Two startups aim to take SMEs to next level

Two startups aim to take SMEs to next level

STARTUP activity continues apace as two homegrown ventures announced developments that would help Singapore-based SMEs market their services and boost productivity. The first, Page Advisor, is believed to be South-east Asia's first real-time, mobile marketplace for home maintenance and lifestyle services.

Backed by Singapore Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh, it made its debut here on Wednesday. A free app, Page Advisor allows users to access and hire over 1,500 service providers from some 100 specialised services ranging from air-con technicians, electricians and plumbers to car groomers, entertainers, pet groomers and private chefs.

"Durian delivery men will soon be available," said CEO Fabian Lim, who noted that the goal of Page Advisor was really to make it easier and quicker for people to obtain local services - currently a lengthy, cumbersome process marred by difficulties in getting competitive quotes and the lack of verified merchant reviews.

With Page Advisor, users choose the service they want, answer a series of short questions (with an option to submit photos to illustrate the problem), and indicate when they need the job done.

Service providers then receive details of the job request, and propose quotes to bid for jobs. Finally, users review the service providers' profiles and quotes before appointing one to do the job.

Once the job is completed, users make payment in-app by credit card and give a review of the service provider, a feature made compulsory to create an authentic ratings and quality-driven marketplace, said Mr Lim.

"What sets us apart though, is really our Merchant Guarantee Programme (MGP), which instils in users confidence in our service providers," he said, referring to the voluntary initiative where participating service providers are obliged to offer a 100 per cent money-back guarantee for services found to be unsatisfactory.

As a start, the platform will take a 10 per cent cut (8 per cent if the service provider is an MGP participant) on all transactions made via the app. "The bigger goal is to help level the playing field for SMEs - some of whom could be solo-preneurs - against the big players when it comes to providing such services," said Mr Lim.

Added Mr Singh, an adviser and shareholder of the startup: "Page Advisor will make a difference to SMEs - which tend to have limited advertising budgets or marketing know-how - in helping them access a new demographic of consumers and more jobs than they ordinarily would."

The serial entrepreneur who has founded 10 companies and invested in several technology startups stressed that quality control and a sound revenue model would be key to Page Advisor's success.

The startup, which took a five-men team two years to build, will soon launch in Malaysia followed by Asia, with a target of over 15 million mobile users in the region by 2019.

Meanwhile, Alpha7, a technology consultancy platform that provides cloud advisory, assessment and technical implementation services, announced that it has raised S$3.1 million for product development and talent acquisition. An Australian office has also been planned for the second half of the year.

Said CEO Lynette Seah: "Driven by ASEAN's rise, we will help SMEs from the US, UK and Australia establish operations in Singapore and around the region . . . addressing the gap between a business's people, processes and technology."

jaccheok@sph.com.sg

@JacCheokBT


This article was first published on May 14, 2015.
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