“I used to work in many places before,” says Nasrullah, a shy and newly married plumber. Startups have an incredible ability to include people from every rung of the socio-economic ladder, and Nasrullah is proof of that. Few weeks ago, he decided to join Fixofy, an aggregator for service providers in Bangalore. Nasrullah says, “I have a six-month agreement. If it provides business, I will be happy. All we have to do is work well and keep the customers happy.”
Fixofy’s journey began last September when Mayur Misra, its Founder, was left frustrated trying to find a repairman for some household repairs. “It is a challenge even for people who are residing in one city for the past 10 years, though it is the need of every household,” he says.
In January, 2015, after more than a month of legwork to officially get otherwise cynical and conservative service providers on board, Fixofy set up an office in Sarjapur. In March, they piloted the enterprise, and by the end of April, they had already expanded to Koramangala. “Replicating was easy once we finalized our proof of concept,” says Mayur, who had roped in Shashank Peri and Shivnarayan Kartik to form the core team. RT Nagar is the next area they are targeting. “Now we have an operations manager in Gurgaon,” he says, “who will help launch Fixofy in the NCR this July.”
Mayur says his problem was not a lack of online marketplaces for household service providers, but the quality of service delivery. There are already well-established brands on the turf like honestcollars, Doormint, BookMyBai, EasyFix, Taskbob, Zepper and TimeSaverz. According to Mayur, Fixofy is different because one can make a booking in 10 seconds, and connecting a customer to a service provider takes only 30 minutes. He says, “Our focus is on making our backend ecosystem stronger to get service providers on time and connect with them faster.” Every provider goes through a series of interviews and needs to have at least five years of experience. However, there are no hourly rates that have been standardized by Fixofy, which allows providers to set their own prices. “It’s a revenue push for them as they need new customers. So Fixofy is an ideal platform. To be honest, we had a standard pricing in mind, but the service quality varies so much, it’s impossible. Sometimes the perceived problem is different from what the actually the issue is, and only certain types of providers can handle those situations. Both parties need to be happy in terms of delivery; so the service providers quote their own prices,” says Mayur.
Fixofy’s next goal is to make its backend as automated as possible. “Till now our tech work was outsourced; now we want our own tech team to build the backend,” says Mayur. The less the human intervention, the fewer will be the seconds that will be clocked in connecting customers to providers. Fixofy provides plumbing, carpentry, painting and electrical services (which includes appliances and laptop repair). It’s limited right now, but Mayur wants to expand into other areas of household services like cleaning and pest control slowly, without compromising on quality. Already, service providers are saying that their business has increased by at least three clients a day, which is great going for them.
Fixofy’s journey itself has not been without its challenges. Besides the difficulty of getting an unorganised sector into the startup fold, there were “grilling sessions,” as Shashank recalls, to get everyone’s head in the game. Shashank, who operates from RT Nagar, says, “It’s the best moment of my life. The idea is solid; the team is solid; we’ll make it through. We were pretty inexperienced in the beginning, and it was a slow and tedious process, but we learnt from our mistakes.”
Parth Shrivastava, an intern from IIT, Hyderbad, reflecting on the hard work it takes to build a business in these immensely competitive times, says,
We started learning from day one. I applied for a marketing position, but I do operations, finance, and on-field work. It has given me a broad understanding of how to run a company from scratch. We stay till about 10 p.m. in the office, but I enjoy the work.
Like any startup, Fixofy is looking for funding, and is conservative about disclosing the finer details of its business. How well will Fixofy do, what innovations will they bring to the marketplace, and how distinctively will they stand out from their competitors, can only be answered in the future. For now, they have a functional and minimalistic website and app to serve Bangaloreans. The hunt for good service providers is a continuous and difficult one - many of whom are independent workers, like Javed, who is a father to a four year old boy. He says, “I wouldn’t have joined Fixofy if it didn’t profit me. For people like us, it’s a means.” Rather philosophically, he continues, “Every tree that wants to grow needs a root to anchor it.” Having been in the business for twenty-two years he is confident that customers will always call, whether he’s in Bangalore, or Chennai, where he’s worked, too. “I have been working two-three months with Fixofy, and it’s good. So I’m continuing,” he adds. Javed studied only till the fifth grade, and learnt his trade by working with multiple workshops. When asked if he has aspirations of his own, he shrugs and says, “Everyone has dreams. I just want to be busy.”