EmpowerHER 2024: An Interview with iMotorbike Co-founder, Sharmeen Looi

27 March 2024

Throughout March, Gobi Partners (Gobi) is honouring women entrepreneurs and leaders with a month-long celebration, meeting the 2024 International Women’s Day 2024 theme of “Inspiring Inclusion”. This empowering initiative kicked off on 1 March 2024 with our EmpowerHER event and will feature two more women empowerment events, as well as content spotlighting selected women founders.

One such female founder, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of iMotorbike, Sharmeen Looi, stands at the intersection of two overlapping demands within the local landscape: the call for gender diversity, and the embracing of a circular economy.

Established in 2016, iMotorbike is a pioneer e-commerce platform that allows customers to buy and sell pre-owned motorcycles to address the four pain points identified when it comes to the two-wheeler market: market fragmentation, time consumption, reliability, and transparency.

“In Malaysia, when we look at road users, it’s a 50/50 split between riders and car drivers. But everywhere else, you’ll get 85% riders compared to car users,” she says. In hopes that Malaysians can embrace the secondhand market when it comes to dealing with the costliness of transportation, Sharmeen reemphasises iMotorbike’s mission to make this seamless transition by providing a hassle-free purchasing experience for aspiring riders.

Sharmeen regularly encourages her team to try it out or involve themselves in the automotive industry, especially women. “I got into this because I wanted to prove it’s not just a man’s world. As women, we can fully shine in this industry too,” Sharmeen states.

It comes as no surprise that, both within her team and with customers, she is insistent on a gender-equal stance, drilled down to even the small details, particularly when it comes to marketing. With no allusions to gender in their advertising, and using visuals of women riders within communications to play an empowering role in gender inclusivity, Sharmeen continues to lead by example, bringing change to the traditionally male industry.

“10 years ago, you wouldn’t be able to find gear or accessories for women, but nowadays, companies are trying to change that, and similarly, we’re also here as industry experts to give them the advice they need. When we show customers this kind of support, we can cultivate more riders.”

There are positives and negatives when it comes to being a woman in such a male-dominated industry. On the former, Sharmeen says that being able to bring a more diverse view, as well as a unique perspective, is one of the strengths that has allowed her to flourish, and credits this to a supportive ecosystem and communities that afford her such opportunities.

However, she has also had to go through her fair share of challenges. “There are still stereotypes and biases,” she admits, “But I am committed to challenging this, and to advocate for gender inclusion, especially in this industry.”

iMotorbike is a Gobi portfolio company through its Series A funding round led by Gobi Partners and Ondine Capital.