Mention social escorts and many might assume they are highly paid prostitutes masquerading as hired companions.
But for Richard, the 27-year-old serial entrepreneur who runs SG VIP Escorts, the women working for him provide a premium “girlfriend experience” sans the sleaze.
Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, Richard said he makes it clear to his clients that they should not expect paid sex when engaging his company’s services. He also tells his escorts to “politely decline” any such requests from their clients.
Richard started his fledgling companionship business in June and now manages 13 female escorts, whose qualities and services are published on the company’s website. He is SG VIP Escorts’ sole employee.
Going into the interview this reporter was expecting to meet a man full of bluster, complete with the typical trappings – flashy clothes and an unsavoury demeanour – one might expect of a pimp. In person, however, Richard was soft-spoken and unassuming – to the extent that he made social escort business seem positively sterile.
Dressed in a dark blue polo tee with black trousers and carrying a slingbag, he exuded the aura of an insurance agent, which he worked as while attending university.
The interview was held at Wang Cafe in Changi Airport Terminal 3; cafes being Richard’s preferred haunt for meeting potential recruits and doing backend for his website. Richard offered his surname, but added that he would prefer it to remain off-record for fear that his friends would avoid using his agency if they knew he was behind it.
‘I saw an opportunity’
When asked why he chose to dabble in the social escort industry, Richard replied that it was either this or accounting, but accounting had too many regulations and more competition.
Enterprise has always been his forte, he said. He first tried his hand at a T-shirt business which he admitted was “not very feasible”. Other ventures related to marketing and photography came and went before he began a courier business some two years ago with a friend.
He is still involved in the delivery business, but is focusing on expanding SG VIP Escorts, the idea for which came to him in April last year. “It was more like I saw the opportunity and I decided to just try,” he said.
Despite the stigma attached to social escort work, Richard remains unfazed and said that cold-canvassing for clients as an insurance agent had given him “thick skin”.
“Because of that experience… I don’t really care what people say, I do good people will say, I do bad people will say. To me I don’t really care about the stigma,” he said.
What really surprised him was his family’s indifference to the idea, which is perhaps due to their understanding of his entrepreneurial nature. Another factor Richard took into consideration before kickstarting his escort business was his girlfriend of over two years, although she simply jested, “You spend the money on me can already lor”.
The run-up to the website’s launch in June was a simple affair. All he needed to start SG VIP Escorts was a laptop, Wi-Fi, entrepreneurship skills and an Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) record. Registering the business is better for the long-term, he said.
In the months since starting the agency, Richard has pulled in an average of five to 15 bookings per week, and has received more than 100 applications from potential escorts. He declined to share his earnings, citing competitive reasons.
‘No sex please ’
Unlike some social escort agencies, SG VIP Escorts provides “companionship services” with no sex involved.
The “no sex policy” is an important clause stated on its website as Richard could get into trouble with the authorities if he is proven to be living off the earnings of those who provide sexual services.
Richard stressed, however, that he has no control over what his clients and escorts choose to engage in once they are on a date.
The only time Richard has had to deal with anything seedy was when he received an e-mail from an alleged pornstar from Europe. “I opened my e-mail and saw a nude picture. She told me she was a European pornstar and was coming to Singapore,” he said, adding that he did not reply to the e-mail.
For legal reasons, SG VIP Escorts hires only Singaporeans and permanent residents. The criterion also acts as a form of quality control for Richard and helps assure his clients that they will not be set up with foreign KTV hostesses. Besides, his clients prefer local girls.
Most of his customers are Chinese men aged 30 to 45 who hail from Indonesia, China and Singapore. Richard has also dealt with clients from India and Western countries.
The majority of them are business executives, something that is not surprising given the rates stated on the website – which range from $600 for an hour to $8,000 for a 48-hour package, and $10,000 for “special events” such as accompanying a client to a public gathering.
‘Ultimate girlfriend experience’
A quick tour of the SG VIP Escorts website showed individual profiles for each escort along with the tagline “We Provide Beautiful Women For Powerful Men”. Under the “About Us” section, SG VIP Escorts describes itself as being the “best agency” for the “ultimate girlfriend experience with a Singapore escort”.
The escorts’ profiles list information such as their height, weight, spoken languages, ethnicity and age, which ranges from 23 to 33. Descriptions of the girls include terms such as “classy”, “sexy”, “curvy”, “girl-next-door”, “fun-loving” and “exotic”. A few of the women are listed as models, with one described as an “ex-FHM model and Miss Singapore Universe finalist”.
Pictures of the models show them in various attire such as tight shorts and tanktops, formal dresses and even lingerie. None of the escorts faces are shown, however, which is explained in the site’s FAQ section as being due to escort work sometimes being “considered as taboo or restricted due to Singapore’s highly conservative nature”.
There are also repeated disclaimers on the site to remind visitors that SG VIP Escorts does not sell or provide sexual activities as part of its services and to assure potential clients that their “privacy and confidentiality is assured”.
Clients naturally want the escorts they hire to look like the people in the advertised photos – which is where Richard comes into the picture.
Before the escorts’ pictures are uploaded onto the SG VIP Escorts site, he screens applicants through phone interviews along with meeting them in person. Thus far, only one applicant has failed to match the photo she provided and he rejected her.
Contrary to what he initially expected, the girls on the site who showed more skin in their pictures received less bookings, said Richard. Instead, the more popular escorts were the women with nice legs.
“Some girls send me quite sexy pictures and you would think that (they) get a lot of customers but the funny thing is they actually get fewer requests. It’s really weird, that’s the one thing I was a bit surprised about,” he said. “(Customers) genuinely prefer an escort who doesn’t look like a person’s typical idea of an escort.”
That said, Richard can guess why this is the case. “Before I entered, I thought clients just want someone who looks good, they don’t care if she is dumb. But after doing it I realised that they want someone who has class. They don’t want to deal with some ‘ah lian’,” he said.
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