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TBG Interview: Douglas Gan, co-founder and CEO, Vanitee

When you just want to look good for the upcoming wedding party/ Tinder date/ circuit training gym session with the cute instructor, there is nothing more disappointing than calling up a popular beauty salon; only to be told that there are no available slots that fit your packed schedule.

Serial start-up entrepreneur Douglas Gan, 34, wants to change that. He launched the Vanitee app in 2015, so that you can conveniently tap on a base of quality, home-based salons – as well as established ones in malls – for pampering sessions that fit your calendar.

Vanitee’s backers and investors include the regional beauty distributor Luxasia Group; international gaming platform Garena; as well as the F&B chain Thai Express; so it seems to be here to stay.

Vanitee recently updated the look of its app with a streamlined design and search-friendly options so if you are looking for beauty services for everything from mermaid shell nails and glow-in-the-dark hair, a red wine massage or just a regular pedi, it has you covered. There are currently more than 2,000 service providers listed on Vanitee; 60 per cent of which are home-based.

Vanitee app

Currently a 14-man outfit (with 10 interns at any one time), Vanitee operates out of a 5,000 sq ft office in the central part of Singapore.

Douglas Gan shares with The Beauty Gazette on what’s next for Vanitee.

Why let users search for beauty services on Vanitee based on trends?
Whenever you read beauty articles and spot the latest trends, you might end up wondering where you could get the particular service to achieve the look. On Vanitee, we link users straight to the local service providers. Currently, we’re highlighting the semi-permanent makeup beauty trend. And we’re not just talking about semi-permanent brows and lips; but even semi-permanent BB cream for the entire face so you can literally wake up with a full face of makeup.

Beauty trends on Vanitee

How does Vanitee stay up-to-date on the latest beauty trends?
Vanitee is also a platform for beauty freelancers, beauty schools, suppliers, service providers and influencers to connect. Through that, we are constantly fed with information on what’s trending locally and overseas.

Why should users trust the home-based service providers on Vanitee?
Before they are listed on Vanitee, the service providers go through a 27-step verification process. And that includes a quick check in on Google for bad reviews. If there are, we won’t even consider them. Generally, we insist that customers feel satisfied and happy after using the Vanitee app to book a service. And this includes basics such as the comfort, cleanliness and hygiene standards of the salon. We also place emphasis on transparency; service providers cannot remove bad reviews from the Vanitee app. We also think of the tiny details that matter. For example, we offer cashless payments so that you do not ruin your nails while digging for your wallet after a manicure.

Vanitee app

Who is advising Vanitee to make sure it is on track?
Luxasia was helpful in getting us connected to its extensive network of salons listed on Vanitee. Gardena helped us to build an app that is user-friendly, efficient, and crash-free. While Thai Express taught us how to ensure service standards are kept high.

Words of advice for those keen on the start-up business?
You must love what you do or you would lose the passion and drive to continue. In running start-ups, you will face a lot of curveballs; sometimes just when you think you are on the winning edge. That is the nature of the business. Because while start-ups themselves are disruptive, they will be constantly disrupted by their competitors.
And make sure your business fulfils a gap and solves a problem you personally find painful, and are convinced can be solved. You do not need a lot of money to solve a problem, just good ideas and execution.
And if you are keen on growing your start-up, you need to be disciplined. Realise that while at the beginning, there may be no rules and boundaries for a start-up; as it grows larger and more successful, it will have to eventually operate like an MNC. So don’t fight the rules, and proper processes.
Also, depending on which stage the start-up you intend to join is at, expect to take a pay cut and it’s instability. But in return, you could pick up invaluable lessons, and shares of the company which will be rewarding later. But always be prepared that at any stage, a company could fail. So you need the determination to see you through it all.

Photos: Vanitee

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