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Get home services at the tap of a button

Arif Jamshaid/Dubai
Filed on October 2, 2018
Get home services at the tap of a button
Finding reliable home services professionals can be hard work. (Picture used for illustrative purposes only)

(Alamy)

UrbanClap, an Indian marketplace that helps book reliable services, has launched in Dubai

The idea of setting up UrbanClap, India's largest at-home services brand, was born when its three founders returned to India to work and solve large consumer-centric problems.

Having shifted to a new city, with one of them getting married, Abhiraj Bhal, Varun Khaitan and Raghav Chandra were in a hot spot to set up their new apartments, fixing and installing things, finding cleaners and finding professionals to help with the wedding. That's when they realised how hard it was to find a trusted service professional, and how much follow-up was required to get anything done. What followed were a bunch of surveys with friends and family, and a lot of business math around it. They concluded that services is a very very big market, but very fragmented and unstructured, lacking the basic ingredients that build trust.

In 2014, they started UrbanClap, a marketplace that helps customers book reliable services - from beauty services to fitness training, appliance repair to plumbing - at the tap of a button.

"In the past four years, we have catered to over five million customers, spreading over a network of 50,000 trained professionals. We operate across verticals such as home and beauty, so imagine salon at home, fitness trainers, appliance repair, carpenters, handymen and painters, doing over 300,000 deliveries a month across eight metro cities in India," said co-founder and CTO Raghav Chandra.

"And all this comes with a lot of financial backing. We have raised over $56 million over the years that helps us be focused, experiment and strive for a better service experience."

UrbanClap has raised seed of $1.6 million from SAIF Partners and Accel Partners, Series A of $10 million from SAIF and Accel Partners, Series B of $23 million from Bessemer Venture Partners, SAIF, Accel Partners and Ratan Tata, and Series C of $21 million from VY Capital, SAIF, Accel Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners.

Chandra said the UAE home services market is new and highly concentrated.

"If you look at the population, probably 80 per cent are expats. It makes for a very high density of a population segment that needs to be catered to. In this sector it's a great thing that there aren't many large companies because it means there is a lot of innovation that is going to happen. There's also massive potential in terms of impact, which as an industry and as a sector we can create for services," he added.

Chandra said half of Dubai's population is very consumer heavy and they fall in the core target audience of consuming services online and offline.

"Dubai has probably over 400,000 households that consume home services online or offline, and this is a huge multi-billion-dollar market. Dubai doesn't have any big brands when it comes to home and beauty services. The service experienced by consumers is broken, where they have to follow-up with professionals, struggle at paying post-service via online methods, and have no visibility into the real pricing or quality of what they get."

This is where UrbanClap wants to step in and help resolve issues faced by consumers.

"The biggest factor that we address is that of service experience and trust. In fact, we see ourselves partnering with real estate brands so that we can extend our expertise to home dwellers in their properties," he said.

"How we ensure quality and trust is very elaborate. It starts off by verifying the professionals. We ensure that they have a structured training process and a quality operational team. We always conduct a 'mystery audit' to see how their experience is like. We have an standard-operational-procedure that standardises pricing. Even on the platform, we have real-time checks to enforce that the job is happening on time, and the pricing as expected. We have payment infrastructure so that the customer can pay online even after the job, and have a customer-protection-program that insures the customer up to Dh1,000 to cover unwanted incidents."

Having launched services in Dubai about three months ago, UrbanClap is serving about 100 consumers every day and growing 2x month-on-month. The platform is already empowering over 50 businesses and "we wish to go across all the smaller players and aggregators and partner with them".

Chandra said since growth has been good in Dubai, the firm plans to expand to other parts of the UAE - mainly Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. "Plans are big post-UAE; we will be looking to spread into the other GCC countries," he added.

And in the next five years Chandra sees UrbanClap as a household name that manages and takes care of all lifestyle needs at home. "UrbanClap is positioned to create a digital infrastructure that enables over a million service professionals to be independent micro-entrepreneurs in the coming five years - hence reimagining how we have consumed services so far."

Chandra said technology plays a very crucial role in today's word, it is perhaps the greatest enabler of change. "It allows us to track every small thing in business and hence allows for a higher bar on quality and operations. With the use of new-age tech and data science, it also allows young companies to automate decision-making by using AI and sophisticated algorithms. And perhaps the biggest change it brings is the access - it brings the world closer by allowing solutions to be accessible to a much larger audience."

And Chandra's advice for new startups?

"What I really love and advise people to do is to follow their heart. We live in beautiful times where technology has played a vital role to create tools that have increased accessibility to problem solvers. There are no established patterns in what determines how to be successful, only success mantra is have you solved the problem."

Regarding how UrbanClap is different from other such portals, Harkirat Singh Sodhi, UrbanClap's Head of Business UAE, said: "There are many such small aggregators in the market. We just execute our goals without worrying too much about competition. We have very stringent process to approve a partner on our platform, we mystery audit their services before granting approval. This enables us to have visibility on each request and how the partners are performing on their accepted jobs."-arif@khaleejtimes.com


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