After clocking 1mn customers in 1.5 years, Housejoy is looking at automation to scale furtherHarshith Mallya
Leading at-home services provider Housejoy recently underwent a rebranding campaign and launched a new app. Based on a ‘first-of-its-kind’ geo-targeted technology in all eight cities across the 12 categories that it operates in, the new platform aims to provide a smoother, fully-automated interface for customers and service providers.
Launched last January by Sunil Goel and Arjun Kumar- both industry veterans in the home services space- Housejoy serves as an aggregator for a variety of services, ranging from maintenance and home repairs to plumbing, electrical services, home cleaning, laundry and computer repairs. It additionally offers specialised services in beauty and is expanding its service portfolio.
Housejoy brought on board Saran Chatterjee, ex VP- Products, Flipkart as the company’s CEO in mid-2015. To sustain growth, Housejoy had raised a $4-million Series-A round from Matrix Partners, which was followed by a $23-million Series-B round led by Amazon, and included new investors Vertex Ventures, Qualcomm and Ru-Net Technology Partners.
In 2016, Housejoy acquired MyWash, an on-demand dry cleaning and laundry company in February. Then it followed it up by acquiring Orobind, an 'at-home' personal fitness tech startup at an undisclosed amount.
HouseJoy recently crossed a milestone of one million customers. While unveiling the new logo and app, CEO Saran said,
We are proud to be the pioneer in introducing the geo-targeted technology at scale in the home services segment. Since our launch in January 2015, we have successfully serviced more than one million customers.
YourStory caught up with Saran to learn more about the new apps, re-branding and future plans. Here is an overview of the discussion.
Rebranding and tech
Saran noted that Housejoy’s goal is to provide reliable and predictable services all the time, starting with the expert arriving at the customer’s doorstep on time. He explained.
For the expert to show up on time, the biggest challenge is to ensure that the distance travelled is the least.
Keeping the above problem statement in mind, Housejoy recently underwent a rebranding campaign and also overhauled its technology stack on both the consumer and expert-facing app, to include automation and hyperlocal features. Pointing to the new Housejoy logo, Saran noted, “The new branding is aimed to be more vibrant and the connotation if you look at the slant is about the quickness and agility.”
With a permanent marker in hand, Saran doodled on the desk in front of us to explain how the hyperlocal matching happens, by breaking up a city into ‘x’ number of hubs based on the product category and each city’s unique geography. Taking an example, Saran explained,
We have broken up Bengaluru into eight different hubs for beauty services and make sure demand coming from each hub is serviced by experts from the same hub. This ensures more predictability for customers and also for our experts. For home appliances I could break up the city differently. Basically, the platform lets me break up the city based on the need and market seasonality.
Saran also elaborated that Housejoy can tweak their technology stack and automation capabilities for highest level categories or even for sub-services under different categories based on demand.
While most of the Indian users are tech-savvy and comfortable transacting on smartphones and apps, Saran added that Housejoy will continue to accept orders via their desktop site and also phone calls. In a cost-conscious country like India, Housejoy has found that most first-time customers have a lot of questions and need assurances to try out a new service.
But the main focus going forward will be on their app and Saran finds that most repeat customers are comfortable transacting on it, after a good first experience through other channels. Highlighting the importance of the hyperlocal market, which forms a strong section of customer demand and loyalty in India, he added, “Our new apps and website extend the benefits of ease in access of our service to customers and the service providers.”
Some of the notable features of Housejoy’s new website and app are:
Clear user interface: Customers are provided with detailed classifications and a guided checkout to ensure step-by-step flow in booking.
Geo tapping technology: Helps users book services near their preferred location more quickly.
Mobile web experience: The mobile website has been designed to be adaptive and provide an app-like experience
Transparency in service provided and pricing: All details on what type of service is provided, break-up of service charges and taxes applicable, customisation plans are mentioned for each service under the various categories.
Tracking- Users can track the entire order from the app.
On the backend
Once a customer places an order request, Housejoy does hyperlocal matching and maps an expert in the particular hub to the request, based on the time and date that the services has been requested for. Saran noted that while most of the backend processes are completely automated, the tech team is always monitoring the situation and on standby to troubleshoot. He said,
The long-term goal is to move entirely from a people-oriented fulfilment to system oriented fulfilment.
Just like other hyperlocal services such as cab aggregation that have been disrupted by technology, Saran noted that, historically, home service providers too have been active for a long time but ensuring reliability and quality service has been difficult without technology. Saran said, “Technology allows for a feedback loop to check quality of service and ensure right service providers are getting upvoted in the system.”
Currently available in multiple regional languages like Hindi, Kannada, Telugu and Tamil, the Housejoy expert facing app includes the following features-
2G compatibility: The app has been tweaked to function well on 2G and higher networks, to suit the convenience and data plans of service providers.
Simplified location services: The app features an in-built routing feature to enable Housejoy experts to follow the map to reach the customer’s location.
Booking based on availability: The experts can toggle an in-app ‘ON/OFF’ business switch to notify Housejoy of their availability.
Privacy and safety modules: Housejoy experts can get in touch by communicating with customers through the app. This ensures the service providers’ privacy while enabling them to provide their service as per their convenience. The Panic Button on the app helps the service provider to immediately inform the company in case of any emergency arising during the job.
On-demand status transitions: The Housejoy experts can track the entire lifecycle of the service accepted right from starting the journey to reaching customer's address, starting a job, finishing the job and finally rating the customers. This facility is also available for the customers.
The app also includes additional features such as the ability to send invoice links to the customer after completion of the service and also in-app tutorials to help experts upgrade their skills and take consultations on various jobs undertaken.
Patterns and user demographics
Saran noted that the biggest challenge for companies like Housejoy is estimating demand and supply. Unlike groceries or cabs, home services is based on a need that is not as frequent and which the customer can’t predict in advance for some cases, like breakages. “So demand cannot be artificially generated. Even if we run a promotion, a customer will not buy unless they have a real need,” he added.
The other challenges is fundamentally changing user behaviour- ensuring trust and helping them transition to an online platform from their traditional service provider.
Going forward, Housejoy aims to go deeper in the eight cities it is currently active in and then go after newer markets. While Housejoy gets almost all of its leads through direct channels, UrbanClap, one of its main competitors in the space, recently tied up with Snapdeal to cross-promote its offering on Snapdeal’s app. With Amazon backing Housejoy, I asked if there any plans to cross-promote on Amazon. Saran noted that as the current focus is on further enhancing their quality and not order volumes, they have no immediate plans to explore a tie-up with Amazon.He also observed that cross selling is a good idea only if done right. He said,
The best ways to position your offering is either a fulfilment or an adjacent service. I sell a product and then attach a fulfilment service along with it or provide an adjacent service like maintenance. These are much more relevant and likely to work. If you are trying to push a completely standalone service, it may not work.
Housejoy believes that the next phase of innovation in the hyperlocal segment will be driven by fully-automated operations and hence aims to further enhance their technological capabilities and focus on quality.
On the long haul, Saran noted that Housejoy has a lot of room for growth and improvement and aims to position the company as a reliable brand name in the long term. He said, “As and when you become a brand and people get to know you, you will start getting more direct traffic and brand recall. We are at the stage now where direct traffic is slightly more than 50 percent, with about 30 percent from in-organic traffic.”