Last updated: 30 November 2022
Published on: 27 July 2022
Breaking into new markets, vouching for OIP
By Jill Arul
Now much more than a rest stop for weary traders, the centuries-old hospitality and hotel industry has come a long way—fuelled by innovation, new technologies and quality customer service. To further drive the industry in Singapore, homegrown tech startup, Vouch, developed a unique tech offering capable of being adapted to the goals of the sector. With the help of the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) Open Innovation Platform (OIP), Vouch’s chatbot technology, initially designed for social commerce, was transformed into a specialised digital concierge.
A regular on IMDA’s OIP, Vouch has gone on to win four challenges, which had led them to work with large organisations like Hyatt Hotels, Pan Pacific Hotels Group and even the National Heritage Board. The benefits gained from participating in OIP’s innovation calls, as well as the opportunities available to be a part of IMDA’s wider ecosystem of support, has kept the startup coming back for more.
From chatbot to concierge
In 2017, looking for new opportunities for their technology, Vouch embarked on their first co-innovation with hotel Andaz Singapore, under the Singapore Tourism Board’s hotel innovation challenge. With their tech offering suited for the tourism industry, Vouch won the challenge and began working closely with the Andaz Singapore team to build a digital concierge that answered queries, like attraction recommendations and check-in clarifications, for their call centre and front office.
“Very quickly, we saw very high usage rates and significant return on investments. We continued to improve our product by adding features that would benefit guests and increase productivity for operations and today, this product is our flagship guest experience platform.”
Mr Joseph Ling
Founder and CEO, Vouch
In fact, with Vouch’s digital concierge, has been able to answer a whopping 90 per cent of online queries automatically. The solution has also led to a reduction of front desk enquiries by 40 per cent daily and an average of 60 per cent of man hours saved—freeing up time for staff to offer more dedicated and personal service to guests.
Dedicated to providing insights and solutions to pain points faced by hotels, Vouch continued to participate in open innovation calls like those on IMDA’s OIP. According to Mr Ling, OIP is equally beneficial for problem owners by providing a secure environment to test drive fresh new initiatives that are unavailable in the market.
For Vouch, OIP provided great opportunities to work with overseas boutique brands like Malmaison and Hotel du Vin. Additionally, a strong relationship with IMDA has benefitted Vouch by providing exposure to IMDA’s network and ecosystem of supportive initiatives.
"A recent example was an invitation to a pitching event held by IMDA and Korea Development Bank (KDC) where we had the opportunity to network with potential investors from Korea," shared Mr Ling. Such early success and partnership propelled Vouch to greater heights as the startup continues to expand its local operations beyond the current four countries, 65 unique hospitality clients and tourism industry.
Vouch for success
In all their OIP projects, Vouch demonstrated a deft touch in working with problem owners and IMDA to create seamless solutions. Working with the Singapore Hotel Association, Vouch tailored their solution to the industry and—by automating common queries and requests for services like housekeeping and room service—the team ensures a highly efficient workforce.
“We build solutions to solve pain points for hotels and OIP gives direct insights on the challenges hotels face. When we saw the most recent IMDA OIP problem statements, we knew the resulting solution would fit well into both our product strategy and would have good synergy with the rest of our products. It was a win-win situation.”
Alternatively, when working with the National Heritage Board, Vouch’s interactive museum guide managed to offer an experience rich with engaging content, an accessible multi-language interface and even interactive quizzes—all while keeping visitors and staff safe during the pandemic.
Since then, Vouch has worked with more than half of Singapore’s hotels—deploying the interactive digital concierge and achieving up to 90 per cent automation rates with partners like Malmaison and Hotel du Vin. The team is optimistic and has their sights set on further expansion with products built for scalability and adaptability.
“We are working to expand our reach to more markets in the APAC region and IMDA has been supportive by exposing us to a wider network through marketing efforts and pitching opportunities.”
Recently, Vouch has also become an accredited company under IMDA’s Accreditation@SGD initiative, which provides companies under the programme a leg up in winning customers by being directly positioned as qualified contenders for government and large enterprise projects—an accomplishment that is expected to bring about further growth and success for Vouch among Singapore’s government and large enterprise buyers. With the support of IMDA’s ecosystem of initiatives and opportunities, it is clear that Vouch has been able to experience rapid growth and shows no sign of stopping.
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