HK startup Diamond Cab shortlisted for Chivas's social enterprise competition

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A Hong Kong start-up is in the running for a share of a one million US dollar investment from Chivas Regal. We speak to the founder of Diamond Cab, Doris Leung, about how the company got involved in The Venture

This July, 16 start-ups from across the globe will pitch to a panel of Industry experts for a chance to win a share of the one million US dollar fund in The Venture, set up by Chivas Regal. Among them is Diamond Cab from Hong Kong, the brainchild of Doris Leung. In 2007, Leung’s mother became wheelchair-bound after being diagnosed with brain tumours and suddenly found getting around in our city a real challenge. Doris and her brother had private cars, but a lack of time to transport their mother, their father lacked the strength to move her into a car and much of the public transport was simply lacking in wheelchair accessibility. Yes, there were vans, but charges were hiked for wheelchair users and…they smelt dreadful! We spoke to Leung about the idea behind Diamond Cabs and how the company has found itself in such a prestigious shortlist.


Doris Leung of Diamond Cab

Tell us a little bit about Diamond Cab, how did you come up with the idea?
The idea came from Social Ventures Hong Kong initially. They saw that there was a problem for wheelchair-bound people in HK, so they came up with the idea for cabs for people in need. I picked this idea up, mainly because of my Mum who became disabled in 2007 from brain tumors, and created Diamond Cab. This gave me insight into how big the issue is. It’s so difficult for wheelchair-bound people to get around the city. I saw a lot of social injustices in this issue.

What does Diamond Cab do for the community?

We provide a transportation service for those most in need. The taxis allow the people to stay in their wheelchairs while travelling in the car. It’s really hassle free.

How many of these are there?

We have six at the moment, it started primarily in Kowloon but we expanded to Hong Kong Island as well in 2013. And we are hoping to add one more next year.

How did you get involved in Chivas The Venture?

My colleagues told me about the competition with Chivas. We just thought that it was great that Chivas was looking to promote social enterprises, so I applied as soon as I could!

What do you hope to gain from the experience?

I hope for global recognition for Diamond Cab. We’re looking for potential support in the long run, so this will be very useful to promote the urgent needs of Hong Kong’s aging population.

What do you make of the competition? There are a lot of great entrepreneurs amongst the finalists.

It’s great, and a brilliant way of promoting important issues. I think Diamond Cab stands out because we’re not just focused on our programme, but the issues surrounding aging populations globally.


The launch of another Diamond Cab

How important are projects such as Chivas’ in helping start-ups like yours?
Very important, it’s a global brand and so it has a lot of resources for marketing and advertising. The advertising side is really helpful, because we already have very high costs, so we don’t have much of an advertising budget. Helping with our image is really useful as it gives us more attention and attracts more people, in turn helping the cause.

If you win, how will your share of the US$1m from Chivas Regal help the company?
I will put the money towards expansion and replacement. The first few cabs have been running for over four years already, so we have very high mileage. To do this will cost about $1 million. So I need to prepare to change the cabs one by one. The money would also go towards maintenance, which is very costly.

Some of the money will be assigned through a public vote. Is this even more nerve-wracking than having the judges decide?

No, I actually really like this. It mobilises people to pay attention to the deprived community. So it becomes a sort of educational tool. So if they aren’t aware of the aging population they will gain a better understanding of it after. So it’s a very good way to mobilise the public and inform them on these important social issues.

What do you think are the most pressing issues that Hong Kong faces today?

Definitely the issue of the aging population, which is actually global, as every city faces this problem. The real problem surrounding this is the cost of supporting the aging population. We’re part of the solution but ultimately we need more support from the government, the business sector and actually every citizen in our society.

To find out more about the project and to place your vote for one of the candidates, visit theventure.com.

For more about Diamond Cab visit diamondcab.com.hk.

Chivas The Venture
Scotch Whisky company, Chivas, set up The Venture, a project designed to find the best start up businesses globally, that have a positive impact on the lives of others. After receiving over 1,000 entries across five continents, a diverse shortlist of 16 aspiring start-ups were selected, each tackling a range of social and environmental issues. The finalists have been chosen to represent their local countries in The Venture global final based not only on their potential to be profitable as a business, but also their ability to offer scalable and sustainable impact solutions. The finalists spend a week in Silicon Valley where they are mentored by some of the best business minds out there. A public vote is used to distribute a share of US$250,000, with the remaining portion of the one million US dollar fund divided up between the contestants by an expert panel of judges.

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