Cleaner, homeowner connect at a click

Too busy for household chores? Find help from e-marketplaces

Mr Liang (front row, centre) with his AfterYou FindHelper team. He is flanked by chief operating officer Jason Teo (on his left) and Teo YiRong. Standing behind them are (from left) Mr Ashley Moey, Ms Belinda Phua, Mr Kelvin Lim, Mr Henrik Lange Hovi
Mr Liang (front row, centre) with his AfterYou FindHelper team. He is flanked by chief operating officer Jason Teo (on his left) and Teo YiRong. Standing behind them are (from left) Mr Ashley Moey, Ms Belinda Phua, Mr Kelvin Lim, Mr Henrik Lange Hovik and Ms Alicia Neo. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Help is just a mouse click or a tab on the smartphone away for almost any thing, from cleaning the house to walking the dog, and baby and elderly care, as providers of such service strive to stand out in an increasingly crowded space.

These service providers operate e-marketplaces - accessible via a website or smartphone app - to connect freelance cleaners and caregivers with homeowners who do not have time for household chores or to look after their dogs or babies.

A quick count shows about 10 such services now, compared with just a couple two years ago, with some of these being local expansions of overseas companies. For example, Helpling originated in Berlin, and Agent Bong hails from Hong Kong.

Others, like Fuss.sg and AfterYou FindHelper, were born and bred in Singapore. AfterYou, one of the newest such platforms, was launched earlier this year.

Growth for such platforms has also been steady. Kaodim, which has operations in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines, started in 2014. It now sees more than US$3 million (S$4 million) per month worth of transactions across all its territories.

Hiring part-time help is not new to many Singaporeans, especially for dual-income households where husband and wife are working.

Mr Fitzkhoon Liang, founder and CEO of AfterYou FindHelper, said: "We saw that dual-income families are the norm in many developed cities, and those families often don't have time to do chores.

"There are also families that are looking for this kind of work for supplementary income, so we thought that this kind of a marketplace makes sense."

Before such platforms became commonplace, customers had to find service providers by other means such as via word of mouth, and make arrangements privately.

Customers could also run into problems like hiring foreign domestic workers who were working illegally on their day off, or having no recourse for shoddy work and no-shows.

Many of these platforms now conduct their own verification checks, as well as handling the booking and payment of service providers.

Mr Jeffri Cheong, co-founder of Kaodim, explained the process that his company uses: "We check that the businesses are registered with the authorities and, if the person is a freelancer, we check his personal identification details and make copies of the relevant documentation."

Some platforms also provide a mediation service, should a job not be up to scratch. Mr Nathaniel Tan, the CEO of Fuss.sg, said that the company has four client managers who handle such cases.

"Whenever we have a dispute, we hear both sides out, and come to a resolution. There are four to five levels of recovery that we can do, depending on the severity of the case," he said.

For example, Fuss.sg may send another worker down to rectify any problem, or provide a discount code for the next booking.

Dr Dianna Chang, marketing lecturer at SIM University's School of Business, said such platforms have been increasingly popular in many countries, including Singapore.

"Consumers can enjoy the same benefits that are associated with online shopping for goods," she said.

"This includes convenience, variety, better prices, and transparency. The service providers can also enjoy better access to consumers, leading to better efficiency for both parties."

However, she cautioned that service standards need to be maintained, and that the marketplaces now need to stay on their toes.

She said: "As the entry barrier is low for such platforms, many start-ups will likely enter the fields and generate fierce competition.

"Only the best ones will survive eventually."

The Straits Times looks at six of these platforms.

AfterYou FindHelper matches by task

AfterYou FindHelper is one of the newer entrants to the home service market, as it started only in January this year.

It focuses on matching helpers to customers by task.


Help at hand at Helpling

Helpling was first launched by Berlin-based e-commerce entity Rocket Internet in April 2014, and has since expanded to more than 150 cities in Europe, Latin America and Australia.

The platform, which provides only cleaning services, was launched in Singapore in February last year. In the following month, it acquired local rival Spickify.


Pick most suitable offer with Kaodim

Kaodim's database covers everything from moving to landscaping and interior design.

It was launched in Malaysia in November 2014, and entered the Singapore market in June last year.


Sendhelper screens the suppliers

Sendhelper was launched in May last year, and is available as an app on both iOS and Android devices.

Users select the type of service that they want, and Sendhelper will automatically assign them a worker.

The fees for cooking and cleaning services are $18 per hour for recurring orders, and $20 for ad hoc orders. Sendhelper can also provide handyman, air-con repair and laundry services.


Fuss.sg focused on cleaning

Fuss.sg was set up in March last year and was one of the first homegrown portals to feature an automated booking system and online payment.

Customers using Fuss.sg input their location and preferred timing into the portal, and can choose to add on extra services such as cleaning of refrigerators and ironing. A cleaner will then be automatically assigned to the job.


The name's Bong - Agent Bong

Agent Bong - bong means help in Cantonese - was released in Hong Kong in April last year, and began operations in Singapore early this year. The platform is an app available on both iOS and Android app stores.


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2016, with the headline Cleaner, homeowner connect at a click. Subscribe