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Middleman apps fight to be top

These companies, which connect users to anyone from cleaners to contractors, are counting on quality assurance to set themselves apart in an increasingly crowded scene.

SINGAPORE: At least two startups providing services as the "middleman" between your needs and those who can fulfil them have emerged in Singapore this year.

These companies, which connect users to anyone from cleaners to contractors, are counting on quality assurance to set themselves apart in an increasingly crowded scene.

Housewife Caslyn Tan, 32, is a freelance cleaner listed with German startup Helpling, which began operating in Singapore this February. She uses the platform to reach consumers who want their homes to be spick and span, and said it is particularly useful for mothers looking for flexible work.

"Most of my friends are housewives so they have spare time in the morning while their children in the school, in primary school or secondary school. So they can spend their time and earn some part-time income,” Mrs Tan said.

Helpling is among a growing bunch of "middleman" startups emerging that is not only offering convenience, but also assurance in the quality of services provided. Mrs Tan, for instance, had to undergo a face-to-face interview before being listed as a cleaner.

To set itself apart from other startups offering matchmaking services, Helpling provides a million-dollar guarantee. If home damage results due to cleaning, it will cover up to S$1 million worth in costs.

Ms Lynette Chong, business development manager at Helpling, said: "We will go in, we will investigate, we will make sure we will do all the checks. So all the customer has to do is let us know through our customer care line or by email."

Helpling charges a flat fee of S$20 for an hour of cleaning. Cleaners keep S$16, and Helpling keeps the rest.

Others, like the newly-launched Page Advisor have taken a slightly different approach to ensuring quality. The service cost about S$500,000 to set up and has a Merchant Guarantee Programme, where consumers can get their money back if they do not get what they pay for.


A screen shot from the Page Advisor app. (Photo: Facebook/Page Advisor)

Its mobile application lets you select services from car grooming to babysitting – and even cooking. But not just anyone can sign up with the platform as a service provider.

"We don't accept freelancers. What we want to do is to be able to provide some level of quality standards and accountability, more so. So every company that joins us, every merchant that joins us will have to be company-registered, with the appropriate qualifications,” said Mr Fabian Lim, Page Advisor's founder and chief executive.

Page Advisor does not work like an advertisement board for users to browse a list of available service providers. Instead, users advertise their needs across roughly 40 service categories. For instance, if you need someone to groom your dog, you can list your requirements and companies will then respond with quotes.

Another approach adopted by many matchmaking platforms is to let users rate service providers. Kluje – a startup connecting people with renovation contractors – uses this system to let consumers identify quality service providers.