On-demand services is the new trend we’re seeing here in Singapore, and their popularity has been increasing since last year, when Uber became one of the first of such services to take off. While we have seen the rise of on-demand personal concierge services in Singapore such as Messenger and NiHao — both of which launched a month ago — we’re also beginning to notice another new breed of startups: on-demand cleaning services.
On-demand services, as the term suggests, allows you to request for services as and when you need them — at a tap of a button on your mobile, or a click on a website.
The Rise of “Uber for Cleaners” in Singapore
What probably prompted the rise of on-demand cleaning services in Singapore is the acquisition of Spickify by Rocket Internet-backed Helpling earlier last month. Other than Helpling — which is also known as the “Uber for professional cleaners” and currently has over 150 cleaners on its platform — another new, but similar service has caught our attention: The Sunday Crew.
The Sunday Crew’s premise is simple: choose a date and time, and the crew will show up and do the cleaning for you at a flat rate of S$20 per hour. According to their website, all crew members are either Singaporeans or Permanent Residents who have professional cleaning experience. The team also interviews and screens every candidate to ensure the quality of the cleaning crew. Like Uber, payments are made online so no physical cash transactions are involved.
From the looks of it, The Sunday Crew is targeting on Airbnb hosts who rent out their apartments to travellers. A testimonial on their website from Airbnb host Spencer Yang reads: The Sunday Crew really impressed me with their high quality of service and professionalism. As an Airbnb host, I really appreciate their service. It has never been this easy getting my apartment cleaned!
Other than Helpling and The Sunday Crew, there’s also After You Services, a one-stop household management service provider which offers housekeeping, air-con maintenance, laundry and handyman services. The website was unaccessible at the time of publishing, though.
An Unnecessary Innovation?
A quick search on Google will tell you that cleaning services are not exactly new in Singapore — there are dozens of other platforms and websites that have been in business for the past few years. Here’re a few of them:
What differentiates the the new breed of on-demand cleaners (Helpling, The Sunday Crew, et cetera) from the older ones is the leverage of technology to make payments and booking of cleaners easier with a more “Web 2.0” experience. However, one can’t help but wonder if these are real innovations that we need. Perhaps if the scope of service is broadened to include complimentary ones (such as handyman services) like those that After You is providing, they would make much more sense.
After all, having a cleaner is a want, not a need.
In a recent interview with Mr Liak Teng Lit, chairman of the Public Hygiene Council (which leads the Keep Singapore Clean Movement), Mr Liak shared a growing concern on the general public’s mindset towards cleanliness. Increasingly, there’re a lot of people who take it for granted that someone will be there to clean up after them. This is reinforced through home education, said Mr Liak, citing examples of situations where a kid drops something and wants to pick it up, only to have the parent say, “No. Dirty. Let the cleaner do it”. This mindset is what necessitates over 70,000 cleaners cleaning up the streets of Singapore everyday.
“Singapore, we have five million people and 70,000 cleaners. That’s two Singapore armies. It’s quite ridiculous.”
Those who request for on-demand cleaners might argue that their time is more productively spent working or doing other tasks. But as Mr Liak said, “productivity is not just about sweeping very productively. Real productivity is when people don’t throw rubbish around.”
So while companies like Helpling and The Sunday Crew might appeal to a certain segment of the community who needs cleaning services, I’m personally looking forward to the additional complimentary services of repairmen, locksmith or even movers, which I believe provide more value.