According to a survey conducted in 2010 about the spending power of Hong Kong’s gay community, 95% of respondents said that when the subject brand, product or service is discriminating, they will distrust the brand and boycott all products and services with 84% of respondents stating they were more likely to try the product or service if the advertising reflects the attitude of the gay community. Some of our community has encountered unpleasant experiences or even discrimination during their shopping expeditions in the SAR. The results of the aforementioned survey can be viewed here.
Hong Kong seems to be one of the more gay-friendly cities among all those in Asia, but this result indicated that reality was otherwise and was disappointing. It triggered Paul Ramscar to start up Pink Dollar, a one of its kind application providing a gay-friendly environment for the community.
Paul Ramscar is a high profile entrepreneur and markets commentator based in Hong Kong. He previously worked for investment banks in Europe before relocating to Asia in 2007 to pursue further interests. Ramscar began his early life in Hertfordshire in Great Britain and spent most of his personal and working life in London.
Known for being outspoken and sometimes flamboyant he supports good causes and charities and uses his voice in the media to highlight lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
He has been involved with many LGBT causes in Hong Kong and started building Pink Dollar since early 2011.
Pink Dollar is an application through which, after logging on, you can view retail categories such as health and beauty, fitness, property, luxury shopping and travel. From there you can find all those gay-friendly service providers which the Pink Dollar team has screened to ensure that they fit the criteria. At this primary stage of the application, users themselves are able to rate and review the companies included. So, the bigger the Pink Dollar family becomes, the more reliable the listings will turn out to be. Through their reporting of their first hand experiences with companies, users themselves can contribute to the community. The app is really accessible as it is linked into Facebook, so users are also able to rate and review online and share with their friends. Of course, apart from reviewing listed companies, users can also use the app to shop.
“The idea was conceived over twelve months ago. I have found over the last couple of years that there is a definite trend in Hong Kong; we are facing discrimination by service providers when we go into their shops.” Ramscar added that after reading the survey and learning that the majority of the respondents said they would rather shop at a gay-friendly company, he had the idea to start a business as a middleman where people could come into contact with the gay-friendly companies and businesses and go there to shop.
“Another reason I started this business was to give back more, not only to the Hong Kong LGBT community but to the world beyond it,” Ramscar said. He has been actively supporting various LGBT events and causes in Hong Kong for the past few years. These have included sponsoring events by Fruits in Suits and Mr Gay Hong Kong, as well as donations to Hong Kong LGBT organisations. He intends to continue this with Pink Dollar.
“Part of the company’s profits will be donated to the LGBT community. We will ask the users of Pink Dollar to vote for which organisations and charities should be recipients. We will ask for their recommendations about where the money should be given,” he stressed.
Ramscar also hope the application can act as a platform for the community to look for sources of the LGBT-related information. He remembers when he was younger that he had similar difficulties to those he finds today; there were then no websites for these kinds of information, and even today youngsters are not sure where to look for trustworthy information. So the Pink Dollar will also provide a list of trusted websites for the young or those new to the community.
“We hope that Pink Dollar can break down some barriers. Especially in Hong Kong, a lot of younger people in the community don’t feel comfortable being out to their parents. There are obstacles to coming out all over the world. People like Ellen DeGeneres can voice out once they reach the top and help others to be more aware of the problems. No one in Hong Kong can do that alone; together we can.”
Today, we have come to a time where people are becoming more comfortable in voicing their concerns over LGBT issues. But to whom and via where? Pink Dollar is determined to be a leader of the LGBT community and hopes its application will bring people together. Ramscar wants to use its potential power to reach out.
“There are Fridae and Gaydar, but they are mainly dating and/or news websites. There is no business commercial gay app, so we will be the first.” Ramscar is excited about the whole idea. It’s not just about business; it’s giving back to the community as well.
Before its official launch, Pink Dollar has already gained interest from the international media. Through his links with CNBC and Bloomberg he is aiming to set up interviews to talk about the idea and the potential gay market, particularly its spending power, which goes someway to prove that the world is getting more and more accepting of discussing LGBT issues.
Now the application is in the last stages before the actual release in June or July. Ramscar told me that the application will launch in Hong Kong first and maybe later in the UK. He thinks it is needed more here as Hong Kong is not as gay friendly as the UK. And most of all Hong Kong is a business city, so it’s a good place to start. Watch out for more information on the Pink Dollar Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pinkdollarinc or follow them on Twitter@pinkdollarinc to stay tuned for their latest news and the launch date. There will be a launch party, and if you ‘like’ their Facebook Page, you’ll be on the invitation list!
I think we all just want to enjoy our lives without any hassle for being what we are, so if what Pink Dollar promises is true, we at least won’t have to worry about where to go to shop. We may not need an application to provide us a safe zone, but the world, even in Hong Kong, can be very ignorant in the way it acts towards gay people, and we shall soon have Pink Dollar to help us find a comfortable way around in it.