I have often been asked why I started Falcon Mobility. I have shared this story many times privately, but have always been too shy to put it up in public because I value my privacy.
But it is such a great story that if I leave it untold, I'll be doing an injustice to the story and to the company I've built. So here it is.
1 School. 2 Friends. 2 Crutches.
Falcon Mobility was founded in 2007, but its story started much earlier in 1989.
Between 1989 and 1992, I went to school at Raffles Institution (R.I.) in Singapore. While at R.I., I became classmates with a guy (let’s call him “D”).
D had a physical disability and depended on crutches to get around in school. However, schools in Singapore then had no lifts, and D was unable to get to classes on the higher floors.
He always needed two people to help him up and down the staircases. I was usually one of the two. Thus, D and I became very good friends during our schooling years and remain so till this day.
Fast forward 18 years to 2007, and D had graduated from crutches to an electric wheelchair, which gave him much higher levels of mobility.
One day, he told me that every couple of weeks, people would walk up to him and ask him where he bought his electric wheelchair from. Apparently, there was demand, but people didn’t know how to buy it.
Also, his experience as a customer was horrible. He had to order his chair from a catalogue, pay several thousands of dollars and wait for a few months for it to arrive. And if the chair didn’t meet his expectations, too bad! He had already paid and there was no refund.
The after-sales standard in the industry at that time was also terrible. Even for something as basic as batteries, he had to pre-order them and wait at least 2 months for them to arrive.
Sensing a business opportunity, I decided to start Falcon Mobility and turn the whole value proposition around.
Instead of selling from catalogues and drop shipping from overseas suppliers, I invested in inventory and used demo sets to sell my products. I used internet marketing to draw in the leads and brought the demo units in my car to the homes of prospective buyers for a free test drive.
If they like what they tried, I would deliver the new unit the next day, collect payment, and the deal was done.
There were no nasty surprises for the customer as they had already tried the physical product. The order-to-delivery time was cut from 3 months to 1 day.
I also raised the standard of after-sales service dramatically. I stocked batteries and chargers. And if there was a part I didn’t have, I’d cannibalize it from a new unit to solve the customer’s problem first, then take my time to replenish the part from my supplier. Repairs can be settled within a few days instead of taking several months.
Today, customers in Singapore can test-drive their motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters before buying. Their orders are fulfilled within 1 – 2 business days, and repairs rarely take more than a week.
However, what few of them realize is that prior to 2008 when Falcon started operations, this wasn’t the industry standard. The norm was to pre-order from printed catalogues, wait for a couple of months for the stock to arrive, and repairs took several weeks.
It was Falcon Mobility that created this standard, and the rest of the industry had to follow it to compete or become obsolete.
Today Falcon Mobility is still the industry leader in Singapore, continuing to push boundaries by offering better products and services needed by customers, not just in Singapore, but all over the world.
Looking back at this exhilarating journey, it’s miraculous how a split second, minor decision you made years ago can have such a huge impact on your life.
In 1989, my teacher asked for two volunteers to help D to his class upstairs. I raised my hand without a second thought. I was a shy boy (still am!) who would normally not raise my hand and try to fade into the background. All I wanted to do was to help, and money was totally not on my mind.
That split-second decision was the seed from which Falcon Mobility was born.
Stay positive, and pay it forward.