Conversations with: James Soh, Founder of online renovation portal Renopedia

A quick check on the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) webpage and you can easily find blacklisted companies from various industries on the “company alert list”. The home improvement industry, where interior designers fall under, is no exception, and it’s safe to say that all of us have heard of one too many stories about unreliable contractors within the industry.

James Soh, Renopedia

James Soh

Renopedia, brainchild of James Soh, believes that the website will help consumers avert the potential pitfalls of working with unscrupulous contractors. To do this, the online portal not only helps to connect home owners with renowned designers and suppliers, but also provide inspiration with pictures and videos of some of the beautifully done up homes, and even has articles on all things home-improvement related!

The ingenuity of Renopedia is that it allows users to receive free quotes from designers simply by furnishing basic details such as the house’s floor plans, budget, and a brief description of what is desired.

Read on to find out more about the his masterpiece and the industry, as James shares with us how the website vets the interior designers that the company works with, the latest trends in today’s market, and some of the more peculiar requests that he’s received over the years.

The Redbrick Team (RB): Tell us more about Renopedia – what exactly do you guys do?
James: Renopedia is an online platform for home owners to find ideas and solutions for their homes. It also helps home owners to find the right interior designers and merchants for their homes.

When Renopedia first started out, there weren’t many renovation websites that gave people tips, so people still turned to traditional media. People are generally quite reluctant to pay for traditional media, not when ideas are free on the Internet. But the Internet only has scattered ideas and does not point customers in the right direction, so Renopedia was started to consolidate these ideas.

RB: What is the company’s goal?
James: Renopedia is a word that combines renovation and Wikipedia, so our goal is to be the Wikipedia of renovation. We want Renopedia to be a household name.

RB: What drives Renopedia’s profits?
James: We profit through advertising costs. Interior designers and product merchants advertise with us on a monthly basis. Costs differ based on each client’s needs, as we offer various advertising packages. For example, some clients want us to produce a video advertisement for them, while others want us to help them advertise in terms of generating more leads. Over time, we have amassed a viewership which can easily be traced from our Google Analytics and Facebook Insights accounts.

We want Renopedia to be a household name.

RB: Where do you see Renopedia in 5 years’ time?
James: Our goal is to become the market leader, and we are on our way there. I hope to expand the business overseas, and for Renopedia to have a regional presence in places like Kuala Lumpur, Taiwan, and within Southeast Asia.

RB: What sets Renopedia apart?
James: We are trying to make things as interesting and creative as possible. What we have done so far is to create videos as it makes our customers feel that renovation can be a fun process that they can enjoy. We are trying to influence people to do something that they are not used to doing.

RB: what qualities do you look for in an interior designer/contractor firm?
James: The market has a problem of unreliable contractors and interior designer firms. One of the first things we look at is if they have a showroom. With a showroom, it’s easier to verify if they are reliable. When we visit a new renovation company, we usually conduct background checks before we enter into an agreement with them.

What we have done so far is to create videos as it makes our customers feel that renovation can be a fun process that they can enjoy.

We have to perform our due diligence so as to protect the reputations of our clients and ourselves. Another preventive measure we take is to warn our clients that in the event of the misuse of our platform, their advertising fees as well as the contract that was signed would be forfeited.

RB: are there any forms of after-sales service?
James: We conduct random checks for home owners. It’s not to check if there are problems, but more of getting testimonials and feedback, to see how we can improve our platform and the work we do.

RB: what are the latest trends in renovation?
James: Scandinavian, for sure. Or rather, “Scandinavian inspired homes”, which is inspired mostly from the furniture from IKEA. Then there is also “scandustrial”, which is a mix of Scandinavian and industrial elements.

RB: what are the most interesting ideas/concepts you have come across?
James: What we first started out, one of the most unusual homes we came across was the “hello kitty home”. The entire home was Hello Kitty themed. The feature wall, the bed frames, etc., almost everything was Hello Kitty.

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When you talk about interior design, one thing that is not easy to grasp hold of is usually the colour. That’s why a lot of homes are just white, because it’s easy to match with furniture and other things. It’s hard to go wrong when the walls are white. But this other home we’ve seen has purple walls, blue walls and yellow walls. This is unique because people seldom experiment with very colourful walls. Colour compatibility is tricky and it’s hard to catch the contrast if the background is not white.

RB: what do you do in your free time?
James: I like to study business-related things. I enjoy meeting up with my bigger clients, and learning from them. One of the biggest interior designers in the industry is my good friend, so we like to meet up and bounce ideas off each other, and analyse and learn from one another.

RB: what is one interesting fact about yourself that people don’t usually know?
James: I once got into Multi level marketing (MLM). I sacrified my education for a career, and dropped out of NUS then. I was offered architecture and computer engineering, and I went with computer engineering but decided to drop out even before school started. However, education is important, and the irony is that a lot of the things I’m doing now are the things that I used to hate doing in the past.

The team at Renopedia will be at the upcoming instalment of Property Quotient, Redbrick’s real estate seminar series that will be happening on 25 February, 2017. To find out more, click here!

 

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