The wave of on-demand services has hit India and how! No sector has been left untouched. Food delivery, cabs, household services, gourmet products – and this is only the tip of the iceberg. As the competition heats up, each new venture that crops up is only becoming more and more hyper-local.
LocalUstaad aims to take localization to a whole new level by marrying mapping technology with household services. Just like you use your phone to look for the next available cab that is closest to you, soon, you will be able to book the closest plumber or mechanic using LocalUstaad’s network of technicians mapped around your area, and pay online for their services.
Zeroing on the idea
The company started out as GharCare (founded by Ankit Jain and Yash Sheth), and helped provide plumbing, carpentry and electric services. Ankit was working for his family business while Yash was working with Wipro.
In 2013, just before Diwali, Yash had to get his house painted. He gave the painting contract to a painter and also gave him an advance payment. The painter started work, but after two days he vanished and never came back. Ankit had also faced similar issues. Both Ankit and Yash were frustrated with the low quality of service in the unorganized household services sector and decided to find a solution to their problem.
At first, their entire model was offline, and there were six salaried and contract technicians catering to nearly 100 consumers. The technicians were even trained in soft skills by GharCare. Although self-sustained, the model was extremely difficult to scale. In the month of November 2014, there were some days where all the technicians were free and did not have pending tasks. The team had a long discussion about the company’s future and business model. The technicians said that they actually preferred working on a commission basis over being salaried employees. They could be available on call and take up jobs in the surrounding areas.
The founders spoke to their own customers for feedback on the newly modified concept. They also reached out to local vendors and technicians to build on the idea. While conducting market research on the online model, they came across and met Rahul P. (CTO at LocalUstaad), who is responsible for the development of the platform. The product was completed in two-and-a-half months and was ready to be launched in May 2015. They decided to conduct a pilot in May with their technicians and previous GharCare customers, incorporating all their feedback and using the application, simultaneously.
Some of the features that took 20-25 days to develop were not used by the customers and hence had to be scrapped. The technicians were very skilled, but found it difficult to follow the English app. The founders thus designed a bilingual interface for them. The portal finally went live in July for select areas in Mumbai.
LocalUstaad is powered by a team of 11 and is based out of Mumbai. Ankit says – “Each and every member of our workforce was so knowledgeable, just like an expert. That’s why we used the term 'Ustaad' for our workforce.”
The founders mentioned that because of their experience with GharCare, they have dealt with a number of issues such as delayed service or technicians not showing up (once they even cleaned the apartment of a customer because the technician had not turned up).
Yash states, “Now that the backbone is built, we just have to add the required data for each city. We can scale quickly using the current model.”
The platform sources its technicians primarily through references. Senior technicians inspect the work of junior technicians and give feedback. Third-party checks are also conducted on potential new technicians, and only after completion of the background check are leads provided.
The team plans to add more services to their platform, raise funds, and also expand to other cities in the next 18 months. They believe they are different from other portals since they do not send their technicians to distant locations, and offer highly localized services to their customers.
The team is also trying to build innovative features on their platform, such as offering free coupons that customers can redeem at their local stores to those who use LocalUstaad’s services. One of the startups offering deals in partnership with LocalUstaad has provided a 20% discount on medicines. The core team is also working on incorporating a vertical deal with a company providing spare parts (hardware market). Yash signs off saying that their core belief is to “inject entrepreneurship into the working class of India, or the ‘ustaads’, and help them work efficiently and earn a livelihood for themselves.”