Valet parking

Future of transport

Chinese valet-parking app Ubo developing an ecosystem of personalised services

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 July, 2015, 7:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 July, 2015, 7:00am

Beijing-based valet parking app Ubo is adding a range of personalised services including car-washing and help with filling up the tank as it expands its online-to-offline operations.

"We can provide our customers with more services by partnering with third-party car service companies,” said CEO Meng Chao.

“This means we won’t exhaust our own resources, and we will be able to serve our customers more efficiently.” 

The company is adopting the new strategy in response to customer demand, Meng told the South China Morning Post this week. 

Founded last year, Ubo officially launched its smartphone app this March. It now claims to have around 100 valets on its books. 

It raised US$90,000 in an early round of funding this month to add more service stations in the Chinese capital, the company said. 

Its much larger rival, Shanghai-based parking app Tingchebao, raised a hefty US$2.6 million in a Series A funding round in March. The app, released in April, now serves six Chinese cities including Beijing.

Beijing has less than three million parking lots but 5.5 million vehicles, according to official data. 

“Our solution can help customers find parking spaces they didn’t know existed,” Ubo’s Meng said. 

Ubo operates 10 service stations offering a total of around 1,000 parking spaces, mainly in east Beijing’s central business district. They are located in large shopping malls, office buildings and hospitals, as well as at Beijing South Railway Station and Beijing Capital International Airport.

The CBD attracts tens of thousands of people each day to work, shop or enjoy various forms of entertainment, but it can often be a chore to find a vacant parking space, Meng said.

He said he was motivated to launch Ubo partly due to the frustration he felt at driving his sick mother to hospital in a district in northeast Beijing and struggling to find a place to park every time. 

The company was born after he got together with a few old friends and classmates from Beijing’s esteemed Tsinghua University, where he studied engineering, and together they cooked up a solution. 

Users of the app can drive their cars to the nearest Ubo service station or have a valet park their car for them at a separate location. 

In the interests of security, every Ubo valet is equipped with a GoPro-like camera and smartphone to record the whole service process from the moment they enter the vehicle to the time they return it. 

Ubo said it performs thorough background checks to vet its valets and make sure none have a criminal record. It also provides its customers with insurance worth two million yuan (US$322,120), it said. 

“Ubo is dedicated to making sure our customers have enough time to spend on the more important things in their lives,” said Corrine Zhao, the company’s so-called chief experience officer.

“With its new features, Ubo can give them even more options to save time,” added Zhao.

The company may further broaden its reach to also handle other requests such as picking up documents and dropping off kids at school, it said.

Ubo charges 20 yuan for its valet parking service and six yuan per hour of parking. It also offers a flat monthly service fee of 999 yuan.