For many, the car parking situation in Dubai for business owners, professionals and the general public can be a challenge like no other, with many hours spent wasted on the search for requisite car parking. This is where technology start-up company Park Key comes in to “add ease and convenience” to the parking conundrum
Park Key provides an on demand cashless parking system that allows drivers to locate, book and pay for parking spaces through an online platform, removing the difficult element of physically trying to find a parking space.
For Adnan Masood, founder and CEO of Park Key, the idea to create a platform to connect drivers with parking space providers came to him as he worked in a previous role.
“Although I was actually fortunate enough to have a company parking space, working in Dubai Media City allowed me to see the serious parking shortage and parking problems in general and really think about how we can fix this,” he says.
Bridging the gap
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President of the United Arab Emirates, has a vision for Media City – to provide core service online and via mobile. For Masood, Park Key fits the bill on both fronts.
In 2017, people can book cinema tickets, train tickets, airline tickets and even book restaurant tables in advance online or via mobile or tablet app, but when it comes to car parking, there is no such service.
“Smart Cities are the future and integrated mobility with smart parking is a fundamental characteristic of a smart city,” he says.
Masood believes that Park Key represents the bridging of that market gap but in order to do so he had to look at the challenge ahead from two perspectives. The first, the parking user’s perspective, involves having that platform available.
“There was no way to pay for parking online. It generally involves a lot of cash handling for the user which brings about problems such as having the right change, or rummaging through a pocket or even sometimes borrowing a little bit money from colleagues just to pay for parking,” he says.
It was important for Masood to look at it also from the parking provider’s perspective, which he believes brought out about significantly larger challenges. One in particular, the issue of “revenue leakage” due to on-site cash transactions. This was largely a result of onsite parking attendants where there are often shortages of correct change resulting in the loss of customers.
“Essentially, they were unable to provide a certain level of service that could have been achieved if we removed this payment equation from every site,” says Masood.
A further challenge for the provider is the inability of marketing to attract customers. Currently there is little to no mechanism in place that can allow a provider to incentivise parking, be it through discounts or promotions. Parking providers are left to rely on physical discovery where the is no guarantee of custom at all.
“In a nutshell, we can help parking lots to go digital in less than 15 minutes,” he says.
Following a process of speaking with fellow colleagues and car park users in Dubai, Masood left his role and rounded Park Key in January 2016 with the mission to create an easy access cashless car parking solution for all.
The key is in the name
First order of business, aside from the development of the online platform, a company name.
“Park Key came from a brainstorm with my brother Kamran Masood. We looked at what is an essential aspect to parking, to people’s cars and garages and we both landed on a car key,” he says. “Park Key represents the key for all of Dubai’s parking needs.”
In just over a year, Park Key and Masood have had to overcome a number of challenges in getting the start-up company into a position where it can be seen as a key disruptor in the parking equation.
One of those challenges has been getting the brand name known in the market.
“As a start-up, you can’t afford a big marketing budget. You are confined to doing what you can do. With Park Key, we have been very careful and very selective of how much we spend and on which medium we do so,” says Masood.
With challenges ultimately comes success and Park Key has not been without its successes. Masood believes that one key success that should not go unnoticed is recruiting the right people who form the very makeup of the company.
But the true success for Park Key has been the growth in the volume of partners that the company now works with in the first year since its creation. Park Key has in advance of 700 locations provided by parking providers across the UAE, a “fantastic achievement” for a company of the age and size of Park Key.
Setting the standard
As the first and only advance provider of parking in the UAE, the importance of customer satisfaction is crucial in the overall success of the company. Park Key has seen revenue grow on average by 49 percent month on month, with the number of transactions growing a further 56 percent.
The idea of a cashless parking programme is almost revolutionary for the UAE. Parking seekers would log onto the Park Key website, or download the Park Key app for smartphones or tablets and once they enter their information they will be provided with a detailed map of all parking locations across the UAE, all within in a user-friendly interface.
This was a response to the ever-growing technological world and the increasing power at the fingertips of the customer.
“As a company, we must invest in the right technology that can meet current need and future demands, and technology that can start with low volume and rapidly grow and scale up as the transactions grow,” he says.
“As users grow and the locations grow, the hourly transactions can run into thousands of bookings a day so we had to dimension our platform in a way that we can handle that easily and scale and grow with it.”
Part of that need to meet the ever-growing demand for ease for the customer is perfectly exemplified in the Park Key mobile app. The rationale behind this however, is even simpler. Masood poses the question as to when does a person require parking spaces the most? The answer - when they are driving.
“We are continuously seeking new ways to find more clever and advanced methods of making the parking process as seamless as possible,” he says.
Parking with partners
Creating what Masood describes as essentially a “marketplace for services seekers to connect with service providers,” it is fundamental then that the company establishes and maintains key working partnerships with service providers.
One particular partner, from the hotel sector, has around 130 parking spaces but only utilises around 40 percent. Park Key allows the hotel to better utilise those empty parking spaces and attract customers to them, earning money through the Park Key platform – something that previously would not have been possible.
The company also works with a number of facility management companies which manage the parking lots of a number of buildings across the country. Once again through Park Key, those companies are able to advertise and rent out parking spaces on the parking lots and earn money through the process. Masood points to this as a “critical activity” that Park Key offers partners.
“We are very thankful for these parking operators to give us the opportunity to serve them. As we continue to grow as a business we grow the business with these operators month after month and the customer base continues to grow alongside it,” he says.
The customer is what essentially drives the business. Parking seekers are who Park Key serves in the grand scheme of things, and maintaining a strong relationship with those customers has been key to the success and will continue to be key to the future success of the company.
“Investing in our team capabilities helps us better care for customer needs, be it from a technology perspective of commercial perspective,” says Masood.
Park Key uses customer feedback, both positive and corrective, as a way of looking at how the company can develop and adapt its current offering to better serve them in the future. Despite being the only provider of this service, flexibility is key in allowing Park Key to remain as the major player in the market.
“Being a new kid on the block, the one thing we can 100 percent rely on is word of mouth,” he says.
“Word of mouth is something that has been very important and critical to our success. So, we try to exceed customer expectations.”
The key to the future
It has been a hugely successful 12 months for Park Key and Masood is always looking to the future and ways of developing the company to broaden the reach beyond UAE and into the wider GCC. Masood believes that Park Key will have a huge influence in the UAE in the early months of 2017 and by the end of the year, will be a major player both domestically and globally. Park Key is looking to raise investment to support continuous growth and expansion.
The company is still in it’s infancy, with a workforce of around 16 people. Masood points to this workforce as a vital element in taking Park Key forward.
“We are fairly small with regards to size but in terms of our impact, we are very, very big. This small group of people, who are committed and extremely talented, can create such a big impact on the country level and regional and global level,” he says.
“Despite all the innovation and progress technologically, the country has been operating with a very old model in terms of parking. Park Key is driven by the vision of creating true value in the society and this is what excites me.”