Technology

5 questions with... Hapz

Mr Kendrick Wong (left) and Mr Lai Xin Chu realised there was space in the market to encourage more people to go for new experiences and that is how the idea for Hapz came about. They see it as a distribution network to reach out to consumers and to
Mr Kendrick Wong (left) and Mr Lai Xin Chu realised there was space in the market to encourage more people to go for new experiences and that is how the idea for Hapz came about. They see it as a distribution network to reach out to consumers and to engage them.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Curiosity about goings-on in town led Lai Xin Chu, 28, and Kendrick Wong, 29, to join forces in May and start Hapz, a curated events platform that recently clinched $680,000 in seed funding. They hope to triple their user base by the end of the year, from 8,500 now. Annabeth Leow speaks with them.

Q: How did you get this business off the ground?

Mr Wong: "If there was a Colour Run (a race where participants have paint thrown on them) that's happening in Bangkok, for example, would you know where to book it? When you travel, you always do the same stuff, but there's actually a ton of great events that's happening , be it concerts, runs, all these different things. But I think, because of the fragmentation of the industry, we may not necessarily know the platforms to book tickets. If there were a uniform platform, it would actually help the industry grow as well."

Mr Lai: "When we first started out (in an events consulting business)… we focused only on runs. At the time, we started off by testing whether it was possible to encourage more people to go for more runs if you provided just the run without the race pack. We found that this worked really well. So we realised that there was space in the market to encourage more people to go for new experiences. That's also how the idea for Hapz came about. Now we're into runs, concerts, festivals, performances, attractions."

Mr Wong: "From day one, what we wanted was to get the traction for our business. In terms of funding, we were really quite fortunate. We had a lot of suppliers who gave us 30-day credit, so we were able to collect money, run the business and then pay them off at the end of the month."

Q: How does Hapz differ from conventional ticketing businesses?

Mr Wong: "We actually do not see (ticket vendors) as competition, but rather, as essential partners, because for us, we are not in the ticketing business… That's not what we are good at. What we are good at is engaging the customers. So we do see them as partners in this space.

"On our side, we want to make it easy to reach out to consumers… When you purchase a ticket on our platform, it could be a Sistic ticket, it could be a Sports Hub ticket. The form of the ticket is not what we are too particular about. We are a distribution network to reach out to these consumers and to engage them... We don't want to get into the primary ticketing space."

FOCUS ON BRAND

When we just started out, we had customers asking us whether we were a scam... That was a challenge for us, because when people look at us and they see our prices, they wonder: 'Is this real?' We don't have many people asking that question now because in the last few months, we've focused very strongly on our brand.''

MR LAI XIN CHU, co-founder of Hapz, on the importance of branding.

Mr Lai: "Because our site covers so many segments, we can actually understand our users much better. Someone who comes in interested in concerts might not be interested in every single concert. They might be interested only in maybe Chinese, K-pop, rock and so on. When people come to our site, we are creating a curated experience for them... When a user comes to Hapz, they are looking only at the events they are interested in."

Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced?

Mr Lai: "The entertainment industry is still a very traditional industry. It's still very relationship- driven... Forming the relationships has been a very challenging and fulfilling journey at the same time.

"Also, this is an area that is considered a luxury for a lot of our customers - usually people don't go for concerts that frequently. When we say we sell concert tickets, immediately they'll think that concerts are really expensive to go to, they're imagining prices like maybe $500, $600. Actually, concerts can be quite affordable for a lot of people today, which is something that they don't recognise yet."

Q: Have there been any major boo-boos to bounce back from?

Mr Wong: "Focusing on branding - It's one lesson that we've learnt. When we first started, we thought if we sold the tickets at a slightly preferential rate, people would come and purchase. But that is not always the case. (Or that) giving out some kind of vouchers or promo codes at the start would always result in a lot of sales - it doesn't necessarily mean that. Creating a brand value is important as well, especially in what we're doing."

Mr Lai: "When we just started out, we had customers asking us whether we were a scam. Because there have been a lot of online scams where people sold fake tickets on a few marketplaces and online platforms, so a lot of people were very wary about it… That was a challenge for us, because when people look at us and they see our prices, they wonder: 'Is this real?' We don't have many people asking that question now because in the last few months, we've focused very strongly on our brand."

Q: Where do you plan on taking Hapz?

Mr Wong: "Right now, we're looking at regional festivals and we'd like to bring them on board. In terms of the countries that we're headed to, we haven't really firmed it up yet because we want to run a few experiments first before we decide, but I think Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia would be the top three likely choices that we'll venture into first, because they have a pretty mature events space as well as the people there (who) are comfortable purchasing stuff online...

"There's never really been a benchmark for a business like us, so... the team and the investors are still figuring out what sort of revenue targets we should be hitting. There are some goals, definitely, but we are still learning. Because, if you're talking about the ticket sizes, your attractions can be as affordable as $12, all the way to $600 VIP seats."

Mr Lai: "I think, in terms of figures we can reveal, just say that we have moved over $500,000 worth of tickets since we started."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline '5 questions with... Hapz'. Print Edition | Subscribe