Drivers with good heart and driving skills are important to Diamond Cab which brands are showing excellent service for the wheelchair users. It takes time to search and train the drivers but after four month operation, we do attract more extraordinary taxi drivers to join in.

Then, I will line up more Strategic Partners of NGOs who provide elderly services:

1. Ageing population starts alarming Hong Kong and more government budget are tailor made for providing the day care or discharging care for the elders in need. Instead of operating a 24 hours vehicle fleet, the NGOs is more likely to partner with Diamond Cab which is flexible in barrier-free taxi service. We will issue discounted coupons to the cases at NGOs so that we can have stable wheelchair orders for the drivers.

Challenges
Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.

PRIMARY

Restricted access to new markets

SECONDARY

Lack of visibility and investment

TERTIARY

Lack of skills/training

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Transportation for the wheelchair users is a long awaiting market everywhere but not until we made the wheelchair accessible vehicles available for public transports, we can create the new market for all. The restricted access of this new market is resulted from the unwillingness of the license owners, the lack of connections with the wheelchair user market, the emptiness of the innovation to make it as word-of-mouths for the new branding of wheelchair accessible taxis. Diamond Cab made all the impossible become possible and even real.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.

PRIMARY

Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services

SECONDARY

Grown geographic reach: Global

TERTIARY

Leveraged technology

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

Diamond Cab has planned to provide more barrier-free touring services for the wheelchair users, especially at night time. So riding Diamond Cab to enjoy the beautiful night view at the Peak, seeing the laser light show in front of harbor or firework at Disneyland are no more dreams for the wheelchair bound people. Not only for foreign tourists, but also local especially the lonely elders, Diamond Cab can help to improve their quality of living.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

The collaborations with the for-profit taxi company, car manufacturer, car agent, nursing elder homes,
oil company, bank, theme park and restaurants are all key strategic partnerships having made Diamond Cab succeed. Without their support, Diamond Cab will be either in high risk of starting up the new cab fleet with huge capital investment, or without huge database of wheelchair users.

Other than the business sector, Diamond Cab cannot make happen without the non-profit sector support. Hospitals, both private and public, contribute the most stable passengers for Diamond Cab. The free promotion of banners, posters and pamphlets in hospital walkways or wards facilitates the direct sales to the drivers.