A shift in mindset and increased awareness of animal welfare has led to a growing demand for trustworthy, quality services from pet parents for their furkids. This is especially so in the case of owners who travel often or have a busy work schedule and require some assistance in caring for their furry friends.
Officially launched just over a year ago, JomPaw’s extensive list of services aims to cater for such needs and take the Malaysian pet care industry to the next level. The online platform was co-founded by three friends — Agnez Lim (CEO), Joanne Lee (chief marketing officer) and Ngan Szu Mun (chief operations officer) — who combine their expertise in business consulting, e-commerce, marketing and public relations with their deep love for animals.
Essentially, JomPaw connects pet owners with a nationwide network of pet lovers for hire and was founded on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the unconditional love of a pet. The seed of the initiative was sowed during the Christmas and New Year holiday season in 2016/17 and stems from Lim’s own personal loss. “My golden retriever that had lived with me for 13 years was diagnosed with stage four cancer just as I was about to start a new job that required a lot of travelling. The vet told me that my dog only had two to four weeks left to live and I wanted to spend time with him. My potential employer needed someone urgently and so I had to let go of that job,” she explains.
Her dog died soon after and she found herself between jobs with a lot of time on her hands. Having had pets all her life, Lim started pet-sitting for her friends free of charge as a means of coping with her loss as she was not ready for a new four-legged friend just yet.
As demand for pet-sitting began to grow rapidly, Lim built a simple website to manage the requests and began recruiting friends to help out. Not long after, Lee and Ngan joined the JomPaw family. Today, its services go beyond dogs, covering any and all sorts of pets. Later, services such as pet taxis, training, dog walking and dog photography were offered as well, but boarding and pet sitting remain the most requested. Its dog training service is led by an ex-police officer, a chief instructor from the K9 Unit.
One of JomPaw’s defining characteristics is that it promises cage-free boarding, giving pets a home or family environment that most pet hotels cannot provide. Available all year round, pet owners can book a service up to an hour before it is required. The customer is then matched with a sitter from the platform’s database, a process that is guaranteed to take no longer than an hour.
To ensure the best fit, close attention is paid to the location and special requirements of the pet and its owner. JomPaw assures that all its sitters (80% of whom are located in the Klang Valley, where the core demand is, with the rest in Penang, Johor and Sabah and Sarawak) go through a multi-tiered interview process prior to being selected. The co-founders believe that these prerequisites, coupled with other measures, address the issue of trustworthiness.
One of JomPaw’s defining characteristics is that it promises cage-free boarding, giving pets a home or family environment that most pet hotels cannot provide
A complimentary meet-and-greet session takes place before confirmation to ensure that both parties are comfortable with the arrangement. The sitters also go through compulsory training every three months, and an award ceremony at the end of the year is designed to motivate them further.
“Only 30% of the applicants make the cut,” reveals Lee, who is in charge of recruitment. She says one of the criteria is at least two years of pet handling experience. One hundred sitters are now part of JomPaw, which started with only three — including Lim herself — an indication of its growth.
Pet parents who are anxious when separated from their furkids will find solace in knowing that the sitters communicate with owners daily by sending photos or videos through group chats. For added assurance and peace of mind, JomPaw offers an insurance of sorts. “There is no insurance provider in Malaysia that specialises in pet insurance at the moment. So in the event of an untoward incident, we reimburse the pet owner,” explains Lim, adding that pet care is a high-risk business.
JomPaw’s ultimate goal is to grow throughout Asia. “From a business sense, the biggest market for us is not Malaysia but countries such as Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan with high pet ownership,” says Lim. She recently took part in an accelerator programme in Japan.
Regardless of the location, JomPaw’s core objectives remain unchanged. “We want to be a one-stop solution provider for pet owners. They can treat us as a friend and pose any questions they may have,” says Lee. “There is no pet lovers’ community in Southeast Asia,” Lim says, adding that, hopefully, once JomPaw gains more traction, it can partner the government to lobby for legislative change in the realm of animal welfare. It recently included a charity angle to its business — crowdfunding to benefit animal rescue Furry Friends Farm — and hopes to explore this further, going forward.
This article first appeared on Feb 12, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.