Catching Up

This M’sian Rental Platform Wants To Up The Ante Against Property Agents & Racists

  • Whei Meng, founder  of M’sian property platform Speedrent tells us about his company’s recent funding and how they plan to also combat racism in property rentals.

The last time we spoke to Wong Whei Meng of Speedrent for a full interview about his business was in 2015. Back then, his company was a relative newbie to the real estate game, but was already making waves in the local property market thanks to its disruptive approach that helped landlords and tenants connect directly with each other instead of having to go through property agents.

Back then, he said that dealing with a property agent was akin to dealing with a messenger who would only repeat the same message again and again, insinuating that the same service could be executed more efficiently through Speedrent’s app-based platform.

And as it turned out, Speedrent’s devil-may-care approach managed to rattle a few cages, with plenty of hatemail and threats being received from disgruntled property agents. But even more so, Whei Meng decided that they’d not stop, convinced that his company were on the right track.

The Numbers Say It All

Fast forward to 2019, it seems that their targeted stakeholders have come to agree with him.

His business has grown more than 400%, with his team now roughly five times larger than it was at the beginning of 2017. More impressively, they’ve told us that they’ve generated more than seven figures in revenue, with more than RM15 million in rental transactions made through their platform.

“We’re very proud to have been able to align our goals with our execution,” Whei Meng said.

“Speedrent has a great mission and vision, and if we’ve failed to make a dent in the industry, it’s certainly our fault.”

Speaking on their growth, Whei Meng explained that the one thing he thinks his team have been getting right is their decision-making and goal-setting, and how quickly they’ve been able to execute them.

“We need to always be laser-focused on wildly important goals, and execute them speedily,” he added. “To aid this, we have weekly townhall meetings to make sure every team is aligned to the mission and our goals.”

Speedrent were also in the midst of a fundraising campaign to help them launch new service verticals including Speedmanage—a platform to help landlords further automate property management and allow them to book things like air-conditioning and plumbing services all in one place.

Whei Meng at a crowdfunding roadshow in 2018 / Image Credit: Speedrent

“We also plan to grow our team to between 60 to 80 people, and will focus a lot more on engineering and operations headcount to make sure we provide mind-blowing customer service and experiences.”

This is in addition to their newly launched room-rental segment which Whei Meng feels will continue to become more viable in the coming months.

“There are a lot of initiatives by the government with regards to housing affordability and the rent-to-own (RTO) concept, but I don’t think it’ll impact the rental market significantly,” he said. “We do however see mid-range properties with good accessibility and public transport services being leased out easily.”

“The middle-to-high range market will be tough given the incoming supply, so we think room rentals will make it easier for Malaysian families who may find it tough to rent a house for RM3,000 a month.”

We’re All The Same

Now, Whei Meng is trying to tackle a different issue within the real estate market—racism. He thinks that for too long there’s been the unsavoury practice of landlords making known their preferences for race when it comes to leasing out their properties.

Rental listings that say “Chinese preferred” or something along those lines have been sighted every now and then, even despite inching closer towards the year 2020.

“I think it’s all been caused by decades of policies that have focused on race rather than everyone being ‘Malaysian’,” he said. “It’s been deeply rooted within the Baby Boomer group to see people by the colour of their skin.”

“Fortunately, acceptance among the younger generation is significantly higher!”

Here’s a Facebook post by Whei Meng with more on his stance on discrimination:

Although not exactly rampant on an epidemic scale, the feeling is that there’s enough of it for there to be a problem, and now he wants to help tackle the issue through Speedrent through a three-pronged approach.

The first he says, is through technology, where Speedrent can help landlords connect directly with their tenants, essentially letting them become immediately acquainted.

“When they can communicate directly, they can understand one another,” he said. “This is unlike the market practice where tenants go through property agents to rent—such methods block communications between landlords and tenants and prevents deeper understanding.”

Next up, Whei Meng explained that through Speedrent’s strict filtration system, landlords can immediately rest easy and not worry they could be possibly dealing with a potentially problematic tenant.

“We also use RAMCI and CTOS scores to filter out tenants by their credit-worthiness,” he said. “This helps us remove tenants with bad financial histories, therefore improving the quality of our tenants.”

Finally, he also mentioned Speedrent’s Allianz-partnered insurance coverage. This particular coverage provides to landlords of up to RM26,000 in the hopes of making them feel more at ease in the event of any damage to their properties.

But in the end, Whei Meng feels that even without the introduction of such measures, Malaysians should actively try to curb the problem, and he thinks that it should start at the administrative level.

“We should start by removing ‘race’ in the filling of forms, and we really should enact and enforce anti-discriminatory laws,” he said. “Ultimately, just don’t play race card if we want equality for all.”

Feature Image Credit: Speedrent

 

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