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Business

Couriers, customers cheer Vietnamese app

Three-wheeled motorbikes, or xe ba gac, are ideal for carrying parcels through Vietnam's many narrow streets.

HANOI -- A Vietnamese startup is changing the way parcels get from point A to B in the country.

     Heavy traffic and narrow alleyways mean three-wheeled motorbikes, known as xe ba gac, are generally the way to go for delivering packages in places like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. But customers frequently complain about unreliable service, and even theft by self-employed couriers. Finding a driver can be tough as well.

     The new app-based service, which launched earlier this year, promises to quickly connect customers with drivers -- and avoid any surprises.

     Duong Dinh Tung, a delivery driver in his 40s, was taking a break on a Ho Chi Minh City street when an alert popped up on his smartphone. The message told him a package was ready for pickup, the location, the type of parcel and the fee. He hopped on his motorbike and headed to the customer's home, just several hundred meters away. 

The Ahamove service displays available drivers close to the pickup location.

     Tung began using the Ahamove app several months ago. The service is operated by Ho Chi Minh City startup Giaohangnhanh -- the name means "quick delivery" in Vietnamese.

     Before the app came along, Tung used to see significant fluctuations in daily orders. Now, he said, "I can get a stable number of delivery orders every day." His daily earnings have increased by 40%.

No more haggling

Once drivers register, the app keeps track of their locations via GPS. When orders come in, it sends the information to the drivers best positioned to handle them. Drivers simply confirm they accept the terms and the deals are done.

     The service also lets users find available drivers. Charges are fixed based on the delivery distance -- say, 120,000 dong to 135,000 dong ($5.34 to $6) for deliveries within 4km. This removes the hassle of haggling. Giaohangnhanh takes 20% of the delivery charge.

     The app also lets customers grade drivers, which should help to weed out the bad apples over time. The system is similar to that of U.S.-based Uber Technologies, which offers ride-hailing and other transportation services in some 60 countries, including Vietnam. 

On the move

The Vietnamese startup began testing Ahamove in Ho Chi Minh City in July. Initially, 100 drivers and 1,000 customers registered. By October, it had received 3,000 delivery orders, racking up 500 million dong in sales. That month, it expanded to Hanoi, the capital. 

     The number of registered drivers and customers in the two cities is up to 7,000. The operator is now preparing to move into Danang and other Vietnamese cities, possibly next year.

     Nguyen Huu Hanh, a repeat Ahamove user, appreciates the reliability of the service. "I can track delivery details, including the driver's name, license number, evaluation and real-time location of the parcel," he said.

     Luong Duy Hoai, Giaohangnhanh's CEO and founder, has experience in the logistics industry, as well as information technology. He said he was influenced by the success of global online retailers, such as Amazon.com and Alibaba Group Holding. "Online shopping will be widely used in Vietnam soon," he said, adding he was motivated to "build the necessary infrastructure for small parcel delivery" before that day comes.

     Ahamove benefits both customers and drivers, the CEO stressed. "It reduces delivery charges to consumers by 20-40%, while it boosts revenue of delivery businesses by 20-40%."

     Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia. And as the number of high- and middle-income earners increases, smartphones and tablets are becoming more widespread. This is spurring the growth of e-tailing.

     According to VietnamNet, a state-owned media outlet, the nation's online shopping market is expected to reach $4 billion this year, up 25% from a year earlier. By 2020, it could be worth $10 billion.

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