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Recommend Group reaps US$4M Series A after its right call to buckle down in the pandemic

Home services social recommendation platform, Recommend Group (Recommend) has announced successful funding of US$4M (about RM16M). 

Led by Morning Crest Capital (MCC), a Shanghai-based venture capital firm, it was joined by existing investors, including Singapore-based Brain-Too-Free Ventures.

Founded in 2014 by Jes Min Lua, Alex Tan, and Anthony Eka Wijaya, Recommend is operational in Malaysia under the name Recommend.my, and in Indonesia as Sejasa.com. 

It’s essentially a social recommendation platform where users can search, review, and recommend service professionals for home improvement, maintenance, cleaning, and more. 

Today, it has expanded to offer professionals in 200 categories of services including events, education, beauty, and business sectors. 

Using AI to make recommendations

Home services can be a largely unregulated industry. For example, when scouting for a professional to service your aircon, many providers would claim to have the best rates or most competitive pricing. 

Additionally, you wouldn’t actually know whether their services are of good quality unless you’ve experienced it yourself or if they’ve been referred to by a friend. Hence, these are some pain points Recommend’s platform is solving.

For one, after searching for an aircon service provider, Recommend’s algorithm will suggest the right service professional based on prior reviews and ratings, expertise, location, and availability. 

Customers can then choose to directly book the service via call or WhatsApp, or get multiple quotations from several service professionals. Since the pandemic, Recommend has also enabled a feature allowing customers to specify if they prefer fully-vaccinated teams.

Some of the home maintenance services you’ll find on the site

To ensure that service providers are of good quality, Recommend’s team works with professionals in standardising their services. This includes the service’s scope and prices, enabling cashless payments, and providing strong service warranties and insurance protection. 

This is beneficial to customers as it ensures that they won’t be cheated by false advertising, and in turn, benefits service providers too as such assurances build confidence in each recommendation. 

“Hence, [service professionals] also get a higher conversion rate where interested customers are more likely to book them for a job, which results in a higher number of actual jobs for the service professional,” Jes Min explained to Vulcan Post.

Ultimately, the platform works to drive new customers and jobs to these service professionals which will also help them grow their business, something that became more crucial in the pandemic.

Bringing business amidst the pandemic

When the pandemic first started, the Recommend team, being mainly a platform for service providers which are customer-facing, was at a loss.

Unclear lockdown rules meant that it would disrupt the jobs undertaken by these professionals.

“One of the options was to just put the team on ice, but that would leave our customers and service professionals hanging,” Jes Min recalled. The team then decided to stay operational, while supporting their service professionals through SOP changes, roadblocks, etc. 

The team with some of their service providers / Image Credit: Recommend.my

This decision led to an uptake in positive customer reviews and a rise in Recommend’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) results, meaning that customers were grateful that the platform was still operational during the period.

Jes Min also added that many cleaners, electricians, and plumbers who lost their jobs during the lockdown also turned to find work on Recommend.

The service professionals also became really loyal to us, because we were the ones who were on the phone with the government officials and police to clarify SOPs and help to educate them during this time. That was a turning point for us, and it has been growing ever since.

Jes Min Lau, CEO and co-founder of Recommend Group

This led to a significant hike in Recommend’s demand, with some categories like aircon servicing, disinfection, electrical repairs, and plumbing services growing by 3 times.

On the other hand, home improvement services like renovations and interior design fluctuated with the lockdowns. Now that lockdowns are lifted, Jes Min reported that this category is now growing by more than 20% month-on-month.

To keep up with demands, the team is actively on-boarding more service professionals, while training them according to Recommend’s standards and SOPs to keep customers safe. 

Becoming an all-in-one platform

To date, Recommend has reported having served over 1 million homes in Malaysia and Indonesia. “This helps our algorithm get smarter at making the right match,” said Alex. The platform is also behind the home service offerings on the Boost e-wallet app, consumer brands like IKEA, and community apps like Mah Sing M Concierge.

With its Series A total of US$4 million, Recommend plans to use the funds to expand its teams in Indonesia and Malaysia, with a focus on product and engineering. It will also improve the user experience on its customer and vendor mobile apps as well as its website.

Recommend is also planning to build new features that empower service workers to manage and grow their businesses. Already equipped with a scheduling platform, Jes Min shared that the team wants to have an all-in-one system where professionals can manage marketing, sales, payment collection, and team management.

As for expansion plans, Recommend will be expanding to 2-3 cities in both Indonesia and Malaysia. 

Locally, the team will focus on strengthening its presence in Penang and Johor by first onboarding some top service professionals in those cities. After that, they will look into penetrating other cities in West and East Malaysia.

Once Recommend has expanded its reach in Malaysia and Indonesia, Jes Min is certain that they will explore the rest of SEA as well.

  • You can learn more about Recommend.my here.
  • You can read more articles on funding that we’ve covered here.

Featured Image Credit: The team at Recommend Group

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