Start-up offers 'butler service' for NSmen

If the army duffel bag or field pack is cluttering up the house, there is now a "buddy" in town which will not only stash away the bulky bag, but also lug it to camp when the citizen soldier gets called up for in-camp training.

That buddy will even help wash the army uniforms and replace missing or damaged items in the bag, at an extra cost.

Home-grown start-up Spaceship has hit on a brainwave that aims to make it less of a chore for operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) to keep and prepare their army gear before and after their in-camp training.

Spaceship co-founder Yeo Zhi Wei told The Straits Times: "It is like a butler service... If we can make things a little easier and more convenient for NSmen, why not?"

Since the pick-up, store and drop-off service - dubbed "Kaki" (Malay for buddy) - was launched last month, more than 100 NSmen have signed up.

Pick-up, storage and delivery of the bag costs $60 a year. Washing of fatigues and physical training attire costs $20 for 10 items, and sewing and replenishing of items are pegged to "Beach Road rates" - a reference to prices at the military supplies shops there. Bag disposal costs $25 a trip. Deliveries can be made at two days' notice. The bags are stored in warehouses located islandwide.

Mr Yeo's company, launched at the end of last year to offer valet storage services to those who want to unclutter their homes, is part of the growing self-storage industry in Singapore.

The service for military equipment, however, has drawn flak from some netizens and generated much debate about whether Generation Y soldiers in Singapore are becoming too "soft".

In 2011, there was an uproar when a photo of a maid carrying a recruit's field pack went viral online.

Noting that the response to his service has exceeded expectations, Mr Yeo, 29, an NSman himself, said: "Members of the younger generation prefer to make better use of the space at home, and would rather put away things they do not need."

Among them is librarian Edward Lim, who was among the first to sign up for the "Kaki" army valet storage service.

"I don't own a car, so it is quite a burden to carry the bulky bag around and travel to and from camp," said the 29-year-old infantryman, who gets called up every year for in-camp training.

Mr Lim, who lives with his parents in a four-room flat and will move into a five-room apartment with his wife and in-laws in June, said: "I use the duffel bag only once or twice a year, so it is better to just put it away than let it take up space and collect dust in the house."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.