Viking Garage puts the brakes on dodgy bikes and rents out trusty roadsters like Harleys

Joanna Kuzniacka (aka ‘Asia Kuzniacka’), a globetrotter from Poland, rents motorbikes when she goes on a foreign trip to her favourite tourist destinations, like Goa (India), Vung Tao (Vietnam), and Bali (Indonesia).  Adventurous trips to jungles and beaches on off-road bikes are also her passion.

Once, in the midst of such an expedition, the brakes of her bike failed and the vehicle literally “took her for a ride”. She had to spend a full day finding a new bike.

When she told her friend Michal Mikolajczyk, also a Pole, about her bitter experience, he suggested they took a trip together to study the major challenges facing globetrotters.

“On our next long trip together, from Poland to Portugal, we took several motorcycles and other equipment along with us, so that we could rent them out to those who wanted. We met a lot of people, including riders, and made a field motorcycle workshop with the support of local people. But the trip was so expensive and time-consuming that we decided to stop this business,” Kuzniacka tells me.

This is when the idea of Viking Garage struck the duo. Viking Garage is a trusted online community marketplace for people to list and book unique motorcycles. Whether it be a scooter for a holiday in Bali or a customised street bike for a weekend trip, Viking Garage connects travellers with local bike owners.

“Renting a motorcycle from a typical rental company, especially on foreign soil, can be complicated. Most of us end up disappointed because the condition of motorcycle does not meet our expectations. Brake problems and engine halt are the most common problems when maintenance is not done regularly. All those who ride know that there is nothing worse than being on a nice ride and having to deal with a break-down far away from home,” said Mikolajczyk, who worked as a digital nomad in Bali for almost a year before starting Viking Garage, with Kuzniacka .

“With this platform, we want to deliver a better rental experience in Asian countries. We are now getting sign-ups of owners ready to list their bikes on our platform,” he adds.

The long journey to Southeast Asia

Viking Garage was founded in Poland in 2017. The company embarked on a journey to Southeast Asia after it went through a pre-accelerator programme run by Google Launchpad. After the programme, they realised that Asia is the biggest market for rented bikes targeting tourists.

“This is when we decided to apply for MaGIC’s accelerator programme,” Kuzniacka says. “We also formed a  partnership with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation. Its eRezeki programme enables citizens, especially those in the low-income groups, to generate additional income by doing digital assignments via online platforms. We are now ready to build valuable connections with locals and enter new tourist destinations without a big investment.”

Early this year, Viking Garage kickstarted operations in Bali. The business is growing fast, she claims, and they are now ready to scale operations to other parts of the country. Currently, Viking Garage targets travellers from Europe, the US and Australia. “This market is big enough and we know these target groups very well.”

While ASEAN is its primary market, the company is also getting enquiries from Poland and other European markets, she adds.

The rental starts from just US$6 a day to US$203, depending on the type of the vehicle. From Honda Scoopy 110 ESP scooters to Harley Davidson FXD Dyna Super Glide, the customer has a wide variety of bikes to choose from.

Hitching a ride

Tourism in Southeast Asia is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. As per an estimate, this year alone, nearly 109 million tourists travelled to different countries in the region. Viking Garage looking to tap on this opportunity. “We have an enormous opportunity to fit into trends and become the first source for those one looking for an independent way to commute in favourite, tourist destinations,” she adds.

“We are also betting big on the fast-growing sharing economy in the region. Sharing economy businesses are changing consumption patterns all over the world and growing faster than Facebook, Google, and Yahoo combined. We listen to what our customers tell us; they don’t want to buy motorcycles anymore, they just want to ride,” she elucidates.

But, how does Viking Garage address the different cultural and languages challenges in Southeast Asia?

“We partner with local bike owners. There are thousands of bike owners in various tourist destinations. Unfortunately, motorbike rental companies set up by foreigners and other bigger players mercilessly snatch the income source of local bike owners and their families. With us, bike owners increase sales up to US$300 per month by renting out to online customers and finally, they are able to fully utilise their resources. In every tourist destination we enter, we have a local community leader, who helps us build the Viking Garage community,” she explains.

As for revenues, the startup takes 18 per cent of the service fee on top of the bike owner’s booking price. There are also a few additional sources of revenue, like insurance sale or subscriptions.

As the demand for luxury motorcycles is growing worldwide, the startup is getting sign-ups from owners to list their bikes on the platform not just in Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, but also Spain and the US. “The motorcycle sales market is a US$112 billion now. We call for a slower-than-predicted rise in bike sales. Viking Garage is ready to grab a percentage of the motorcycle sale market and move it to the motorcycle rental market and disrupt the industry,” she shares the company’s plans.

Bootstrapped so far, Viking Garage is now looking for a pre-seed investment to expand in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Are offline rental players posing a threat to Viking Garage?

“The problem with the offline players is that there is no mechanism for the customer to check the quality of the bike, or how well it is maintained, or to know how the riding experience of the previous customers was. Whereas, Viking Garage offers a review system for the motorcycle community similar to Airbnb, which has built trust within their community through accommodations and hosts reviews,” she says.

“As a young company, we are constantly testing, trying, and adjusting how to do motorcycle-sharing better,” she ends the conversation.