Zepper aims to be the ‘Ola’ for household servicesHarshith Mallya
Fixing a leaky faucet, getting a faulty circuit replaced or getting rid of pests at home requires handymen with specific skill sets. While some of us have a go-to-person for these scenarios, problems arise when these handymen or technicians are unavailable or if a person is new to a city. Zepper is aiming to solve this problem with a marketplace for household services.
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What is it?
Zepper aims to make booking household services faster and simpler.Users can book pre-approved repairmen such as electricians, plumbers, pest control, or cleaners through their website and mobile app.
Zepper was co-founded by Danish Arif, Akash Goel and Zia Arif. Danish was a Business Analyst at Goldman Sachs. He did his MBA in finance and marketing from MDI, Gurgaon, and now oversees the business side of things at Zepper. Akash had prior experience working as a Software Engineer at Flipkart and now handles everything related to technology at the startup. Zia, who handles day to day operations at Zepper, was a Gold Medallist in the International Young Mathematicians Olympiad and was at the forefront of multiple NGOs. Akash and Zia were batchmates from BITS, Pilani, while Danish and Zia had known each other since childhood.
Danish got the idea for such a venture while he was in Sao Paulo for the FIFA World Cup in 2014. He noticed that there were many localized intranet booking services that would offer cleaning services as there were many house parties at the time. He also found that the rates were standardised and there was no need to bargain or haggle over prices. He saw the need for such a service in India, where the market was fragmented.
How it works?
Users need to select the type of service they need, provide their contact details and a short description of the problem and then select a suitable time and date. Zepper then confirms the appointment and users can either pay electronically or in cash after the service. The team claims that the entire process of booking a service takes about 60 seconds on their website and about 20 seconds on the mobile app. The startup has about 150+ approved repairmen and technicians on board and their focus is on providing good customer service.
As Zepper is primarily a marketplace for household services, their business model revolves around charging a percentage commission on each transaction which varies depending on the type of service. They are currently bootstrapped, but are in advanced talks with a few investors.
Their USP is to help users in need avail household services at standardized prices from a curated and verified set of technicians in their locality. They make sure that all their technicians go through standard police verifications.
One question that arises is how they plan to get repeat customers and orders, because once a customer and handyman connect they could bypass the system and contact each other directly in the future. Danish said that they had thought of this and as the difference in prices is almost minimal and as they provide insurance for their services and a money back guarantee, they don’t think such situations may arise.
To reach a larger audience, they are currently using a mix of online and offline media for their marketing purposes. They have seen the highest hits and traction from Facebook, so they are planning to focus more on social media.They feel that this sector is currently fragmented and hence the need for an aggregator to make things more organised.
Challenges and learnings
The team has been working on the product for many months but has been operational for about three weeks and has clocked 36k in revenues till now, mostly skewed higher because of the higher ticket pest control, home cleaning and AC repair services. So their average ticket size per service is a little less than 1000 INR. Like any startup, they faced a few challenges:
-Getting the market organized. The team found that the market had traditionally been disorganized and the services provided had been considerably unreliable. So they feel their ability to assemble a network of 150+ technicians in Bangalore who are always readily available to attend to tasks at the designated time is an achievement by itself.
- Ensuring trust: Ensuring only the trustworthy technicians become part of the network. Zepper only pass on tasks to technicians whose backgrounds are thoroughly checked and have been verified by the police. Credibility/trustworthiness of the technicians is of prime importance.
- Unreliability: Technicians not arriving at the designated times has been a familiar calamity in this industry. As most people have jobs or other chores to look after this unreliability can cause a lot of inconvenience. With their network of technicians in Bangalore, Zepper aims to ensure that their proprietary algorithm matches the user's need to the best suited technician in his or her vicinity and they also ensure that they have two backup technicians available at a moment’s notice.
It helps being a nice guy. When we were forming the team we wanted to ensure that we were all from the same school of thought. It helps in bonding and coordinating with the technicians as well anyone else one might meet daily if the other person can trust you, says Danish.
Breaking the rules, as long as nobody gets hurt: The team has sometimes broken rules and has been advertising in localities and other gated communities.
Zepper wants to become the ‘Ola for household services’, one place where consumers can find and book all services at standardized prices from a thoroughly curated and verified set of service providers.On a global scale, Housecall has been offering a similar service in the US, while Home Triangle founded by Ramesh Chincholi and Dhirendra Pratap is also trying to organise this sector in India.
In a year from now, Zepper plans to mark their presence in atleast three cities in India. They send an email invoice to customers but are now considering offering hard copy receipts as well to make it more convenient for users. They are also planning to release an iOS version of their app soon.