Homico (formerly Made4U), a Malaysian cleaning services startup, has sparked some controversy online recently.
Customers are complaining on Facebook and Google reviews that services by the brand were not fulfilled, despite customers having made payments and bookings for cleaning packages.
Following recent allegations about the conduct of Homico, Vulcan Post decided to investigate and write this article to look into this situation.
We will be acting as an impartial party to shed light on Homico’s history, recount the alleged events that have occurred, investigate the allegations, and get Homico’s responses to the situation.
This article is meant to be a platform showcasing both sides of the story. However, though we’ve reached out directly to the founder Calvin Fong to get his side of the story, we have yet to receive a response.
Thus, from here on, do note that all claims about Homico from external parties are still allegations until an official investigation by authorities is made, but for the sake of brevity, we will not be repeating “allegedly” in every instance.
Disclaimer: Vulcan Post is an impartial party in this situation, and this is not paid content by Homico or any of the affected parties.
Homico’s background & the start of the allegations
Homico Sdn Bhd was founded by Calvin Fong in October 2018 under the name Made4U. The Malaysian startup is a service platform that provides a range of cleaning services.
Operating on a job-matching model, customers who book services will be matched with available outsourced service providers.
In February 2022, Made4U rebranded as Homico.
According to customers in the comments section of Homico’s now-defunct Facebook page, the rebrand was where their requests started going unfulfilled.
By then, they had purchased maid cleaning packages relentlessly pushed out by the brand, with a promise that their redemptions would have no expiry date, which was largely the main appeal.
For clarity, “Made4U” will be mentioned in incidents that occurred before February 2022, while “Homico” will be mentioned for those happening after February 2022.
Our interviewees chose to speak to us with the promise of detailing their experiences under an alias to preserve their privacy and safety.
Unmet services & empty promises
Two of our interviewees, Dai and Jane, began engaging Made4U in 2020, while Clay started in June 2021. Made4U offered many different kinds of packages at this time, with Clay sharing that she received promotional messages weekly.
The interviewees stated that Made4U’s services went smoothly most of the time, and they would use their services periodically.
However, there were also incidents experienced by Jane and Clay where bookings, cancellations, or rescheduling attempts made would be replied to by bots.
Clay believes that Made4U might’ve been prioritising new customers in buying packages instead of fulfilling existing customers’ bookings during this time.
After the rebrand in 2022, Homico began operating on a subscription model, where customers were asked to provide their credit card details to be billed monthly. Jane and Dai obliged.
After providing her credit card details, Jane was billed for two sessions. The first of which she booked but wasn’t serviced on, with the second being billed without her making any bookings.
Homico stopped billing her after receiving numerous complaints from Jane.
Dai smartly used a debit card that he could “lock/unlock” in order to prevent auto-billing from Homico’s end. As such, whenever Homico attempted to auto-bill his card, it failed. In the end, Homico’s team would provide him with a manual link to pay.
Upon providing his card details, Dai also requested that he would get the same cleaner for each session. According to him, this never materialised however, despite scheduling cleaning services in advance so Homico’s team could plan ahead.
The interviewees speculated that Homico may be short-staffed, as their requests for cleaners would go unmet.
By June 2022, activity levels on Homico’s social media accounts took a dip. Founder and CEO Calvin Fong himself had also stopped posting on his personal accounts, with his last Facebook post being June 5.
Barring Instagram (where comments have been limited by the brand), Homico’s social media pages (Facebook and LinkedIn) can no longer be found, and its Homico.Asia website leads to a landing page that says “Under maintenance”.
After persistent messages to Homico, Jane was promised a refund in August, which remains unfulfilled today.
Jane also observed that the person who was servicing her queries would constantly be passed around, leading her to believe that the company was going through high turnover rates.
By August 2022, both Dai and Jane came to a realisation that they had potentially been scammed, with their persistent messages to Homico left ghosted.
Homico’s ex-employees speak up
As our request to get a statement from Homico’s CEO Calvin did not pan out, we received insider information from ex-employees who will be quoted under an alias to protect them professionally and personally.
Disclaimer: The objective of this article is to hold Homico’s management and founder accountable for the allegations against them, and we do not intend to put pressure on the other departments under Homico’s management, as they are all simply hired employees.
Sales > customers and employees
Cee believes that the reason Homico was unable to deliver its services can be attributed to the company’s business model.
Traditional cleaning service companies would hire full-time cleaners to be tied under a contract. Homico was operating on the gig-economy model, where freelance cleaners get to claim jobs whenever they want.
“Undeniably this was an attempt but they’ve failed to get enough freelance cleaners,” Cee said.
Cee went on to detail that the internal staff members, especially the sales team, were pushed to hit sales KPIs towards 2021’s year-end, despite not having cleaners to fulfill the services.
They elaborated that the company prioritised achieving “good-looking sales amounts” to engage with investors.
According to them, this went to the extent of forcing office employees to become cleaners themselves, with management telling subordinates that it’s a “chance to experience how it feels to be a cleaner”. A Facebook post by CEO Calvin in May 2022 even depicts a photo of him driving home from his cleaning job.
“Although we asked our team manager if the company is doing this just because they want us to complete the unclaimed bookings, they denied,” Cee recalled.
Editor’s Update 7/11/22: The following paragraphs below have been added after speaking to another Homico ex-employee who was open to sharing their side of the story under the assurance of anonymity.
X, who was part of the middle management team at Homico, had a different understanding of why Homico’s staff were made to experience being a cleaner.
While many employees thought the intention of the senior leaders forcing them to become a cleaner was to fulfill orders, X said that they were also using this tactic to make people voluntarily leave the company.
They stated that the senior leaders were testing their fellow employees on their willingness to “sacrifice” for the company.
X added that the senior leaders refused to listen to employees and made it compulsory for everyone to become a cleaner and take one job per week, even allowing employees to take time off to perform cleaning jobs at customers’ houses.
Financial problems leading to staff resignations
X said that CEO Calvin often pushed them to hire more members for their team, despite them insisting that the current team size they had was sufficient for their operations.
According to X, though the finance team had already been strictly controlling OpEx (operational expenditure) costs since January 2022, senior leaders continued with the hiring plan.
Furthermore, this was at a time when Homico’s financial status was already in crisis, though this was not made clear to X even though they were part of the core team.
Later, X found out that employees’ EPFs were not being paid. When more employees started to realise that their EPF was not credited, the senior leaders had no choice but to make an announcement that the company was having cash flow issues and would delay EPF payment by one month, with the situation persisting until further notice.
Eventually, Homico’s senior leaders came up with a plan to terminate more operational employees as they realised they had overhired without business results improving.
The discussion dragged on while funds decreased drastically, and senior leaders eventually gave middle management a KPI to cut down Homico’s workforce by almost 50%.
However, the plan was unable to be executed before the senior leaders finally decided that they wanted to let go of people without compensation. X said that, although they understood that a termination compensation was necessary, they did not want to follow compliance.
In May 2022, X said that Homico’s senior management announced the financial crisis to everyone and subsequently gave all employees the “option” to resign within 24 hours.
While Cee said that those who chose to stay would “definitely get a pay cut”, X added that the management said that those who stayed will get difficult KPIs, and upon failing to achieve them, would later be fired.
Either way, X believes that this was how Homico’s management team was trying to push employees to leave without needing to compensate them, as they would be leaving on the basis of “resigning” or “getting fired”.
Resigning during this period, Cee told Vulcan Post as of September 4, Homico still owed them one month’s salary and two months of EPF contributions.
Extremely disheartened by the company’s unethical actions, X also decided to resign after the incidents. They believe all this was what caused them to develop anxiety and depression. “I would cry every day at work, after work, and had insomnia,” X said.
Today, Homico still owes X almost two months of salary, and though X has lodged complaints to the Inland Revenue Board Of Malaysia, they were told that their salary was beyond their coverage, and asked to engage a lawyer. “I did not pursue this further,” X said.
While Vulcan Post attempted to find more employee reviews and ratings on Glassdoor, Homico has taken its page down.
The existing 15 reviews on JobStreet point toward a pattern in Homico’s bad management, with ratings standing at an average of 2.9/5 from 30 respondents.
One reviewer highlighted that employees are penalised for speaking up about real issues within the company.
“For me, I decided to leave because it was a very unethical move to reduce the company headcount and there was a lot of discrepancy of information (lack of transparency) from the C-suites,” another ex-staff member, Qu, told Vulcan Post.
A reminder to be wary before putting money into a service
It’s worth noting that the alleged failure in Homico’s gig-economy model for its cleaning services is not a reflection of other Malaysian companies operating this way.
Based on the accounts of employees, it was the company’s management that ultimately failed to uphold integrity, transparency, and accountability to its stakeholders.
Its own staff members, customers, investors, and other startups operating with similar kinds of services will suffer the consequences on Homico’s behalf.
Although the customers we spoke to are only hoping for a refund from Homico to bury the hatchet, they have now become wary of other Malaysian startups who offer similar services.
And rightfully so, as the Homico allegation may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to service provider deceits.
There seem to be new scammers who will pose as a cleaning service or grooming provider, and will ask interested customers to download an app from a link they sent.
Doing so and signing up will allegedly give the perpetrators access to your phone’s OTP, allowing them to access your fund transfers or transactions.
There’s no denying that labour is consistently in high demand with many people looking for cleaners, while there aren’t enough cleaners, helpers, or maids in supply.
Individuals with bad intentions are now leveraging this demand to come up with ways to take advantage of the public.
To be fair, Homico (Made4U) may have very well started out with every intention of being a legitimate business. But if they continue to hold on to their customers’ money without actually fulfilling their services, it seems they have failed to uphold their credibility.
- Read about other Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Homico’s Facebook (now defunct) page