Serving SHN? You can rent a spin bike and more

Businesses cash in on demand, offering to deliver range of items to those in quarantine at hotels

Happy SHN will accept any request, so long as it's legal and within certain weight and size limits.
Happy SHN will accept any request, so long as it's legal and within certain weight and size limits.PHOTO: HAPPY SHN/INSTAGRAM

Like anyone who has done their time in quarantine, Mr David Lee turned to Netflix, YouTube and the Internet.

When it came to exercising, however, he found he had to rearrange the furniture to get any decent space. He considered buying an exercise bike online, but retailers either took too long to deliver - given his 14-day predicament - or would not send the item to a hotel.

Two quarantines later, the 35-year-old Singaporean decided to do something about it.

"I woke up at 7am and worked on a website, completed it in three hours, just a very basic website, and put some products on it. I got my first order on the same day."

Mr Lee's Happy SHN is one of several firms that have sprung up in Singapore since the pandemic began. With returning residents and some travellers required to serve mandatory quarantine at government-appointed facilities - usually hotels earmarked for the purpose - these businesses offer a range of rentals to make the time that little bit more bearable.

Exercise equipment like bikes, free weights and treadmills are obvious ones, but Happy SHN (short for stay-home notice) and others offer a range of items including gaming consoles, microwave ovens, air purifiers, fridges, vacuum cleaners, big-screen TVs, carbonated water makers, electronic pianos, food steamers, coffee machines and hair straighteners.

Happy SHN will accept any request, so long as it is legal and the item is within certain weight and size limits. If renters really like the equipment, they can buy it at a discounted rate, depending on its age and condition. Upon checkout, they just leave it at the hotel concierge.

Mr Lee, who had to shutter his other business that did vacation rentals in Seoul because of the pandemic, said interest is brisk, with most wanting to make their two weeks as comfortable as possible.

He recently added freezers after one mother who was breastfeeding found the bar fridge in her room inadequate. A portable washing machine will soon be added.

Mr Ian Berclaz is another entrepreneur who saw an opportunity. After restructuring at an asset management firm made his position redundant last year, the Swiss native co-founded Sweatspot SG with his partner, offering exercise bike rentals to people who wanted to work out at home during Singapore's eight-week circuit breaker.

It was not until he saw a bus transporting people to hotels to serve their quarantine that he realised the broader potential.

"Suddenly I had a revelation," Mr Berclaz, 47, said. "I said, that's another way we expand our business. So we reached out to hotels and started partnering with them."

Now, two-thirds of Sweatspot's business comes from hotel quarantine rentals, and he has devised premium packages that offer spin bikes, weight sets and yoga mats.

Both Mr Lee and Mr Berclaz say they expect business to grow. Sweatspot is now looking to expand overseas to Hong Kong, Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand.

"I think this business will still be going on at least for another one to two years," Mr Lee said. "I'll be doing this until everyone is vaccinated."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2021, with the headline 'Serving SHN? You can rent a spin bike and more'. Subscribe