Vans and a Vision, Versus a Virus

How GOGOX handled two landmark projects during COVID-19. 

It’s nearly impossible to walk the streets of Hong Kong without seeing a characteristic blue-and-yellow colored van zoom by at least once. From humble beginnings of merely HK$20,000 (US$2,580)  in seed capital, to becoming the first billion-dollar “unicorn” technology company in Hong Kong, GOGOX (previously GOGOVAN) has certainly come a long way. 

With the onset of COVID-19, GOGOX became an even more indispensable part of Hong Kong, by turning into an invaluable asset in the city’s battle against the pandemic. The startup has a dedicated team which provides door-to-door saliva specimen pick-up services to transport the specimens to Department of Health (DoH) centers, assisting the government greatly in controlling the spread of the virus. Unlike many other startups, GOGOX emerged victorious against the Goliath of a pandemic. 

From slump to success 

Initially, GOGOX was just another startup that had taken a hit because of COVID-19. Meanwhile, under government control measures at the time, new arrivals to the city were forced to rely on family and friends to submit their saliva specimens to hospitals or clinics, thereby leading to a low sample collection rate. 

The Department of Health was struggling to come to terms with the safety and logistics of this arrangement, and approached Cyberport, a quasi-governmental innovation community in Hong Kong, to ask if there were any startups that could assist with the delivery aspect of this project. 

“Due to the associated risks, the arrivals were not allowed to walk around the city. So we suggested that we help pick up samples and deliver them to the lab at a very reasonable price,” says Lam. “The Department of Health agreed, and Cyberport helped to get different parties together — we fixed the solution and launched the project within three days’ time.” 

The large-scale nature of the endeavor did not impede Lam and his team from launching the project, which they did in just three days. GOGOX had ample experience providing one-day delivery services to various clients, so the internal operations were a cakewalk. Its widespread network of logistics partners proved to be highly beneficial to the project as well. 

Though the door-to-door services initially catered solely to Hong Kong arrivals, GOGOX eventually expanded its services to residents who suspected they may be carriers of the virus, further paring down the risk of local transmission. 

A risky ride? 

Despite the risks inherent in the operation, Lam believes that GOGOX has taken adequate measures to prevent its employees from contracting the virus themselves. The saliva specimens are placed in multiple layers of plastic, which makes it nearly impossible for courier delivery workers to come into contact with possibly infected samples. Further, GOGOX provides all employees involved in this project with masks, gloves, and sanitizers to ensure that they are working in a “safe and protected environment.” 

Lam believes that due to its dominance in the logistics sector and the considerable resources within its grasp, GOGOX has a social responsibility to assist the government. He considers door-to-door saliva specimen collection as a mission project to help ease the situation in Hong Kong and restore normalcy to the city. 

“I asked my workers, “If not us, who? And if not now, when?” The answer is us, and we need to do it now, as if the virus spreads, we may regret that we did not take responsibility in the early days,” says Lam. 

A project in parallel

On July 8, GOGOVAN officially revealed its new identity, GOGOX. At a time when most startups were struggling to stay afloat, GOGOX became heavily involved in assisting the government, while also rebranding to its new avatar. 

The name ‘GOGOVAN’ implied that the company only provided logistics services using vans, though its actual activities encompassed a number of other services, including GOGODELIVERY and GOGOBUSINESS, which consolidated all the logistics demand of a company onto a single online platform. 

“The name ‘GOGOVAN’ didn’t represent everything that we do as a company. So the rebranding offers a huge opportunity for us to get our customer’s imagination about what we can do in terms of logistics for them. GOGOX represents the extra possibilities that we have for our customers,” says Lam. 

The company was hoping to rebrand last year, but realized that it would be a premature step. GOGOX then decided to rebrand around the time of the Lunar New Year, which fell in the last week of January in 2020. However, it was around this time that Hong Kong first began to experience the effects of the pandemic, and GOGOX was forced once again to postpone its plans even further. 

Despite the setbacks, Lam sees a silver lining in this process, perceiving it as a time in which the company could put more thought into the reason behind their rebranding and its execution. He believes that this, coupled with the GOGOX team’s persistence, is what allowed for a highly successful end result. 

What next for GOGOX? 

GOGOX has a number of projects lined up for the future, but anticipates a delay in putting ideas into action because of the pandemic. It plans to go international with its GOGODELIVERY product, which launched in Hong Kong nearly a year ago, by extending it to all the operating offices in Southeast Asia, which include Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, India, and Vietnam. Expanding GOGOBUSINESS is on their agenda as well. 

“We are thinking of offering a much more integrated logistics service for SMEs so that we take care of all of their logistics needs, from their call management system information flow to the financing,” says Lam. “This is something that we all have been thinking about, and after COVID-19 we’ll be working towards those kinds of developments.” 

The purveyors of humble blue-and-yellow vans have become something much more. Despite the continuing pandemic wreaking havoc on startups across the globe, GOGOX, through creativity and altruism, has a new lease of life and a new identity to match. 

Header image courtesy of GOGOX. 

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