NTU start-up rents out dorm essentials to exchange students

By Lim Woei Lin

Dorm Buddy’s technology officer Pratyum Jagannat, a third-year School of Computer Science and Engineering student (left), delivers dormitory necessities to Sam van Geldorp, a third-year exchange student from Amsterdam (right).                         PHOTO: ZHENG JUNCEN

Dorm Buddy’s technology officer Pratyum Jagannat, a third-year School of Computer Science and Engineering student (left), delivers dormitory necessities to Sam van Geldorp, a third-year exchange student from Amsterdam (right). PHOTO: ZHENG JUNCEN

LOOKING for a broom or clean bed sheets for your short-term hall stay? Dorm Buddy, a hall essentials rental service, promises to meet your room furnishing needs.

Founded by seven undergraduate students from the University, the service rents out dormitory necessities and has been a hit among exchange students on and near campus since its launch last December.

Budding entrepreneurs

Conceived in June last year, Dorm Buddy started off as a graded class project submitted by undergraduate students Dhanraj Bahety, Pratyum Jagannat, Rinie Gupta, Mah Wei Ren, Pey Si Ya, Peh Qian Hui, and Koh Sheng Jie.

The seven students, who hail from different faculties, were taking a module under the Minor in Entrepreneurship programme, which required them to create a business using their entrepreneurship knowledge.

The idea of a hall essentials rental service came about after the team noticed the large number of dormitory items left behind by exchange students moving out of hall at the end of every semester.

“Our international friends would always leave stuff with us due to limited luggage capacity,” said fourth-year School of Biological Sciences (SBS) student Gupta, who is the team’s marketing officer and used to live on campus.

The 22-year-old added: “We wanted to do something good by being more environmentally-friendly, minimising the waste created and giving convenience to our customers.”

With that objective, Dorm Buddy was born.

The team eventually decided to take their project beyond the classroom, investing more than $3500 out of their own pockets to turn it into a full-fledged business.

By October last year, Dorm Buddy was officially registered under the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority and began operations in mid-December.

How to rent

On its website (https://dormbuddy.sg/), the service touts itself as a “one-stop destination for all student life dorm-needs”.

Basic necessities such as hangers ($3 for a set of 10), pillows ($10), routers ($15), extension cords ($10) are available for short-term rental on the site, with the prices for each item ranging from $2 to $15.

In comparison, a set of five hangers from supermarket chain Giant retails at $3.90.

Customers can also choose to customise their orders or purchase different package combinations of dormitory necessities.

A basic combo ($42) consists of a pillow, a bed sheet, a blanket, an ethernet cable and two universal plug adapters.

A premium combo ($70) includes the addition of two bath towels, a broom set, 10 hangers, a laundry bag and a trash can.

Delivery is also provided, with item collection usually at hall offices on campus, as well as nearby MRT stations such as Pioneer and Boon Lay.

As the rental period is on a semestral basis, students will be able to schedule a return of the rented items by the end of the semester via the Dorm Buddy website.

Items returned by students will be cleaned before subsequent rental, with the exception of pillows and towels which will be donated.

“Overwhelming” response

Response to Dorm Buddy has exceeded the team’s expectations so far, achieving double the sales amount initially predicted.

The team had a booth during the exchange students’ orientation last month, during which all their pre-packed combos on sale were snapped up within an hour, and their routers within 15 minutes.

According to the team, an estimated 120 exchange students have rented basic necessities from Dorm Buddy to date.

While Dorm Buddy’s customer base is mostly made up of the University’s exchange students, they have received more than six orders from exchange students at National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University.

Convenient and affordable

Exchange students interviewed by the Nanyang Chronicle said they were glad for the convenience of Dorm Buddy, as many of them were not sure of where to purchase affordable dormitory essentials.

Third-year exchange student Kim Seung Kyun from Sogang University, South Korea, managed to purchase all his dormitory essentials from the Dorm Buddy booth at the University’s orientation last month.

“As I was having a difficult time finding places to buy items I needed, I decided to use their service. Luckily, I was able to have my room fully equipped through using Dorm Buddy. I feel like I’m living in a hotel now.”

The 23-year-old student added: “By using Dorm Buddy, all I have to do is to return the items. This creates less waste and also prevents additional spending for the next incoming exchange student.”

Sam van Geldorp, a third-year exchange student from University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam, was introduced to Dorm Buddy by a fellow friend who had rented items from the service.

The 19-year-old ordered only a router and expressed regret at not knowing about the service earlier when he first arrived.

“Due to the luggage limit, there were many items I could not bring from home and I had nothing in my room. I had to find and buy them, which took up a lot of time,” he said, adding that he found the service simple and efficient because the items were delivered directly to him.

Although the service is taking off among exchange students here, others have their reservations about renting second-hand items.

Le Van Viet, a full-time fourth-year School of Civil and Environmental Engineering international student from Vietnam, said: “I would not use the service as I am uncomfortable using items that have been used by other people who I do not know personally.”

The 24-year-old added: “Even if they have been cleaned, I need to be well-assured of the standard of cleanliness.”

Others such as graduate student Naqaash Shabbir Ahmad, who is on exchange here, said he would rather buy his own items as the rented products might be faulty.

The Civil Engineering student from the Technical University of Denmark said: “I bought my router for about $32, while their router costs $27.50 after adding the delivery charge and deposit.

He added: “The price difference is not that great. It would be more troublesome if the router doesn’t work and I have to return it.”

Dorm Buddy rents out routers to students for $15.                       PHOTO: ZHENG JUN CEN

Dorm Buddy rents out routers to students for $15. PHOTO: ZHENG JUN CEN

Looking to the future

Though Dorm Buddy is still a fledgling start-up, the team is already looking to the future.

While the service mainly targets exchange students who are taking up short-term residence here, the team hopes to attract local students in the upcoming months by selling new dormitory products such as hall furniture and decor online.

Other plans include expanding the service to cater to individuals in other local universities, as well as broadening the range of rental products to include fridges, bicycles, and even calculators.