Financial price comparison sites face lack of consumer’s confidence.
The battle of price comparison sites in Singapore may not be in full swing yet but Singaporeans are in no doubt receptive of this kind of service.
Price comparison sites help Singaporeans find a good deal by scouring the market to present them with the best and cheapest available options. So far, there are only few local entrepreneurs into this space dominated by global giants setting up branches in Singapore.
Singapore Business Review interviewed some of these local entrepreneurs to find out how they keep their companies going amidst growing competition. Our team also got insights on how these sites were started and how they managed to grow their funding.
Eric Koh and Winnie Tan
Tripzilla is a one-stop travel portal that collates tour packages and budget flights from all major travel suppliers in Singapore. Founded by a husband and wife in their 30’s, Eric Koh and Winnie Tan, the portal was launched in 2010.
“We saw that consumers were moving online for everything and more and more people were starting their travel planning from their screens. There were many global giants dominating the travel space but no local brand for travel. So we thought, hey, let’s be THE local hero in travel,” said Winnie.
The founders are serial entrepreneurs with computing degrees from National University of Singapore. Prior to TripZilla, Winnie started and sold off a profitable bubble tea retail chain and a boutique art gallery business. Eric was the CTO of JobsCentral, which was sold to CareerBuilder, the largest job portal in America. This was one of Singapore’s biggest tech exit back in 2010.
According to Winnie, they have put $600,000 into the business and raised about $400,000 from investors and government grants.
Winnie believes that there is still room for more specialised and localised price comparison websites. This means websites that compares products in a specific market, and aggregate results that are relevant to people in Singapore.
According to Winnie, many price comparison sites are simply aggregating data from other websites which do not really give value to customers as they only saves users the trouble of having to go to multiple websites to make comparisons. What would be really useful, she says, is if the price comparison website can compare offerings from offline or retail channels as well.
“For example, at TripZilla, we collect hard copies of the itineraries from travel agencies that do not have a website and painstakingly enter the listings into our system. While tedious, it adds a lot more value to our users,” she explains.
Chee Khen Liew
While it’s easy to find price comparison sites for most products like food, IT (hardwarezone) and apparels. Price comparison and reviews on services such as financial advisory are still lacking in the city. MoneyIQ.sg sees vast opportunity in this still underserved sector.
MoneyIQ.sg is all about helping home owners to find a better mortgage for their new purchase or when refinancing the existing one. It does this by empowering users with to use the various mortgage calculators and instant home loan comparison tools online. For busy executives or first-time home owners, they can also opt for its free advisory services.
According to MoneyIQ.sg founder Chee Khen Liew, 41, Singaporeans are internet savvy and receptive to comparison sites as they like to do their own mortgage research. He cites for example that their iOS app alone was downloaded over 4,500 times in just 10 months.
“We also received feedbacks from users that while they received mortgage recommendations at showflats through bankers or agents, most of them still like to their own comparison to ensure that they get a better deal. MoneyIQ.sg comes in handy because we compare the packages from all banks in Singapore,” he adds.
Khen, who also serves as the company’s Chief IT Officer, graduated from Nanyang Technological University with a Bachelor Degree in Computer Engineering and started his first job stint at Singapore Airlines. Subsequently, he joined NCS.
According to Khen, the strength of MoneyIQ.sg rests on the fact that they allow users to compare immediately without any sign-up. Once they are satisfied with their research then they submit their enquiries. While most sites operates the same way, one thing that differentiates MoneyIQ.sg from the other websites, he says, is that it offers cash rewards back to the users and it has a referral program where friends could refer friends.
MoneyIQ.sg has been in the business for over 5 years since 2008 launch. Khen started his own IT firm GeoWalker in 2004. In 2007 however, when Singapore property market started to boom and almost everyone was interested to invest in property, Khen thought that it would be a good time to launch a simple and easy to use mortgage comparison site. The initial funding was around $50,000.
It’s an endeavor that pays off but not without a challenge. According to Khen, because of the different structures of each mortgage, they need to help consumers understand why and what they are paying for. This, he says, was a daunting task sometimes as some consumers will just go for the lowest cost without comparing the benefits. “We will highlight these benefits by emphasizing them in “More Info” section of each package,” he explains.
As pioneer in mortgage comparison site, Khen says that they have to develop the website comparison tools, CRM and iOS app in house. Currently, MoneyIQ.sg have 3 in-house programmers. It’s next milestones, he believes, will be to launch the android app. It will be ready by last quarter of this year.
Moneyline.SG calls the existence of financial comparison websites as still relatively ‘young’ compared to those in the hospitality and tourism sector that are seeing strong emergence. To stay competitive in the fast growing sector of financial products’ comparison though, the company’s secretary Jolin Toh says that Moneyline.SG chose transparency and customer service as priority and to insist in maintaining the human touch that online platforms typically lacks.
Moneyline.SG bills itself as Singapore’s most comprehensive financial comparison portal comparing financial products ranging from Credit-cards, Insurance (Life, Travel and General), Home-loans, corporate loans and investments. Moneyline.SG provides free-of-charge consultation services and claims of serving with a non-biased view. Moneyline.SG believes in adding the personal touch to serving and understanding each of its customer by liaising and serving its customers directly with its experienced brokers.
Moneyline.SG was founded in 2010 as a Financial Comparison Portal by Mr Kanner, an experienced management consultant who saw the demand of comparison sites in Singapore and brought the service and idea to action. According to Jolin, the initial intent of Moneyline.SG was to bridge the gap between financial institutions and consumers as they saw increasing demand of simplified financial advisory services in the market.
Moneyline.SG was later acquired by its current management team led by Mr. Yongming Poh who has extensive banking experience together with a team of consultants. After the acquisition, Moneyline.SG was developed and expanded into a more comprehensive financial comparison portal and a financial brokering firm with rich network within the local financial industry in 2013.
Jolin shares that the recent and ongoing makeover of Moneyline.SG took costs of estimation S$60,000 aside from online marketing, advertising and offline marketing costs. The average cost in maintaining the website and services, Jolin explains, varies as they are consistently keeping the costs low as to match with their free-of-charge services to consumers.
Moneyline.SG will be launching a new interface in early fourth quarter with new features to enable a more seamless and effortless experience.
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