Exclusive Interview with Grace Ho, President, SWAT Mobility, Singapore

Krishtina D'Silva Posted on: 2020-04-24 07:07:53 Viewer: 4,199 Comments: 0 Country: Singapore City: Singapore

Exclusive Interview with Grace Ho, President, SWAT Mobility, Singapore

SWAT Mobility is a smart mobility solution firm that provides demand-responsive and ride-sharing technology in high capacity vehicles. With the belief that efficient transport is a fundamental right, it endeavors to use its core mobility engine to improve the way people commute, ease congestion, and improve their quality of life. In a recent interaction with Urban Transport News team, Ms. Grace Ho, newly appointed President of SWAT Mobility has talked about the vision, mission and journey of the firm from Singapore to other countries. Here are the edited excerpts:

Congratulations on your appointment as President of SWAT Mobility. Please give us some background as to your own career and what attracted you to join SWAT Mobility?

Thank you! It is such a privilege to be a part of SWAT Mobility’s young, energetic and talented team; and truly exciting to have the opportunity to make an impact on mobility and transport solutions, which are essential services in our daily lives! My professional experience has been with technology multinationals. Having helmed a variety of leadership roles in sales, marketing and strategy at Microsoft, SAP, IBM and Motorola, I have been fortunate to develop a broad set of skills and experience that are relevant in supporting business transformation and growth agendas. In the recent years of my career, I have had the opportunity to take on transformational leadership roles at large corporates, where my responsibility was to re-architect the go-to-market strategy, which included building new partners in the ecosystem, focussing on industry and solutions selling and developing talent and human capital. Through these experiences, I learned a lot about growing a business through the shifting of business models, scaling through partnerships and accelerating talent development through cross-team collaboration. Incidentally, I also developed a passion for building teams and helping shape someone’s career journey. When I was presented the opportunity to join SWAT Mobility, I was very excited, because I saw an opportunity for me to contribute to a young company on an aggressive growth path. More importantly, as a start-up, SWAT Mobility has the ideal environment where I can concurrently perform a variety of roles (from helping the teams prospect new customers to implementing business continuity plans) and in the process, help accelerate the development of the talented team into well-rounded leaders. It has been six wonderful months at SWAT Mobility and while the teams are learning about growing the business from me, I truly believe that I have the lion’s share of the learning, as the teams continue to teach me about new ways of work, new tools and work-fun-life integration!

Tell us about SWAT Mobility and its role in the public transportation sector.

In recent years, we have seen growing interest by Public Transport providers to explore on-demand transport services as one of the ways to improve commute experience, while increasing operational efficiency. SWAT Mobility was selected to participate in an on-demand bus trial by Singapore’s Land Transport Authority in the Marina-Downtown area. This trial ran from 2018-2019 and our technology and algorithm were used to optimise public bus resources while improving service levels during off-peak hours. Another example is last year, SWAT Mobility deployed an on-demand service in Sydney, Australia. This service is deployed in partnership with a local fleet partner. Sydney’s on-demand public bus service is designed to connect suburban residents to the new Sydney metro rail stations near them. Our work involves constant close collaboration with the government, particularly in adapting to the changing needs of the residents.  For example, with the COVID-19 situation, we have re-designed the service to connect residents to essential services such as hospitals and shopping centres in the area. With the advent of smart cities initiatives in the region, coupled with growing investments in the Internet-of-Things (IoT) to improve customer experiences, we are optimistic that public transport will transform. We expect to see on-demand transport services as a way of life in the near future and our technology is ready and adaptable to manage different demand patterns and even centrally managed autonomous vehicles (AV) when they hit the roads.

Tell our readers about the salient features of products and services being offered by SWAT Mobility.

SWAT Mobility’s business model is Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Government (B2G), hence it is essential that our solutions are demand-responsive. We have four product lines (Commute Pass, Just-In-Time, On-Demand and Digital Transport) and each one is designed to cater to a particular demand pattern, user experience and service design. In our B2G business, our experience working with governments has focussed on solving the first mile/last mile challenges and/or low ridership problem. In our B2B business, for corporations with a large workforce, our solution helps with employee retention by providing better transport arrangements for them, especially for companies located remotely or operating at odd hours. In addition to our On-Demand transport solution, another popular product is Just-in-Time, which caters to changing shift patterns. People getting off their shift only need to request a ride 15 minutes before ride time. Our algorithm will pool the people living close-by and assign the appropriate vehicles to them. Conversely, manual planning of transportation for these employees takes a lot of time, effort and resources to coordinate and is also prone to human error. With our technology, the process is streamlined, there is transparency for both the fleet operator and the company and billing is easily reconciled based on who took the transport. Another product, Commute Pass, is perfect for regular schedules, such as employees working from 9 am to 5 pm (for instance) requiring rides at the same time every day. In this case, an employee only needs to reserve a ride before the month starts and is guaranteed to get a ride every day to and from work and enjoys the reliability of arrival time to work as well. This is made possible through our algorithm which determines the best routes and combination of vehicles to transport the workforce.

How are your App-based Mobility Services different from others? 

Our core technology is a dynamic high-capacity pooling algorithm, which allows us to pool riders efficiently and this equips us to move people in both the public and private sectors efficiently. In addition, we provide a platform that has an integrated suite of systems, consisting of a Passenger mobile App, Driver mobile App and Operations Interface. The interoperability of these applications enable real-time communication between all parties and provides the ability to dynamically reconfigure travel routes to adapt to changing conditions. Our Operations Interface is able to provide real-time monitoring, service setups, reporting and analysis of travel journeys. With the recent COVID-19 situation, this capability has enabled us to help our customers with split shift planning as part of Business Continuity Planning (BCP) and contact tracing of passengers onboard a vehicle.

What measures will you take to ensure the ultimate travel experience and seamless transportation?

It starts with our product design philosophy: we believe it is important to continue with developing our products to be demand-responsive so that we can cater to a variety of demand patterns. Fast time-to-market is also essential and our teams are agile and competent with rapid deployments, for example adapting our solution for clients with new requirements to support their BCP. From our experience deploying solutions in various countries, we have learned that incorporating a human element in system design is important. From both the driver and passenger perspectives, there are certain preferences that can only be derived from on the ground experience. For example, our algorithm would provide the shortest walking path for a passenger to get from the drop off point to their home. In reality, the passenger might request a different stop which would require a longer walk, but it is more well-lit at night or does not require the person to cross the road. Adopting a customer-centric approach is essential. Particularly during deployment, we work closely with our clients and their employees to gather feedback on the service, utilise data to fine-tune the service and constantly upgrade our algorithm, apps and service parameters to improve service levels. Overall, it is a continuous learning and improvement process for us, and we continue to work closely with our customers to incorporate their feedback to improve our product and service so as to constantly deliver a great customer commute experience.

What are the future expansion plans of SWAT Mobility in other countries outside of Singapore?

SWAT Mobility currently has operations in Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, and Vietnam. We will continue to grow our customer footprint in these countries, particularly in transport solutions for large corporations and on-demand public transport solutions. In parallel, we see growth opportunities in China, Thailand and the Philippines and we look forward to scaling our business through our Partner ecosystem.

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