Interview with Simon Tang, Co-Founder of Renovation Start-Up HKDecoman
HKDecoman is a renovation platform divided into three primary departments: project matching and consultancy, e-commerce and academy. All three departments provide O2O (online to offline) services.
For project matching and consultancy we run a client-contractor pairing system online, in which users will be sorted and directed to renovation companies according to a list of 50+ criteria. These criteria describe different home renovation preferences, like budget, the need for children-friendly spaces, specific waterproof requirements, etc. After completing a set of diagnostic questions, customers will be given a list of suggested companies and products that match their specific renovation needs.
Under the Smart-matching System, companies are only assigned to customers that are seeking services in which these companies specialise and perform best in. We also have an online shopping site where customers will find a wide range of products, including furniture, appliances, tools, renovation materials and home products.
Could you explain why the renovation industry is in need of disruption?
Homeowners often rely on recommendations by friends when considering which renovation companies to entrust their homes to. Disputes and complaints against contractors are not a rarity since customers have no way of ascertaining a company’s credibility, track record and quality of service. The lack of standardisation in the renovation business also provides no incentive for companies to improve their service.
This is why the renovation business is in serious need of disruption. We set out to solve the problems of low transparency, poor quality of service, inconvenience and dissatisfying customer experience.
Your friends probably don’t know your specific renovation needs, and like anyone without a deep knowledge of the industry, you probably don’t know what you can expect from contractors.
And this is where information technology comes into the picture. Artificial intelligence (AI) has high accuracy levels and time-saving qualities. Our Smart-matching System educates users and makes it easier for contractors to know how they should deliver the final product.
With every successful matching, our big data gains in volume. Through analytics, we acquire the ability to gauge users’ needs and satisfaction, and subsequently the power to give them what they want. With the help of AI, we can predict trends and market needs of the local renovation industry, eventually giving us an edge over our competitors.
What is the profile of your average visitor?
More than 30% of our visitors are aged between 25-34, and together with the 35-44 age group make up more than half of our total visitors. Over half, in fact, 61%, of our visitors are female.
Where do you think the home renovation industry in Asia is headed in the future?
The industry will become increasingly digitalised. As more purchases shift online, the process of decision making will shift from contractors to users due to the ready access to information. Users will enjoy more autonomy in choosing what materials to use for their home renovation, thus gaining more control over how their homes will look and function.
As users gain access to reliable and useful information, the service quality of the industry will improve substantially as a response to users’ increased knowledge.
In current practice, contractors do not see it as their responsibility to impart knowledge like detailed material facts and legal regulations to their customers. Renovation platforms like ours will rise in prominence in the industry, provided that our services are multi-faceted and user-orientated. We will break free from the convention of online platforms only playing a directory role. Value-adding services like Smart-matching and consultancy will increase the online platform’s competitiveness and establish its indispensable role in the industry.
What are some of the opportunities and challenges for your company?
In the renovation industry, big players in the U.S. such as Houzz have been trying to enter the Asia Pacific market in the last few years. At this point, we’d say they still haven’t come up with the most suitable formulation for the local market yet. That’s where we see that our opportunities lie.
But since renovation is quite a traditional industry, obviously it has a set of deeply-rooted cultural and unspoken rules. Our educational attempts have to be able to leverage the influence of local norms. Moreover, we have to invest in building good relationships with local stakeholders like governmental bodies, the media and local key players. It might take a substantial amount of effort to disrupt the industry, as opposing forces could be unexpectedly strong.
Tell us about your plans for the future
We’re expanding our business to APAC countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines. Mergers and acquisition will be carried out to speed up our development. An APAC online knowledge network will be built to integrate our existing material and newly-gained insights. China will be our final destination.