The Singapore-based interior design marketplace connects established firms to customers via its mobile app
For many newly-weds, the next milestone to achieving long-lasting marital bliss, besides a honeymoon in Paris or another romanticised destination, is a wondrously-furnished home.
It could be a home that takes after their matriarchal grandmother’s Peranakan house, or one that was inspired by the opulent descriptions in a Fitzgerald novel. Or perhaps the couple is one of those avant grade performance art duos, and require a post-modern touch to their love nest .
Scouring for the right interior design firms to cater to specific tastes can be painstaking. But what is even more problematic is – how does one couple prevent themselves from getting ripped off? What if instead of a house that matches the excessive depictions in The Great Gatsby, it comes out looking like a dull and colourless communist abode that Stalin himself approved?
Singapore-based startup Qanvast wants to help new homeowners reduce these unnecessary headaches (and maybe, focus on pumping out babies) with its mobile platform.
In an interview, e27 speaks to Founder and CEO Tan Chee Yang to find out about Qanvast’s unique selling points, and what it hopes to achieve.
Below are the edited excerpts:
First off, what drove you to build this platform? Were you previously working in the interior design industry?
I was previously in a business and marketing field. But it was not tech or design-related. I chose to tackle the interior design sector because of the horror stories I heard from my friends about how difficult it is to find a reliable firm.
There are thousands of interior design firms, but it is difficult to know which ones are good. So initially, as home owners, we would ask our friends to recommend us interior designers. But this also means that the designers will basically reproduce our friends’ design, and therefore does not reflect our individual tastes.
Also, when I browse through existing interior design platforms, I find that they do not focus on homeowners; they focus on getting a lot of vendors on board, and less about user mentalities and transparency.
How does Qanvast fill these gaps in the market then?
Right now, we want to tackle the trust element in the home renovation market. To solve this, we make sure the interior design firms that come onboard go through a rigorous vetting process.
So we first see if the firms have some years of experience. We also want detailed breakdowns of their previous projects – how much the renovation cost, what was included in the cost, how long did it take them to complete the renovation, how many rooms, was there floor hacking or painting, etcetera.
We also do basic checks such as making sure their company is registered, we also talk to their previous clients (homeowners) to make sure that the work they did was legitimate.
The idea is we give as much as data as possible about our interior design firms to the home owners will trust our platform. Renovation costs S$50,000 (US$36,000) upwards so trust is important.
Once we have vetted the interior design firms, they are put on a probation period, and if they fail to perform up to expectations, we would take them off the platform.
Considering that interior design firms have to pay about S$1,000 (US$730) per month to use your platform, did you have trouble convincing them of Qanvast’s value proposition?
Yes, initially there were some roadblocks. But the industry itself is quite close knitted. Once they find out what value can be reaped from this S$1000, they will pass the word around. Right now, we have a lot of these interior designer firms coming up to us.
Walk me through the technical aspects of on boarding a vendor
The on-boarding is all taken care by my operations team. The vendors hand us all their photos and information and my team will upload it through a dashboard. For new Qanvast projects, we will hire freelance photographers to go down to the clients’ houses to take pictures. We will then curate the photos.
Do you have plans to introduce more services or products to the platform?
Yes, one thing that homeowners have been requesting is – how to purchase the furnitures that have been featured on our app. So now we have a products page that shows the name of the shops carrying those furnitures, as well as their prices.
We have also started on boarding product (furniture) vendors, so we can deliver the full pre-home renovation experience that can be tailored to each unique individual tastes.
Do you plan to expand overseas or raise any funding?
Currently, we already have around 150 interior design firms in Singapore on our platform; there are about 1,000 in the market, so we are focussing on capturing the entire industry here.
We are also currently testing the Malaysian market right now, and have already set up an office in Kuala Lumpur.
In terms of raising funds, we believe that our revenue stream is enough to sustain us for now. When we scale in Malaysia, we might consider raising funds.
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