Whenever I want to get a restaurant recommendation or read a review about a spot, I usually turn to Google. Good, old, trustable Google with its millions of search hits in just a couple of seconds.
At this point, I don’t think I’m open to changing my tendencies. But this Malaysian app aims to challenge that habit in me and countless other locals.
Called MyComments, this app is essentially like Yelp or TripAdvisor. Users can essentially write comments for restaurants, lifestyle spots, and more.
Taking inspiration from abroad
Having lived in Shanghai for ten years, Lim had witnessed the rise of dianping.com, which had gone from a review site offering group buying to one of the biggest on-demand delivery platforms today.
Self-described as a true fan of the site, Lim was determined to bring the concept home to Malaysia. He believed that many Malaysians might know of dianping, but it didn’t actually have a foothold here in terms of usage.
He kicked off the idea in 2013 using his own funds with a few other partners on his side. One of them was Anson Leong, who essentially worked for free back then.
When asked about why Anson decided to work with Lim on the project pro-bono, he didn’t hesitate to answer.
“The first thing is, I trust him,” Anson said. “This is very important to me.”
Anson knew him from a previous job and believed in Lim’s attitude and abilities.
“We started very early, but it was a part-time project,” Lim explained. “We always wanted to make it a full-time one, but our resources were very limited. But we didn’t give up.”
Last year, the team finally raised their first round of investments from friends and family. MyComments now has two full-time employees, including Anson.
So, back to the question of what MyComments offers that sets it apart from other review apps.
“The differentiation is on local content, fitting into social-cultural expectations of Malaysians,” Lim elaborated.
One obvious way is catering to the Muslim demographic in Malaysia. Other than a halal tab on the main page, Muslim users can also be prompted to use the Muslim-friendly settings upon opening the app.
According to the team, the app also has translation features by Google, so users can click on the option and the translation will appear based on the user language phone setting. This is useful for a multilingual nation like Malaysia.
Another feature is curation. MyComments’ team describes the platform as a “digital magazine”, particularly due to the Top 10 list and the video content they produce.
The Top 10 list basically houses native content and listicles such as “Top 10 Nasi Lemak in Greater KL Recommended by Netizens”, “Top 10 Free Entrance Hotspots in Ipoh”, and more.
“Google is ‘search’, MyComments is ‘browse’,” the team simplified.
As a smaller, local platform, MyComments is also able to connect to its users more and respond to feedback more efficiently.
Solving merchants’ pain points
MyComments’ current business model relies on merchants signing up for its digital advertising system.
With a base price of RM12.50 per day, merchants can essentially boost their stores to wider audiences as they are given priority in search results with the help of location-based services.
These paying merchants also get access to the Business Console where they can write their own shop descriptions, upload official videos and photos, and publish their Business WhatsApp links for bookings and orders.
Merchants can also publish ongoing promotions or coupons on their pages to drive up interest. According to Lim, MyComments does not earn any commissions off redemptions of these coupons.
Believing that ads on sites like Google and Facebook are more expensive nowadays, MyComments thinks its packages are more valuable. This may be true, but the result all comes down to MyComments’ reach.
An issue hindering this, though, is that MyComments lacks credibility. Not many know about it, despite the fact that it’s been around for a while.
“The thing I’m quite worried [about] is that people don’t know who we are,” Anson said. “Are we a scam? Are we trustable? This is the problem.”
To gain Malaysians’ trust, the team aims to up their media exposure and transparency.
My comments on MyComments
To be honest, I still had some doubts left even after hearing the team speak about the app. While the app is somewhat active, it’s definitely a lot less populated compared to popular, well-established sites.
Yet, I do see the charm of the app. While there are some kinks with the languages to sort out, the UI and UX of the app are clean and approachable.
The app feels very much like a comfortable, wholesome platform for Malaysians to share little titbits of information with each other.
Still, I wondered whether there’s an appetite for this. Especially in this age of social media, where anyone can just look up an influential food or travel account to find trending places to visit.
This is exacerbated by the fact that an concept like this isn’t unique.
Other than the aforementioned apps such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, there’s also KLOOK, a popular option available in Malaysia.
It lets users look up travel and F&B destinations on top of other activities and even book these packages directly on its sites. Given, it’s not primarily a review site, but customers can leave reviews and ratings too.
Still, this industry is likely big enough for multiple players. MyComments has its work cut out, though, as it won’t be easy trying to grow visibility and awareness in the shadow of more established giants.
But there’s no doubt that the team behind MyComments is passionate. And they’re optimistic. That’s what kept them going from 2013 until now.
And perhaps that optimistic outlook and perseverance are well worth-it; MyComments is finally kicking off its merchant model, having signed its first merchant recently. According to Anson, there are 10 to 20 more merchants who have verbally agreed to join in on the app.
This optimism extends to MyComments’ future. Talking to the team, it seems like they’re interested in creating some kind of all-in-one lifestyle app that makes peoples’ lives more convenient. Once again, this idea isn’t anything new, but we’re interested to see how MyComments might put their own tweak to it.
In short, MyComments aims to be an app created by Malaysians for Malaysians. It’s a space for locals to exchange recommendations and reviews.
Of course, its longevity will come down to whether the team is able to continue marketing it in a way that’s relevant to our ever-changing content consumption habits.
Featured Image Credit: Anson Lim, Director at MyComments