H-app-y to serve you

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 09 Sep 2018

Malaysian businesses are developing more unique apps and online services to serve our tech-savvy society. From customising sanitary pad packages to ordering goats online for religious ceremonies, these services may range from practical to quirky but they are always innovative. 

THERE’S an app for almost everything these days and in Malaysia, it’s no exception.

Businesses are becoming more creative, making niche, specific services easily available to consumers with just a tap on the smartphone or computer.

Some of these unique start-ups were part of the Khazanah Nasional Entrepreneurship Outreach Programme, aimed to nurture talent via a series of bootcamps and accelerator programmes.

But it’s evident that these Malaysian entrepreneurs have bright ideas to begin with.

And they shine through the array of useful, fascinating and at times, quirky apps and services available in the market today.

One start-up developed an online service that supplies personalised sanitary pad packages for “that time of the month” – complete with goodies like cookies and chocolates to comfort women through the cycle.

Called PMS Club, the service allows users to customise their selection of pads, be it a combination of heavy-flow pads or lighter ones, to be delivered to their doorstep every month at a preferred date or frequency.

The package also comes with essential oils to keep period hormones in balance, bath and beauty products and tasty treats to curb cravings.

Founder and CEO Hazel Desmond says previously, she found herself and other friends encountering many awkward moments whispering to colleagues if they could spare an extra pad when their period came unexpectedly at work.

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“I also recall sleeping in awkward positions to avoid staining the bed because I forgot to buy heavy night flow pads,” says Desmond, from Sarawak.

Many women also have to endure cramps and emotional stress associated with PMS.

This triggered Desmond to create a fun and effective solution and hence, PMS Club was born.

Through only word-of-mouth, they reached over 162 customers around Klang Valley after the service’s pre-launch in May.

An average woman goes through 444 period cycles in her lifetime, Desmond estimates.

“I believe it’s time to re-invent those cycles into a fun event to look forward to every month,” she says.

Dealing with a more sombre affair, a unique Malaysian app known as Bereev helps users plan their legacy and prepare for the only sure thing in life: death.

Through the service, users fill in guided forms to plan their retirement years, departure and even their funeral.

This will later help families carry out plans after the user’s death, according to their wishes.

The app also stores important documents like insurance policies and retirement benefits which family members will need access to.

On a more personal touch, the app even enables users to record audio or video messages to be sent to their surviving loved ones after their demise.

The story behind Bereev began when its founder and CEO Izumi Inoue, from Penang, lost her grandmother to pneumonia.

“Because it was the first death in the family, none of us knew what to do or where to find her documents. It was chaotic.

“A year later, my grandfather passed away. He was diagnosed with stage four cancer so he knew his time was limited. He spent his last months preparing us for his own departure,” she says.

When his time came, her family had the chance to properly grieve instead of worrying about his estate and the logistics.

“That’s when I realised planning and communicating can make such a huge difference,” adds Inoue, 26.

On the feature to leave messages to loved ones, the idea came from dealing with personal losses where Inoue didn’t get the chance to say proper goodbyes.

“My hope is that no matter how unexpected life can get, we’ll always get the chance to tell the people we love, how much we love them one last time.”

The service is only available on the web for now. Bereev is working with a few insurance companies to provide sponsored accounts to customers.

Another service that solves a problem is Grub Cycle, a platform that helps reduce food wastages by selling groceries nearing their expiry at cheaper prices.

CEO Redza Shahid Ridzuan says the app has grown since 2016 and today, they have about 20 partners including restaurants, food manufacturers and distributors which supply them with groceries.

“Since the start of Grub Cycle, we have saved more than 4,000kg of food from being thrown away.

“We have also helped customers save a total of over RM35,000 in daily expenses,” he says.

Common types of food for sale are vegetables, cereals, canned drinks, chocolates and cakes.

“In future, we want to penetrate the whole of Peninsular Malaysia. Currently, our reach is in Klang Valley, Penang and Johor Baru.

“We are also aiming to save up to 10,000kg in food wastage by the end of the year,” Redza says.

In another practical venture, three Kuala Lumpur boys saw an opportunity to help typical car owners wishing to save money from expensive car maintenance.

But due to a lack of knowledge, some often go to workshops that overcharge.

Cyrus Low Chee Ming, Lai Keong Heng and Alvin Kwan Chin Heng then started Carsuka, a website that sells automative parts at competitive prices.

“We make it easy for users by simply asking them to select their car’s brand, model and year.

“And voila, our system will recommend the parts or services which fit their vehicle and most importantly, the prices without any hidden costs,” says Low.

The business has grown and recorded a six-digit sales revenue so far this year.

“In the long run, we aspire to become the biggest online-to-offline car maintenance portal in South-East Asia,” he adds.

Some platforms bridge communication, such as Sync, an app that connects schools with parents, teachers and students, enabling real time messaging between contacts so that information is shared easily.

The app has received positive responses, especially from parents on how useful the app is in getting real-time updates direct from the school.

App founder Zharif Sharif shares that the service was started in 2012 to solve communication barriers in universities by digitalising traditional notice boards.

“We shifted our focus to schools in 2013,” he says.

Since April 2016, Sync has collaborated with the School Management Division under the Education Ministry to implement the service in schools nationwide.

“We have connected more than 7,000 schools with over 400,000 users.

“We have received feedback that more parents are involved in school activities thanks to the app,” Zharif says.

On a more nostalgic note, the good old days of jotting down debts into a little Buku 555 can now be relived in a modern way – with an app that digitalises the book and does even more.

The app, also named Buku 555, allows users to remind their borrowers about debts via Whatsapp messaging.

CEO Firdaus Putra, who co-founded the app with his friends Ariff Putera and Ahmad Rusydan, says he previously had trouble recording debts and sometimes would lose track.

After discovering his business partners also faced the same problem, they started building the Buku 555 app and launched it in March.

More than 60,000 users have downloaded the app, with over 1,000 users from Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia.

He says users love that there is a debt management app that understands locals.

“One user admitted he has been lending money to so many people that he has lost count of the exact amount. After gathering records, he realised he has lent over RM100,000,” Firdaus says.

The sad part of the story is, even after listing down the names of all the borrowers, he was still unable to collect the debts on time.

“This is why Buku 555 is going to enable the payment feature in the app soon,” Firdaus says.

And more of these useful apps will surface in future, so long as Malaysian entrepreneurs keep up with such innovative and creative ideas.

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