Imagine walking into an empty room and being able to visualise the place, complete with furnishing as well as home devices in 3D, a technology commonly used in video games and movies to enhance the illusion of depth perception.
This enables property developers to sell their units in a creative and effective way as house buyers will be able to picture how the units will look like according to their preferences.
We Build Easy Sdn Bhd (BuildEasy) is an interior design (ID) firm which uses virtual reality (VR) tools to provide solutions to its clients. The company, which has only been operating for a year, targets the first time homebuyers.
“We wanted to come up with a platform that could help property owners with their designs and be able to convert that into our virtual reality tool called VReasy,” its founder Tan Yong Meng tells FocusM.
BuildEasy curates design templates (either for interior decoration or renovation) based on the size and shape of a house, which will then allow homeowners to customise the colour options of the furniture, flooring, curtains and wallpapers of their dream home. All of these would be visible by using the VR goggles.
Once the customer agrees on the design, BuildEasy’s renovation consultants will then visit their home to get accurate measurements and to run through the project checklist. A final quotation reflective of the changes made, as well as exact measurements, will then be issued to a customer’s online account.
Tan, 27, has had a stint in the construction and renovation businesses. He was an intern in a construction company, which sparked his interest to have his own construction outfit. After his graduation, he decided to open a home renovation company in 2010.
However, Tan realised that the company was not heading in the direction he wanted. As such, he decided to close the company to start the ID firm.
Being in the home renovation business for five years has taught Tan, who has a degree in commerce, what it takes to succeed in the industry as well as how to develop new ideas.
Tan invested RM2,000 to start BuildEasy. He then roped in two friends, Erwin Soon and Sam Tieh, into his new venture.
BuildEasy uses the VR tool in a form of goggles, which help customers visualise the space, based on the design that is personally chosen by them.
BuildEasy’s VR goggles are imported from Japan
Initially, getting the VR goggles appeared to be a daunting task for a start-up like BuildEasy as it costs thousands each. It then proposed the idea to Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd for a grant.
Its pitch was a successful one as BuildEasy was given a RM150,000 grant last year and it was used to purchase the VR goggles.
BuildEasy’s first batch of goggles was made in Malaysia, but recently the company has been acquiring more high definition goggles from Japan.
Apart from financing, there was also the challenge in managing resources. “Starting out, operations were always messy,” Tan shares.
As such, BuildEasy formed a comprehensive outsourced team comprising suppliers, vendors and contractors (known as renovation sidekicks) who will not only complete the renovation according to BuildEasy’s standards, but will also share their pricing with BuildEasy.
“We now have an integrated dashboard called ‘BuildEasy War Room’ which our operation team uses to coordinate projects in various places,” Tan says.
The company, which has secured projects in Penang and Johor as well, finds that it is more productive to use the war room for communication with designers and customers to receive project updates. This gives BuildEasy the comprehensive information to provide to its customers if they would like to get a quotation for a certain project.
Aside from managing the coordination between various parties in designing a space, Tan says the difficult part in this business would be convincing customers to adopt the new technology in interior design, which is still conducted in a traditional manner.
Collaborating with corporate clients
BuildEasy’s clientele has grown to 18 this year from 15 in 2016. The company aims to double the figure in 2018.
“Right now we have a split (in terms of customer mix) with the majority comprising business to customers (B2C), which is 70% and corporate clients 30%. We foresee our corporate side to increase drastically over the next two years as we continue growing our team.
“I would say having distinctive partnerships with some of Malaysia’s largest property developers, whereby our other division, VREasy, is building virtual showrooms to assist in the property selling process, coupled with fully furnished packages are a huge value-add to homeowners,” Tan says.
Some of the substantial projects the company has worked on include collaboration with property developers such as Mah Sing Group Bhd and Paramount Corporation Bhd.
BuildEasy created a 3D showroom by providing a VR goggles to guests for Mah Sing’s development, ‘The Loft’ in Penang and for Paramount’s Utropolis development.
Depending on the size of the space, the cost to create a VR showroom ranges from RM10,000 to RM100,000 per showroom.
Although the company has since noticed competition from other players, this has not dampened Tan’s optimism for the business.
“Since we started the trend, we’ve been seeing other companies and start-ups following our lead, which is a huge compliment to our efforts to really revolutionise the property industry,” Tan says.
He has also set his sights on growing the company abroad. “We have already started to take baby steps towards setting up operations in Singapore, seeing that we have been receiving positive demand.
“We are also always working on our VR offerings to create an even more immersive and realistic experience for our property developers and home buyers. Tying in the virtual reality world with an offline integration would allow us to offer a seamless and revolutionary experience to all property buyers out there,” he adds.
An additional feature that makes BuildEasy’s services different than the rest would be its comprehensiveness.
“Based on our customers’ design preferences, our algorithm will match them with our curated interior designers, making designing fast, convenient and affordable. We then provide an optional in-house ‘BuildEasy guarantee’ whereby we undertake the renovation within eight weeks with insurance provider Kurnia Insurance’s home policy schemes for all our projects and warranty,” Tan says.
“My personal belief is that it will help Malaysians in general in terms of extended welfare coverage and financial aid,” he adds.