[Review] PayungLah’s umbrella sharing & rental service in Malaysia

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Last month, my colleague Claudia and I—who are daily commuters—came across PayungLah, an umbrella sharing service at the LRT station. To rent, you just have to pay RM2 per day. Sounds pretty neat, right?

So we reached out to the brand and learnt more from Yeong Chian, the mastermind behind this rather novel service. Well, novel in Malaysia at least.

You see, umbrella sharing services are quite common in countries abroad, such as Shanghai, Vancouver, and Tokyo. In fact, the umbrella sharing service at Shanghai’s Metro Station is what inspired Yeong Chian to start PayungLah in the first place. 

For RM2 a day, you can rent PayungLah’s umbrellas at its unmanned machines / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

The general premise of PayungLah’s service is simple enough. All you have to do is find a PayungLah umbrella machine, scan the station’s QR code to rent, withdraw the umbrella to use, and return it when you’re done. 

But upon using it myself, I realised that it’s a little more complicated than that. Here is my experience with PayungLah’s umbrella sharing service.

Taking steps to protect your security

Having interviewed the founder and read through its FAQ page, I was somewhat familiar with how PayungLah works. 

PayungLah’s umbrella stand is available in 100+ locations, including Prasarana’s train stations and partnering hotels, universities, and shopping malls / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

The app itself also has a brief “slideshow” explaining how it works, but it’s not detailed enough. So if you’re unsure, I recommend checking out the laminated user guide attached to its umbrella machines. 

Similar to many other apps, I had to register a profile after downloading PayungLah’s app to use its service. The only information required were my name, email address, and phone number. 

Once that’s done, I was able to sign in using my phone number, where a TAC code was sent via SMS. However, be aware that if you accidentally log out right after signing in, you’ll have to wait a few minutes before they can send another TAC code.

PayungLah’s app can be downloaded through Apple’s App Store, Google’s Play Store, and HUAWEI’s App Gallery / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

It’s a little unusual as I’ve never had to log in using this method before. But it could possibly be an additional layer of security to protect against unauthorised access to your account.

Don’t worry, you can withdraw the balance

For context, all of PayungLah’s transactions are done through the app and its wallet, where a minimum balance of RM20 is required to use. Though, do note that the minimum reload amount each time is actually RM30.

It’s quite a hefty investment if you’re not a frequent commuter, which I believe might deter customers from trying its app.

Users can choose to top-up their PayungLah wallets using online banking or other forms of e-wallets / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

But Yeong Chian reassured me that any balance in the wallet can be withdrawn via local wire bank transfer. According to the app, the withdrawal process takes about five to seven working days to complete. 

It’s only after the wallet is set that you can begin renting. Surprisingly, though, this step isn’t stated in the physical user guide. But if you try to rent without it, the app will ask you to top-up first.

The user guide attached to PayungLah’s umbrella machines comes in both English and Malay / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Now this is where it got a little trickier. 

Pay attention to the 5-minute window

Tapping on the “RENT AN UMBRELLA” button in the app prompted me to scan the QR code on the umbrella machine. 

Depending on which location you’re at, you might encounter different kinds of PayungLah umbrella machines. There are currently two types—self-powered (power bank supported) machines and electrically powered machines. 

In my experience, the app works quite fast and I didn’t face any lags or delays / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

The ones at Prasarana stations, and the one I used, are the self-powered kind. So to kickstart these, you’ll have to press the power button on the umbrella machines. 

It’ll begin to blink green light, but you have to wait until the light stays completely on. When this happens, the machine will actually speak to tell you that it’s connected to the internet, only then can you pull out the umbrella from the machine.

This has updated details of the current location you’re renting from, how many umbrellas are available for rent, and a short description on what to do / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

There’s a five minute window for you to check the umbrella for any damages. If there are any issues, you can return the umbrella and replace it with another. But this doesn’t mean a complete five-minute window where it’s unlocked and open to theft. 

In my experience, the umbrella machine actually locked within a few seconds. And as I was focused on taking photos for this article, I didn’t manage to get my umbrella in time. So I had to press the button again to unlock it.

You have to wait until the power button remains lit up before borrowing / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Since it was within the five minute window, my wallet wasn’t charged RM2. Confirming that there weren’t any tears and holes, I went off to catch my train. 

Is the rent reasonably charged?

Now, the umbrella itself is quite standard. It’s a regular size and weight-wise, it’s neither light nor heavy. The grip of the handle is also comfortable enough to carry around, being of a decent girth and shape.

If you’re worried about carrying a wet umbrella while out and about, PayungLah has got you covered (literally). All of its umbrellas come attached with a transparent umbrella cover, so you won’t be dripping on the floors of trains or elsewhere.

It might be best to not delay the umbrella collection so you have time to still check it within the five-minute window / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

They’re also decorated with custom designs made in collaboration with local artists. However, looking at it from a business point of view, this could be another potential revenue source for the brand.

Much like how Drinkfree sells marketing space on its free canned water, I believe PayungLah could also offer a similar product to businesses. Instead of featuring artwork on its umbrellas, the brand could showcase advertisements by other companies. 

You’re immediately charged RM2 after the five-minute damage-check window is up / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

For this review, I chose to rent the umbrella for three days, starting the evening of Friday until the morning of Monday. Mainly because I was too lazy to travel all the way to my nearest BRT station to return it. But also due to my curiosity on how it charges the user’s account. 

For a total of three days (about 59 hours), my rental charge came up to RM6. Yeong Chian shared that so long as it’s within 24 hours, you will be charged RM2. So for example, if you rent an umbrella at 1PM today and return it before 1PM tomorrow, the cost is still RM2.

Taking another example, if you rent it at 1PM on Monday and returned it at 9AM on Wednesday, the rental cost will be RM4 because it’s still within 48 hours.

My total for three days came up to RM6, no more and no less / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

In conclusion, was the service really worth it?

The process of returning the umbrella was slightly more confusing. It’s a slight user error on my part as I forgot to check the user guide, but it’s also not stated anywhere else on the machine.

Essentially how it works is customers need to power up the umbrella machine. Once it’s turned on, you have to press the power button again to unlock it. Only afterwards can you push the umbrella back in place.

There’s a lock in place to prevent theft at PayungLah’s umbrella machine / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

I wasn’t aware of this and struggled at first because the app doesn’t have return instructions. If you click on the current booking, it doesn’t give you any other option besides to purchase the umbrella. So perhaps this is something PayungLah could look into for the ease of future users.

Besides this small hiccup though, I found my experience renting PayungLah’s umbrellas to be simple enough. I liked that it had an app, but I believe the instructions on it for the rental process could be clearer. 

Aside from the attached user manual, PayungLah’s umbrella machine has brief instructions to guide users / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

On a separate note, I do agree with some of our readers (who felt quite strongly about the startup, based on the comments on our Facebook post) that selling umbrellas would be more profitable, AKA selling would make more sense than renting. But the reality is that the brand is looking towards making a community impact.

Even if you put that aside, there are several use cases for the service. For example, sometimes you forget to bring your own umbrella and don’t want to buy another one. Or maybe you’re looking to pack light that day but it suddenly rains.

PayungLah’s service might not be something you feel you need, if you don’t often commute or often have your own umbrella with you.

But for someone like me, who travels by train frequently for work and personal engagements, I like that it’s there for me on a rainy day should I forget to bring my own umbrella, and for a reasonable price too.

  • Learn more about PayungLah here.
  • Read articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post

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