Oretha accompanied her father to one of his planned cancer examinations at Seremban Hospital in 2010.
They sat and watched the many seniors look lost and confused as they searched for clinics and pharmacies in the area.
The idea of opening a hospital service to assist seniors with their appointments crossed her mind.
When she shared it with her father, he said, “Start now, Lah. Do you see that uncle looking blurry over there? Go ask him where he wants to go. "
9 years later, Oretha launched her first business ad, which she called Senior Concierge Services.
Similar to GoGet, but for the elderly
Within a week of the online exchange about their business, inquiries were received from potential customers in KL and abroad.
In the second week she managed to book her first two clients.
In June of this year, the service was renamed Oretha's Senior Concierge Services to help promote its brand.
This service reminded me of GoGet, the gig economy platform that connects strangers to do someone else's jobs.
Oretha's services work a little differently. She hires freelancers consisting of college students, retirees, and housewives who sign up after viewing their ads.
A meeting is then arranged with the applicants, which is just like any other interview.
She would meet the applicants, get to know them, and let them know about their returning customers, the SOPs and goals of the job.
Protect your customers with strict SOPs / Image Credit: Orethas Senior Concierge Services
On the customer side, they would book Oretha's service via WhatsApp or email, which can be found on their Facebook page.
After receiving inquiries, Oretha makes it a point to always call its customers to better understand their needs.
“I think the first point of contact is very important. When customers hear your voice and we make an effort to call them, they know we are real, ”she said.
Appointment details such as date, time, hospital, purpose of the visit and the customer's home address are recorded.
"If I can't leave, I would let clients know in advance that one of the freelancers will be helping them," she added.
This allows her to never turn down seniors.
Sometimes Oretha even visited the retirement homes in advance to get to know her and her children better.
This can help alleviate their anxiety before going on their dates with a stranger.
Keep it human
As with any other concierge service, you can expect an app for easy bookings and payment transactions.
However, Oretha is keen to stick with their current management system, where appointments are made through their personal contacts.
Freelancers are delegated to a task based on Oretha's availability and payments are collected online after each service is completed.
"I agree that I can manage the reporting systems, bookings and payments online with one app. But this also loses the human touch for what my business is about," she said.
The whole idea of the service is ultimately to build personal connections between their customers and their helpers.
An app could also confuse seniors who would otherwise already be independent if they made their own bookings by calling Oretha themselves.
And it's also in line with the goals of the ministry: to help seniors live their own independent lifestyle.
It's a slow process, but your customers appreciate the effort.
I never thought of giving up. Yes, it is physically and mentally demanding, but I know they look forward to it when I visit. I take the time to listen to them, even if they have told me the same story every week, I look into their needs as if they were my own parents.
Oretha, founder of Oretha's Senior Concierge Services
Extending aid to the less fortunate
Oretha works full time on her concierge service.
To cover the cost of living herself, she has set herself the goal of supporting customers a total of 100 hours per month.
It also keeps business costs down by looking after the seniors alone without hiring permanent staff.
The flat rates for their services are:
- RM700 for 4 visits per month;
- 1,200 RM for 8 visits per month.
Waiting times in the hospital can be up to 2 hours / Photo credit: Oretha's Senior Concierge Service
Each senior is accompanied by a helper in the packages for 4 hours per visit.
For non-packages it costs RM45 per hour.
Fees include gasoline, parking, and tolls for people in the KL and PJ area.
Transport surcharges apply to people who are outside this range.
As for the next steps, Oretha intends to reach out to the B40 senior group and provide them with their services for free.
"I hope that grants or angel investors can see this as a way to reach out to the community," she said.
"It is meant for them to have constant access to adequate health care and to understand what the doctors are treating them for."
It may sound like a big challenge, but Oretha is optimistic that she can do it.
- More information on Oretha's Senior Concierge Services can be found here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups here.
Selected Image Source: Oretha, Founder of Oretha's Senior Concierge Services