SME Tech

App lets you find the best merchant for your needs

The Page Advisor management team - (from left) chief technology officer Ho Boon Peng; chief marketing officer Tan Jian Yong; chief executive officer Fabian Lim; board chairman Inderjit Singh; chief operations officer and chief legal officer Daniel Ta
The Page Advisor management team - (from left) chief technology officer Ho Boon Peng; chief marketing officer Tan Jian Yong; chief executive officer Fabian Lim; board chairman Inderjit Singh; chief operations officer and chief legal officer Daniel Tan; and chief investment officer Jamie Lee - showing off the app on their phones. The app has chalked up 40,000 users and 4,500 registered merchants since its launch in May.PHOTO: PAGE ADVISOR

Page Advisor, ex-MP Inderjit Singh's venture, turns classified listings model on its head

With his political career behind him, former Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh is looking for more action in the business arena and one of his latest ventures, Page Advisor, is off to a good start.

In October, Mr Singh became chairman of the board of the start-up, which has developed a mobile app that allows users to book home and lifestyle services. Previously, Mr Singh had an advisory role in the company.

The app was soft launched here in May, and expanded to Malaysia two months later. It has since seen over 18,000 transactions worth more than $600,000 in gross value across the two countries, with about 70 per cent of those deals taking place in Singapore. It has 40,000 users and 4,500 registered merchants.

"While in politics, I had little time to focus on my own businesses," said Mr Singh. "Now that I have more time, I am more active in managing my businesses and growing them more aggressively."

He began advising Page Advisor when the company started two years ago and, half a year later, decided to invest a "six-figure sum" of his own money in the company.

He said: "I saw huge opportunities in the business model on both the demand and the supply side."

Page Advisor takes the regular model of classified listings and turns it on its head.

Instead of creating a directory of merchants, Page Advisor customers create a tender for a job. Once the tender is open, merchants submit their bids by giving the customer a price quote and information on the kind of service they provide.

After bidding has closed, customers can assess the quotes based on other customers' reviews, pricing and details, before deciding which merchant to engage.

There are more than 100 services available on the app, and popular ones include air con servicing, confectionery production, transportation and cleaning services.

Page Advisor's management team comprises six members, including chief executive officer and serial entrepreneur Fabian Lim, as well as chief investment officer Jamie Lee, who is also the co-founder of dating agency Lunch Actually Group.

Mr Lim said he and his team came up with this reverse classified model because "when you disrupt an industry, you have to make the problem-solving easier and quicker".

Also, there is an emphasis on service quality, with each merchant needing to be a registered company and Page Advisor handling all disputes. Payment is conducted through the app, and the company takes a 12-15 per cent cut of the final transaction value.

The team plans to expand aggressively, by entering other South-east Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines by early next year. Mr Singh said: "This is a platform, and there will be copycats who will try to do the same thing. We want to have a head start."

Mr Lim said seed funding for the app totalled "several hundred thousand", and came largely from the founders' own pockets as well as an investment firm. But they are in talks with venture capitalists to raise the "seven-digit funding" needed to crack the overseas markets.

There are also plans to expand into other services such as dinner reservations and beauty services.

One merchant who has benefited from the Page Advisor model is handyman Paul Ng.

"I used to receive calls from customers just checking the prices of my services, but these unfortunately did not translate into jobs," said Mr Ng, who has completed over 100 job requests made through the app.

"After joining Page Advisor, I am able to understand my customers' needs better and am able to provide services beyond the usual plumbing," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2015, with the headline 'App lets you find the best merchant for your needs'. Print Edition | Subscribe