Five questions with Qanvast

Ms Wang (left) and Ms Chen say Qanvast aims to link up home owners with a curated list of interior designers, while letting the designers showcase their work.
Ms Wang (left) and Ms Chen say Qanvast aims to link up home owners with a curated list of interior designers, while letting the designers showcase their work.ST PHOTO: DON CHI

Home renovation can be challenging enough without having to worry about rogue interior designers or contractors absconding with your funds. Interior design platform Qanvast (pronounced "canvas") aims to help home owners avoid such perils. Chia Yan Minspeaks to Qanvast's business development manager Josephine Wang and assistant marketing manager Madeline Chen, both 29, about its growth plans and goal to become a one-stop portal for home owners.

Q How did Qanvast get started?

Ms Wang Qanvast was started by a group of four of us in late-2013.

It was difficult to find trustworthy interior designers - we wondered why there was no proper channel to do so.

We wanted a trustworthy platform which could also provide home owners with inspiration for renovating their homes. After we got the idea we started the mobile app company within two months.

The platform aims to link home owners up with a curated list of interior designers, while also allowing interior designers an opportunity to showcase their work.

Within six months, about 30 interior designers had signed up.

Q How does the platform work?

Ms Wang Home owners submit quote requests via Qanvast. We will call to find out their requirements and shortlist five interior designers for them. This is free of charge.

We then encourage home owners to meet the interior designers, to see which one they are most comfortable with.

Home owners used to have to go to interior designers and talk to them one by one, so we help to shorten the time needed.

Interior designers pay a subscription fee of $1,000 to $2,000 per month to be listed on Qanvast. There are about 200 firms listed on the platform.

Q How do you reassure home owners of the quality of interior designers they hire through Qanvast?

Ms Wang Home owners often worry that contractors or interior designers will just disappear into thin air after being paid.

For every interior designer that comes on board, we do a "three-factor check". We visit their showroom and talk to their management; talk to previous home owners that have engaged them; and talk to others in the industry to see if they have a good reputation.

We launched the Qanvast Guarantee last September. This covers a home owner for up to 50 per cent of his contract value, or a maximum of $50,000 - whichever is lower. Home owners do not pay anything to be part of the programme.

Home owners have to submit their invoices and contract to us within seven days after closing a deal with an interior designer.

If the contract falls through, we will pay the home owner. But this has not happened yet.

We do very stringent checks on interior designers - if there are complaints about any interior designer we will delist them from Qanvast.

We're quite confident that nothing unfortunate will happen.

People tend to go to interior designers their friends recommend or have used before, but the Qanvast Guarantee helps to establish that trust to give them the confidence to work with someone new.

Ms Chen Home owners really appreciate this service. We're stepping in to assure them we're still around even after they have found an interior designer, and they can approach us if anything happens.

Q How has the company grown?

Ms Chen We started an office in Malaysia last year and now have close to 400 interior designers listed on the platform there.

We have a team of five in Malaysia and 20 in Singapore.

We've worked with about 1,000 home owners, who have engaged interior designers through Qanvast.

Q What are your future plans?

Ms Wang We have plans to expand into more Asia-Pacific cities this year - we're still exploring our options. Besides expanding abroad, we also want to go into post-renovation services - that is, furniture.

We have merchants listed on Qanvast - home owners can browse their merchandise on the app. They can't make purchases - most prefer to touch and feel before buying, but they can see the products on Qanvast first before going down to the retail store.

We are self-sustaining and not looking at raising funds. We might consider it in future if there is a suitable investor we can work with.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline 'Five questions with Qanvast'. Print Edition | Subscribe