Whether you’re organising a birthday do, a hen party or a wedding, the people you’ll want to look up are VMO. They run a portal matching people to event spaces and services. ZIEMAN reports.
WHEN Vincent Kok and his three friends started VMO (vmo.rocks), a portal for booking venues and services, they knew they had found a user-friendly solution to organising events.
The app-equipped online venue booking startup, the first of its kind here, was launched in October 2014, with two of the founders taking care of the IT side, while the other two focused on marketing. Since three of them still had a full-time job, Kok ran the show.
Kok calls himself the chief “eventgelist”, rather than CEO, of VMO Rocks because “it has a nice ring to it and describes what I’m doing.”
Pronounced “vee moe”, the portal has been drawing both venue operators and the public. It’s a one-stop portal for those wanting to organise an event.
“We want to help venue owners promote their space for the right type of event, connecting them with the right clients. And we want to help people with this new way of discovering, comparing and booking event spaces. Finding the perfect event space for your next event is a simple and painless task.
“We are all about matching people with the perfect venue for their event of choice,” says the chief eventgelist.
VMO has logged RM13mil’s worth of transactions to date. It now sees RM2mil’s worth of enacted enquiries for venues and services a month. They take 10% of every transaction from the service providers.
The company makes it a breeze to find event spaces and the assorted services related to them — like caterers, musicians, magicians, canopy rentals, balloon suppliers, DJs and PA system providers. Of course, the site also addresses FAQs like: Is the venue ‘Instagrammable? Are there enough parking spaces? Is there a swimming pool?
VMO lists over 500 listed vendors around Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. The sourcing and booking process takes less than a few minutes — once you’re sure about what you want. Users can either opt to make “instant booking” or get a quotation for their selection and pay directly via credit card or PayPal.
“You no longer have to turn to friends, (scour) the Internet or drive for hours looking for the perfect venue,” says Kok.
“Whether it’s a last-minute corporate meeting or sales presentation in private meeting room, a workshop at a bungalow, a children’s party at a space with a kid’s pool, or a wedding reception in a garden setting, you can count on VMO,” he assures.
“We even help you find a caterer who makes that special Baileys Chocolate Cheesecake or the celebrity DJ who will play your favourite beat at your party.
“Just go to our website, search by name or location of event spaces and services. Or you could even search by your event type. It’s that easy,” the eventgelist promises.
There’s no doubt whatsoever in Kok’s mind that VMO’s business model makes perfect sense.
“If we can make online bookings for hotels overseas, why can’t we make online bookings for venues within our city?” he asks. “This is a whole new way to discover, compare and book event spaces and services.”
Kok believes the country’s population diversity and the varied rates of services have contributed to the growing interest in VMO. In addition, the food service market in 2014 was thought to be worth about US$11bil, whereas the combined markets in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand was estimated at US$43bil.
These days, people want everything to be instantaneous and convenient, and with event spaces having multiplied over the past three years in Kuala Lumpur, VMO is able to offer a wider and more interesting range of options.
“Malaysians are looking for cool, ‘Instagrammable’ and unusual new event spaces, particularly for weddings and corporate events. We’ve noticed that glass walls and the industrial look are in.
“Social media has also contributed to how people plan their events. Invitations are sent via these platforms, venues are hyperlinked and photos are uploaded and shared instantly, making for a fast, easy and unforgettable experience for all. Malaysians want newer, trendier venues.
“They do not want their event to be held at the same venue as their friends,” says Kok, who give talks on travel technologies, digital marketing and social media management throughout Asia.
According to him, Malaysians increasingly want out-of-the-ordinary, add-on services such as baristas, MCs, musicians, lok-lok stations and even go-karting sessions.
“VMO provides a list of trusted vendors, and this is getting very popular. It also works out well for event planners looking for services to make their job a lot easier,” he points out.
Since parking is quite a problem during events, VMO has this covered by partnering with Grab, South-East Asia’s leading taxi platform. For every venue booked on VMO in the Klang Valley, users and guests will be entitled to Grab discount codes for their journey to and from the event.
“You can be picked up and dropped off at your convenience,” says Kok, formerly from an online travel SIM card company.
The eventgelist draws attention to a recent survey which says the average expenditure on a birthday party is about RM3,700, and people are now looking at cafes, restaurants and other venues, and not just hotels.
“Women seem to be the champion for planning events, making up 91%, while men only constitute 9%. While the planning circle by race showed that the Indians take 26 days to plan for an event, while the Chinese spent 13 days and the Malays 12 days,” he says.
One of VMO’s early partners is Rama V. The restaurant owner Andre Shum, who also runs Fa Ying by Rama V, was initially sceptical about VMO growing his restaurant’s event business, Kok divulges.
“But since VMO works on a performance basis, and we are only paid after a secured booking, there was no harm in trying us out. They were surprised when we delivered, and now, they have been getting a steady stream of event bookings from our platform,” says Kok with a smile.
The evaluation criteria to be listed under VMO include accessibility of location, versatility or uniqueness of the venue, parking facilities and price.
According to Kok, they take care of the nitty-gritty like managing the listing, short-term availability, direct booking and payment reimbursement, and let the event planner and venue owner focus on the fun and success of the event.
VMO has already expanded to Ipoh and has plans to offer its services to other major cities like Malacca, George Town and Johor Baru. Next year, it’s setting its sights on neighbouring cities like Bangkok and Singapore.
Right now, the company aims to hit RM3mil in revenue by year-end. Come 2017, and they are talking about double-digit numbers.
The economic outlook may be somewhat overcast, but that’s not getting the people at VMO down at all, is it?