Coronavirus: How Urban Company is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by helping its 30,000 vendors
While the spread of the novel coronavirus has triggered a global health crisis, the economy too has been severely affected, leading to massive downsizing, job cuts, loss of revenue and more. Service professional are among the biggest group of people affected by these job cuts and uncertainty
In conversation with YourStory’s Shradha Sharma, Abhiraj Singh Bhal, Co-founder of Gurugram-based Urban Company (formerly) said that the home services startup has seen a fall from 50,000 orders per day to almost zero in this current situation. The startup employees 30,000 service professionals.
Watch the full interview here:
Co-founded in 2014 by Abhiraj, Varun Khaitan, and Raghav Chandra, the startup has so far served over five million households across 14 cities in India, including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi NCR, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Ludhiana, Lucknow, Vadodara, and Visakhapatnam. In the last five years, it also has expanded to Australia, Singapore, and the UAE.
However, as all non-essential services have been suspended under the nation-wide lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Urban Company has launched three broad programmes to help out their service professionals.
“First is the immediate financial help that we are providing to them through soft loans. We have rolled out an interest-free loan programme from our balance sheet. We are giving it to 22,000 service professionals,” said Abhiraj.
The idea behind this programme, he added, is that it is interest- free and that it can be paid later, once the professionals start working again. The startup claims to have already disbursed loans of up to Rs 5,000 to its working partners.
Secondly, it has partnered with the Srinidhi Foundation to set up a relief fund to support gig workers and independent contractors on its platform during this crisis.
Till date, Urban Company, its founders, investors and employees have committed Rs 1.5 crore towards this fund
“We are also raising external grants from well-wishers to take this amount to Rs 3 crore. We will give this grant money to the most impacted families such as the families of a single breadwinner, extended families etc.,” said Abhiraj.
As a part of its third initiative and medical effort, the platform has further rolled out two other programmes.
It is offering COVID-19 health insurance and income protection to all its partners. “Under this, they will have free health insurance of up to Rs 25,000 and income protection of up to Rs 14,000 in case they get diagnosed with COVID-19,” said Abhiraj.
Keeping in mind that the diagnosis can take time, the Urban Company team has introduced ‘Suraksha holidays’, a programme under which the company will pay Rs 500 each day to those partners who feel unwell and decide to go into self-quarantine.
The team will also ensure that they get tested for COVID-19 , and if they test positive, the company will provide them with money and insurance.
While these are ongoing initiatives, the startup plans to implement a reinstating programme via soft loans to bring service professionals, those who would have gone back to their hometowns for the lack of work, back into the fold.
“This will give them the confidence to come back and start working amidst the demand in the marketplace,” added Abhiraj.
Communication is key
In times like these, Abhiraj believes that communication is paramount- whether it is on group level or individual level.
As a leader who walks the talk, Urban Company has also launched one-on-one counselling. For this, its 1,300 full- time employees distributed amongst themselves a list of 30-40 partners to cover all the 30,000 partners.
“We have started to make one-on-one calls to each of them. We list out the things we are doing for them and ask them not to worry and panic. The key idea here is to give them the assurance that we will be there for them,” Abhiraj said.
According to him, these one-on-one calls have encouraged many partners to stay where they are, instead of going back home.
Though the coronavirus has impacted its business considerably, Urban Company has decided to respond to the situation with empathy and a mission to overcome it.
(Edited by Apoorva Puranik)