Albert Lui Wants Carpooling to Rekindle the Lion Rock Spirit
The 34-year-old has set his sights on bringing back the old Hong Kong, where people never felt the need to lock their gates.
How did you come up with the idea of social carpooling? I saw empty cars on the road and people who looked like they needed a ride. I thought: Offering someone a ride is a kind gesture, so what’s stopping Hongkongers? Recent events have made Hongkongers reluctant to reach out to others. So I started offering my neighbors rides to the train station. A couple of times, I also hitched rides. And when I saw a group of students from the Education University of Hong Kong holding up a cardboard sign to hitch a ride, I knew I wasn’t alone. A few months later, after sharing my itinerary online in case anyone needed a ride, someone suggested that I form a Facebook carpooling group, so I made one for Tai Po. Social carpooling provides a natural and casual environment for people to share stories. Some of our members have actually met their significant others through carpooling, and some have even formed their own sports groups and gone cuttlefish fishing together. Social carpooling also saves time. As a Hongkonger I’m always in a hurry—I walk really fast and finish a meal in seven minutes. If I can help save someone else’s time, that’s already saving our community’s resources. We encourage our members to use the time saved from waiting for public transport by joining our charity drives.
Do you think Hongkongers lack empathy? Our “Lion Rock Spirit” has always been around, but I like to think that our group has rekindled this spirit. I used to be the guy who would just donate money on [charity] flag days and support impoverished children through charitable organizations. But when I achieved financial success, I started thinking about what more I could do for society. Last Christmas Eve, I went with members of our group to hand out care packages to the homeless in Sham Shui Po. What I saw moved me: When you realize that some people actually have to spend hours collecting a large stack of cardboard for $20, or when someone tells you he’d rather have biscuits than vermicelli because he doesn’t have a stove, you start reflecting on your own lifestyle. My focus now is establishing a platform that can help promote a loving and mutually beneficial environment. I want to bring back the old Hong Kong, where people never felt the need to lock their gates.
But isn’t it dangerous to get into a stranger’s car? A lot of our members were unsure at first. Their parents or partners would be concerned for their safety. But gradually, people started becoming more open towards it. Some kids have even brought their parents along for the ride to put their minds at ease. Of course, we turn down membership applications if they appear suspicious. Social media also allows us to watch each other’s back because itineraries are made public. Our new social carpooling app, “ByTheWay,” includes an emergency speed dial button that can be linked to the police. The app has been a long time in the making because I wanted to make it so comprehensive that you can even carpool when you travel overseas.
What’s your secret to success? Be grateful. When I was growing up, my mom worked at a factory and my dad was a construction worker. But soon after graduating from university, I managed to make my first small fortune in the trading business and I’m now better off than many of my peers. I keep looking for ways to improve myself: I always question the value behind every move and its contributions. Still, I wouldn’t call myself an entrepreneur because true entrepreneurs are one step ahead of everyone else. This is why I eat and walk quickly to keep up.