Elevator Pitch: Andy Wong, Founder of Home Improvement Platform, ‘Papabo’
June 20, 2023
Due to the lack of affordable housing in Hong Kong, citizens are much more likely to maintain their living quarters – patching up leaky walls and fixing up faulty electronics, rather than scouring the market for a new place to live. In Hong Kong, we rely on the expertise and wisdom of our local ‘sifus’ – repairmen that know every nook and cranny of your home – probably better than you ever will.
According to a 2022 report made by Future Market Insights, the maintenance and repair service industry remains at the top of market lists. Although the advent of COVID-19 may have slowed the growth of the handyman service sector, the global market for repair services is slowly making a recovery.
For life long construction devotee Andy Wong, he believed that the high demand for repair services in Hong Kong was not met with adequate support, especially in connecting the sifus with potential customers.
With the simple wish to streamline repair services to the people that needed it, Andy created ‘Papabo’, a one-stop-shop for all home repairs and handymen across the city. From all across the city, the Papabo app brings top-quality on-demand repair services right to your door. The Beat Asia speaks to Andy about his venture, how he was inspired to start the brand, and what lessons he’s learned along the way.
What’s your ‘story’? What led you to this particular career path?
From a young age, I found myself drawn to design and construction. During my spare time and school holidays, I often visited construction sites and observed workers do what they do best - build! Although I dabbled in a few different industries, I always came back to renovation and construction. When I was 25 years old, I tagged along to a project with a family member that gave me a chance to try my own hand at contracting, and soon enough, I was hooked.
Throughout my journey in the industry, I felt mightily rewarded after the repair jobs that significantly improved the quality of life of individuals. An encounter with an elderly sleeping at McDonald's taught me that the most vulnerable often visit fast-food chain restaurants to access simple amenities we take for granted, like air conditioning. From there on, I wanted to go one step further and make a difference in the community by providing free-life improvement repairs to them, resulting in the development and launch of the initiative, PapaCare.
What pain point is Papabo out to solve in the home repair industry?
I have noticed over the years that more workers are retiring from the construction and repair industry as it is labour-intensive. However, the demand for repairs and construction continues to grow. From then on, I wanted to provide Hong Kongers with a shortcut that would streamline all services, from finding a qualified handyman to arranging an inspection to completing the home repair task via our app.
At the same time, I wanted to empower the sifus themselves by creating a space for them to maximize their job opportunities with full transparency and be rewarded fairly for their expertise.
Can you share a story about a mistake you made starting this venture? What lessons did you take away from this?
When starting this venture, since we really wanted to get it all going quite quickly initially, we did rush through the hiring and onboarding process. I don’t think it was a mistake but more of a learning experience we took. This learning experience served as a way for us to learn that it was imperative for us to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of positions in the company even before we set out to hire individuals, as we faced a considerable amount of turnover costs as a startup that was not just monetary. We quickly learned that we needed to design a better hiring process to avoid our turnover cost and ensure that we recognize and reward employees for their hard work, as they are also the backbone of our business.
Who has been some of your biggest inspirations or mentors? Can you share a time when they made an impact or helped you with the app's direction?
I would say that the biggest mentors throughout my Papabo journey have been all the different sifus I had the pleasure of working with. They are the biggest inspiration behind Papabo and have provided me with the deepest knowledge regarding the industry and profound insights from their very own years of experience. Whilst building and developing the Papabo app, I consulted with sifus as I believe their opinions and wisdom as the service providers of our platform were crucial and at the core of the development of our app. I think that with constant communication with them, we were able to build a perfect product for them, all while elevating the industry’s efficiency.
Can you share three best pieces of advice that you’ve collected throughout your time in this industry or career and why they matter to you?
The best three pieces of advice that I’ve collected throughout my career have been:
1. Be prepared to do whatever it takes and get your hands dirty, which means you will likely always be on the clock. If you want to build a product that is different from what is currently available on the market, you also need to enjoy dedicating countless hours spent learning about the industry from inside and out. Becoming an expert in the field is what's going to set you apart.
2. Making and developing a product that people need and are currently unavailable is very important, but it is essential not to be a trend follower. Don't start something simply because it is trending but because you believe in it and think people will love it!
3. For anyone looking to build a startup, having the right 'people' is vital. The people you hire will be the backbone of the company not only at the beginning but also will shape the future of the company. Make sure that once you hire the right individuals, you set clear goals and career development paths and look after them.
How is Papabo going to shake things up next?
Right now, in the industry, Sifus are often overlooked, and the profession itself is considered disreputable by many. With Papabo, we want to rebuild the image of handy workers and help them receive the respect they deserve and become recognized as instrumental pillars in our society, as without Sifus, there would be no infrastructure for businesses to operate. Through Papabo, our aim is to encourage individuals that being part of the industry can be rewarding and a fun career path to explore. Also, my team and I are ready to expand PapaCare’s presence and make it our mission to create our own volunteer and community outreach program by partnering with NGOs to continue assisting the most vulnerable in hopes of improving their quality of life one repair at a time. I’ve made it my mission to assist 1000 houses within 1 year, and once we are successful, we will continue to target more and more houses.
Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Elevator Pitch profiles here.
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