Singapore care platform Homage strives to meet demand for care as Asia ages

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

gillian t-shirt was 10 when the elderly nanny who helped raise her died of cancer. This experience and a close bond with her grandmother made Tee aware of the day-to-day help needed by many older people and the difficulties families face in finding 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 through an app.

“I think most people in healthcare startups start in the industry because they have had personal experiences,” the 40-year-old CEO says via 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 New York-based ticket booking platform Rocketrip. A few years later, she returned to Singapore to be closer to her family, where she saw an opportunity to marry digital technology with home care services. “I really believed in the concept of doing well 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 launching in 2016, Homage has grown to 15,000 part-time and full-time caregivers, expanded to Malaysia and Australia, and raised more than $45 million in funding from investors including Sheares Healthcare Group, owned by Singapore state fund Temasek, and South East Asia. Golden Gate Ventures concentrated.

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

Homage, which was on this year’s 100 to watch list, has also branched out beyond care delivery to include services such as telemedicine, drug delivery and the sale of medical products. Tee is now focused on the challenge of meeting the demand for care as Asia ages. In Singapore, government figures show that the number of people aged 65 or over made up almost 17% of its resident population in 2022.

The demand for skilled caregivers is growing steadily, not just in Singapore, but across the Asia-Pacific region, which is home to some of the oldest and aging populations in the world. In the next decade, the region will have 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 healthcare for Asia-Pacific at the consultancy. Bath in Singapore. “Health care in this part of the world is really at a tipping point,” Kapur says.

In Singapore and Malaysia, where the elderly are mainly cared for by family members, home helpers, attendants in nursing homes or people under contract with physical agencies, the digital platform d’Homage provides a niche decentralized service in an increasingly technological environment. – advised region. A report released this year by Bain found that more people in Southeast Asia have started using digital health tools due to limited access to in-person appointments during the pandemic. As with online food delivery and fintech, many continue to use digital healthcare because of its convenience, the report adds. “Consumer expectations are changing a lot,” says Kapur. “For food delivery and other services, you have almost immediate access. But there is frustration with health care.

Homage tries to solve this problem by allowing families to hire part-time and full-time caregivers for periods ranging from one hour to flexible prepaid plans of up to 200 hours that it offers at published rates. Its app has over 15,000 downloads on the Google Play Store and the company claims to have provided over 1 million hours of customer service. Compared to Singapore’s Doctor Anywhere, a popular telemedicine app with over a million downloads in Southeast Asia that promises a video consultation with a doctor in less than five minutes, Homage says it can arrange such appointments. virtual sessions in 30 minutes, as well as home visits in one day. She sends medics within two days.

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

“I really believed in the concept of doing well 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 Southeast Asia-focused East Ventures, YJ Capital (a subsidiary of Z Holdings, backed by SoftBank, now part of its capital arm Z Venture Capital) and SMDV, backed by conglomerate Sinar Mas of the billionaire Widjaja family in Indonesia. This followed a $4.15 million Series A funding round in 2018, led by Golden Gate Ventures and HealthXCapital.

In September last year, the company closed a $30 million Series C funding round, led by Temasek’s Sheares Healthcare, which invests in and provides healthcare services in Asia. Homage says the funds will be used to expand its platform and double its overseas operations in Malaysia and Australia, which are its key growth drivers. However, Homage may encounter speed bumps. In late October, a Homage spokesperson said the company was “making some key strategic changes in response to the macro environment”, later adding that the changes were tied to its Australian expansion plans. When asked to clarify, 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 relatively quickly from a shrinking talent pool. “We’re not doubling nursing schools every year,” she says. “So [supply] is linear, but the demand is growing exponentially due to the aging of the population.

The shortage of carers for the elderly is particularly acute in Australia, Homage’s newest market. “The pandemic has intensified burnout and reduced retention rates,” said Sharon Hakkennes, vice president analyst at Gartner. “Clinicians are leaving the profession. Australia’s aged care sector could face a shortage of at least 110,000 workers over the next decade, according to a 2021 report by Australia’s Committee for Economic Development, a non-profit organization .

Hakkennes says digital technologies such as the Homage platform can help alleviate the shortage by allowing medical professionals to access and treat patients more efficiently. “[Digital technology] going to enable scale,” she said. “And when we’re struggling with the clinical workforce, that’s going to be important.” As well as enabling aged care facilities to tap into an “approved pool of certified healthcare 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.

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


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