Singapore Caregiving Platform Homage Hustles To Keep Up With Demand For Care As Asia Ages

As Asian populations age, Tribute CEO Gillian Tee is growing the digital platform’s pool of caregivers, nurses and doctors to meet growing demand.


GRAMilliana t-shirt She was 10 years old when the elderly nanny who helped raise her passed away from cancer. That experience, and her close bond with her grandmother, made Tee aware of the daily help many seniors need and the struggle families face to find skilled care. More than two decades later, she co-founded Singapore-based Homage, which today claims to have the largest pool of caregivers in the city-state that families can hire via an app.

“I think most people in healthcare startups start in the industry because they had some personal experiences,” the 40-year-old CEO says in a video. The computer science graduate (University of Melbourne) got her first taste of running a business after earning an MBA from Columbia University. In 2012, she co-founded the New York-based ticket booking platform Rockettrip. A few years later, she returned to Singapore to be closer to family, where she saw an opportunity to combine digital technology with home care services. “I really believed in the concept of doing good by doing good,” she says of her decision to start Homage with co-founders Lily Phang and Tong Duong, who have since left the company.

Since its launch in 2016, Homage has grown to 15,000 full- and part-time caregivers, expanded into Malaysia and Australia, and raised more than $45 million in funding from investors, including Sheares Healthcare Group, which is owned by Singapore’s state-owned Temasek Fund. , and Southeast Asia. focused on Golden Gate Ventures.

The company’s move to Malaysia in 2018 helped boost revenue by 170% to S$1.8 million ($1.3 million) in 2020, while losses narrowed to $4.8 million Singaporeans from S$5.8 million, according to the latest figures available. Tee says sales more than tripled last year and international revenue increased eightfold in the past 18 months, following the company’s expansion into Australia in 2021.

Tribute, who did the 100 to watch list this year, has also diversified beyond the provision of care to include services such as telemedicine, drug delivery and the sale of medical products. Tee is now focused on meeting the challenge of keeping up with the demand for care as Asia ages. In Singapore, government figures show that the number of people aged 65 and over constituted nearly 17% of its resident population in 2022.

The demand for skilled caregivers is steadily increasing not only in Singapore, but throughout Asia-Pacific, home to some of the oldest and fastest-aging populations in the world. In the next decade, the region will account for 60% of the world’s population over the age of 65 and will also have 250 million diabetics, according to Vikram Kapur, partner and head of Asia-Pacific healthcare at consultancy Bain & Co. in Singapore. . “Health care in this part of the world is really at a tipping point,” says Kapur.

In Singapore and Malaysia, where the elderly are primarily cared for by family members, in-house domestic staff or nursing home attendants or contracted by physical agencies, Homage’s digital platform offers a decentralized service niche in an increasingly tech-savvy sector. . – smart region. A report this year from Bain found that more people in Southeast Asia began using digital healthcare tools due to limited access to in-person appointments during the pandemic. As with online food delivery and financial technology, many continue to use digital health care because of its convenience, the report added. “Consumer expectations are changing a lot,” says Kapur. “For food delivery and other services, you get almost immediate access. But there is frustration with medical care.”

Homage is trying to solve that problem by allowing families to hire part-time and full-time caregivers for periods ranging from one hour to flexible prepaid packages of up to 200 hours that it offers at published rates. Its app has more than 15,000 downloads on the Google Play store and the company claims to have provided more than 1 million hours of service to customers. Compared to Singapore’s Doctor Anywhere, a popular telemedicine app with more than a million downloads in Southeast Asia that promises video consultations with a doctor in less than five minutes, Homage says it can schedule virtual appointments in 30 minutes, plus of home calls in a day. Send caretakers within two days.

“During the pandemic, we found that many stroke patients required telemedicine services,” says Tee. “So, we have [telemedicine], which is an auxiliary because it contributes to the well-being of patients”. Homage’s move into selling medical and health care products, such as blood pressure monitors, is also meant to fill a need. “We will always focus [on] the recipient of care,” she says. “For example, what does a stroke patient need? We will always look for what can be a better solution for the patient”.

“He really believed in the concept of doing good by doing good.”

Gillian Tee, CEO of Tribute

Tee has also been busy raising capital. There was an undisclosed “double-digit” Series B round in January 2020, led by EV Growth, a joint venture between East Ventures, focused on Southeast Asia, YJ Capital (a subsidiary of SoftBank-backed Z Holdings, now part of his corporate capital arm Z Venture Capital) and SMDV, backed by billionaire of the Widjaja family Sinar Mas conglomerate in Indonesia. That followed a $4.15 million series A funding in 2018, led by Golden Gate Ventures and HealthXCapital.

In September last year, the company completed a $30 million Series C round, led by Temasek’s Sheares Healthcare, which invests and provides healthcare services in Asia. Homage says the funds will be used to expand its platform and double down on its overseas operations in Malaysia and Australia, which are its main growth engines. However, Homage may be hitting speed bumps. In late October, a Homage spokesperson said that the company “is making some key strategic changes in response to the macro environment,” later adding that those changes are related to its expansion plans in Australia. When asked for clarification, the spokesperson did not respond.

To keep Homage on a growth trajectory, Tee must overcome the new challenges of an uncertain economic environment and recruit healthcare professionals quickly enough from a shrinking talent pool. “We’re not doubling nursing schools every year,” she says. “So [supply] it is linear, but the demand is growing exponentially due to the aging of the population”.

The shortage of elderly caregivers is particularly acute in Australia, Homage’s newest market. “The pandemic has increased attrition and lowered retention rates,” says Sharon Hakkennes, senior analyst vice president in Gartner’s healthcare practice. “Doctors are leaving the profession.” Australia’s aged care sector could face a shortage of at least 110,000 workers in the next decade, according to a 2021 report by the Australian Committee for Economic Development, a nonprofit organization.

Hakkennes says digital technologies like Homage’s platform can help alleviate shortages by allowing healthcare professionals to access and treat patients more efficiently. “[Digital technology] it’s going to enable scale,” she says. “And when we’re struggling with the clinical workforce, that’s going to be important.” In addition to allowing senior care facilities access to a “vetted pool of certified care professionals,” Homage claims on its Australian website that its platform enables users from diverse backgrounds to access caregivers who can speak 93 languages, including sign language.

In the meantime, Tee is doing his best to encourage healthcare professionals to join his company’s platform. In March 2020, Homage partnered with Singapore-based insurance technology company Gigacover to provide healthcare benefits to all of their healthcare professionals and their dependents. A month later, Homage launched a fund to provide them with financial support during the peak of the pandemic. “Our care professionals are our primary customers, they are the recipients of our care, if you want to put it that way,” says Tee. “We should take care of them. Why? So they can take care of other people.”

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