This month we have with us Wan Ling, CEO of Caregiver Asia Pte Ltd, a healthcare platform that aims to help provide affordable on-demand healthcare services. Read on to find out more about her journey from being a former banker to --- solving our heathcare needs!
1. Tell us more about CaregiverAsia. What was the purpose behind the idea? What are you focusing on at the moment?
CaregiverAsia is a company that I co-founded in 2014 and it is a healthcare service aggregator that alleviates the supply crunch in home healthcare, particularly for the elderly and the disabled. Caregivers provide nursing and medical care, nutrition advice, companionship, medical escorting, and even active wellness classes like yoga for the elderly.
Well, as with most good businesses, CaregiverAsia was set up to solve a problem that many people face. I'm sure all of us have experienced or in the very least have heard from close friends and family the feeling of helplessness when we can't get the appropriate home care help to our loved ones when a medical emergency arises. It could be an elderly loved one who had a stroke and needs someone at home to help with bathing, preparation of food and perhaps occupational therapy to get back to independent living. It could even be a younger person who fell down and broke his arm and needs help at home with meals while his parents are out at work. I wanted to create a solution that allows for people like you and me to access care on demand, in an affordable, relatable way.
I do believe that aging in place – living with purpose and dignity, is a choice that everyone needs to have when they grow older. Being able to access qualified, experienced Caregivers would be a necessary first step in making that choice, and our website www.caregiverasia.com provides fuss free, transparent options for people looking for care options at home for themselves and their loved ones.
I also believe that Caregivers need to able to practice in a fair and transparent environment, and that’s why our freelancing Caregivers list on our platform for free. We do not take any agency fees from our Caregivers. We also provide training, certification and background checks opportunities for our Caregivers to better deliver their services.
2. Tell us more about yourself. What did you use to do before CaregiverAsia came along?
Before founding the Caregiver Group, I spent over a decade at the Singapore Economic Board (EDB), where I was part of EDB’s Global Operations, managing Singapore’s key foreign direct investment accounts and business owners of family owned conglomerates in the USA, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. I have lived and managed EDB’s operations in Chicago, Shanghai and Hong Kong as Centre Director and Regional Director. Before EDB, I started my career at the DBS Bank.
3. What difficulties did you face when starting out?
As an industry, health care, which includes at-home care, is an industry with hugely increasing demands, and hence, we've been very lucky in terms of getting the necessary business that we need. As with any new start-up, trying to push out a disruptive new business model, we indeed faced many problems which any current solutions didn’t necessarily have we could study. This included educating people, teaching them that it is safe to book services for healthcare online, creating the right type of user interface on our website and app, working with foreign government regulations when we started in the USA etc.
Another issue was of course human resource, how to attract and retain the right type of talent for a start-up like ours. However, I'm happy to say, that most of our problems were resolved the minute that we were successful in hiring the right types of people. Having tenacious, energetic, like-minded and imaginative people on the team is integral in a start-up's success.
4. How has the response been so far?
So far it has been really good. People understand what we are trying to achieve, which is to bring to the market, a new way of accessing home care services. A way that is transparent, affordable, effective and fair. I recall that when we started offering our services in February 2015, we were worried that no one would come to our launch party, but when that day came around, the 120-person auditorium was filled to the max with friends, family, partners and members of the media. I think that this is testament to how in general, people and society relates to the type of issues that we are trying to resolve.
From an initial 12 Caregivers listed on our website, it has now grown to have a database of 6,000 Caregivers of which over 2,000 of them are active at any one point of time. As for Careseekers, we have over 40,000 of them in our database and our Facebook following as grown to over 35,000. In terms of markets, we are present in Singapore (2014 incorporated and the platform was launched in 2015), Malaysia (2015) and the United States (2015).
5. What is the greatest satisfaction you have gained from taking the plunge?
Well, it definitely comes from the people that we have touched. It means a lot to our team whenever we get a glowing review on our services. After all, the company was built on the backs of resolving people's care issues. To me personally as well, people we have touched also includes the team that we've built up over the last three years. Initially starting with just three people in Singapore, we have grown to 40 people in three cities across the world. It's deeply satisfying being able to assemble a team of likeminded people to work towards the same vision.
6. What are the learnings that you have gained from this experience thus far?
We must remember that their lives are not defined by illness, but by the richness of the lives that they had lived through, their struggles, their loves, their laughter, their friends and their family. I think if you take time to understand the type of people they were before their illnesses, you will find yourself experiencing less of an emotional roller coaster while working with people with illnesses.
Well it wasn't so much from a patient, but it was from a caregiver. Her son had passed away earlier that week but she came back to work just because her patient that she was taking care of was sick. She was worried about the condition of her patient, and how the patient's condition might deteriorate if she wasn't used to the substitute caregiver. I was saddened by her son's passing but was so touched by the caregiver's commitment to her duties. It was there that I truly realised that caregiving is indeed a calling and I decided that I would want to have a business model that helps them with a viable, fair and empowered livelihood.
7. Where do you see CaregiverAsia going forward?
One of my greatest wishes is to be able to complete this virtuous cycle that a marketplace can provide, by offering not only the buyers of services a fair deal, but also the sellers of services, in this case, Caregivers on our platform, a viable, empowered livelihood through freelancing. I continue to enhance our suite of services to Caregivers (which includes nurses, companions, nurse aides, therapists, baby sitters, medical escorts) to better allow them to optimise their services and in turn, help them help themselves in making a better livelihood. This would include accessible and affordable training, refresher and certification courses; better insurance coverage for retirement and health; and respite services such as counselling sessions for stressed out Caregivers. I want our company to be as humanistic as possible as we build up our marketplace.
8. Last by not least, where can our readers out more about CaregiverAsia?
You can find out more about us at the following places: