Making Thailand safer, one less drunk driver at a time.
Sirasom Borisutsuwan is the founder of U Drink I Drive, a Thai company that was established on 9 August 2013. The idea for the business was triggered when she had to write her master’s degree thesis in business and managerial economics at Chulalongkorn University. Through the research she conducted for her thesis, she found that 68 percent of respondents opted to drive home drunk because they did not want to leave their cars behind.
She felt an urgency to address this since Thailand has the second highest rate of drunk driving fatalities in the world. Thus, the birth of U Drink I Drive. The company is essentially a service where a person can book a chauffeur to drive their car after a night of drinking. The company differentiates itself from other e-hailing applications through the intensive training it provides to its drivers via the Limousine Express group. It is also compulsory for the drivers to wear a uniform and a neon blue jacket with the U Drink I Drive logo on it. The drivers must also have at least five years of driving experience and attend additional in-house training to understand the inner workings of super cars like Lamborghini and Ferrari, and executive cars like BMW and Mercedes Benz.
The drivers are also required to wear a video camera over one ear to record everything he or she does. The videos are deleted after 24 hours to ensure the privacy of the customers. It is also compulsory for the drivers to activate a GPS navigation system on their mobile devices in order to give a real-time position of the vehicles they are driving.
While user-centric, U Drink I Drive drivers are also protected by the company’s policy on driver safety which states that drivers have the right to discontinue their service if their personal safety is threatened. Extreme cases which have been recorded include a drunk client that took out his gun to play with in the car, and a couple who fought each other in the vehicle.
U Drink I Drive has been in business for over seven years and is currently serving more than 5,000 client each month. Its drivers have taken on more than 100,000 trips. The company has also expanded its operations into a 24-hour service called U Sit I Drive which addresses the high demand for professional chauffeurs who are able to drive customers’ cars and run errands on their behalf. Customers of the service have asked chauffeurs to take their cars in for servicing, bring their parents for check-ups, and run a myriad of other errands. The high rate of uptake for both services has resulted in the company aiming to expand their services to other major cities in Thailand.
U Drink I Drive works closely with Thai government organizations. The Don’t Drive Drunk Foundation and Department of Probation are among the organizations U Drink I Drive is partnered with. The company does not define its success by the amount of application users or an increase in customer base, it measures success in the reduced road accidents caused by drunk driving. Ultimately, the corporation wants to see zero drunk drivers on the road.
U Drink I Drive is partnered with Asia Insurance to provide car insurance for every trip. Last year the corporation’s revenue increased to 20 million baht and is expected to double to 40 million baht the following year.
The U Drink I Drive application’s online payments is powered by Omise. Borisutsuwan stated that Omise was the payment gateway of choice because of how seamless the payment experience is for customers. Most of the customers who use U Drink I Drive’s services are not sober, hence the need for the payment process to be kept simple with very minimal redirection of payment flow. The founder expressed that punching down card numbers, CVV codes and OTP codes would be tough for a person under the influence. Omise also meets payment industry standards and is currently powering payments for major brands in Thailand. Omise has been powering online payments for the U Drink I Drive app since its inception.
Before launching the app, the services provided by the chauffeuring pioneer was through a single call centre, and cash was the only payment method accepted. After the launch of the application and adding card payments, the number of people using the service has steadily grown.
In the beginning, Thais were confused about U Drink I Drive’s business concept. They had trouble understanding how it worked and assumed it functioned the same as Uber and Grab. They also had problems allowing strangers to drive their cars.
To promote U Drink I Drive, Sirasom Borisutsuwan and other co-founders waited outside pubs, restaurants and clubs, handing out brochures and vouchers to potential clients. They also formed partnerships with organizations and corporations that promote road safety. Posters were displayed at luxury nightlife venues.
U Drink I Drive saw many challenges before its success but Sirasom’s perseverance is what kept it alive. In 2014, the corporation had a net worth of only 9000 baht and the founder refused to accept her pay for three months. She prioritized the drivers that needed to be paid. Today, the corporation has strong support from the public, including Thai celebrities who are impressed with the car service. U Drink I Drive also has a strong presence on social media, which helps the business grow.
Sirasom regards her service as a social enterprise, believing that the services she provides have the potential to make a real change in Thailand.
“The company does not define its success by the amount of application users or an increase in customer base, it measures success in the reduced road accidents caused by drunk driving”
Shanggari Balakrishnan, Chief Executive Officer, MORS Group