Two university students in Hong Kong have created a mobile app that pairs domestic helpers in the city with employers and attracted more than 20,000 members in just two months.
“Employers can contact helpers and agencies for free and don’t have to pay anything until they successfully sign a contact,” said Yan Leung Yat-yin, 23, a co-founder of MamaHelpers and a postgraduate at the University of Science and Technology.
Since its soft launch in early September, MamaHelpers has helped 60 employers find a domestic helper through direct pairing. On average more than 3,000 users were active daily on the platform, posting jobs, creating profiles, leaving comments and making contacts.
The project was initiated by Leung and her 24-year-old classmate Amanda So Tsz-yan when they enrolled in the university’s Technology Leadership and Entrepreneurship programme last year.
After winning HK$100,000 from the Cyberport Creative Micro Fund last December, the project also scooped a top prize in a major local innovation competition this May.
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“What we are charging for handling contracts and other paperworks is about half of the market price, and agencies on our platform give cheaper offers to employer users,” Leung said.
By establishing partnerships with eight “ethical agencies” – those recognised as considerate and responsible through interviews with MamaHelpers – the platform has been able to offer cheaper services for employers.
To hire a domestic helper via the platform, an employer is charged from HK$1,598 to HK$5,200, depending on the type of contract. To hire a local part-time helper, the employer does not have to pay the platform because no contract is needed.
“Unlike existing apps that aim to keep agencies out of the hiring process, we are trying to engage them for market needs and better data,” So said.
According to the duo, although more employers looked for helpers directly online to avoid bad agencies and high intermediate fees, some still preferred to go through agencies to save time on filtering candidates.
For agencies, especially those that are small to medium-sized, they could get more access to helpers and hirers on the platform.
The platform also allows both employer and agencies to rate and comment on helpers.
“We have been conducting interviews with the helpers after they registered as users and before they signed contracts,” So said, adding that helpers were also invited to forums to respond to comments left on the platform.
Leading a team that quickly grew from two to 14 in the past three months, So and Leung have ambitions to expand further. .
In the next three months, they intend to establish a partnership with at least 200 agencies in Hong Kong, as well as helper training schools in the Philippines and Indonesia.