[Startup Bharat] How two college students built a profitable home service business based in Jaipur
In India, there are over 55 million urban households that spend Rs 6,000-25,000 every year on household services, according to reports.
Tapping into this opportunity, two 21-year-old college friends Nitin Jindal and Keshav Gautam from Rajasthan Technical University startedin October 2019. The Jaipur-based startup is a ‘service at home’ company that provides trained service professionals for various needs at home.
Co-founders of NamasteSir; Keshav Gautam (L) and Nitin Jindal
Co-founder Nitin tells YourStory, “Many people don't get paid well even if they have the right skills. And on the other side, there are a lot of people who face problems while hiring a professional for any home-related work. Either you don’t get enough skilled workers for their costlier needs or because of trust issues in hygiene and safety.”
NamasteSir offers safe, hygienic, and affordable professional services such as party decorations at home, online pandit, mehndi artists, hourly/monthly car drivers, appliances repairers, electricians, plumbers, etc. It is planning to introduce more services in the coming months.
At present, the startup is serving eight cities, including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Surat, Jaipur, Indore, Kota, and Sawai Madhopur.
How NamasteSir helps
According to Nitin, the startup took two major steps in delivering complaint-less services at home. He says, “We made a strict process of hiring a professional from the market to take care of the safety and security of our users.”
First, NamasteSir does a thorough criminal background check of each professional. Next, the professional has to go through a work-skills ability check. It is only after the successful completion of these two steps that ‘behaviour development training’ is arranged to prepare them to deliver a service experience.
While the home service space is dominated by startups such as Urban Company and HouseJoy, Nitin believes that the detailed checks and training given to their professionals gives NamasteSir an edge over the competition.
The team also has a ‘Personal Manager Support (PMS)’ system for each booking to avoid a long waiting period. This means that, if at any time, a customer is facing any issue while making a booking, it can be solved with one phone call.
NamasteSir takes bookings on its consumer app ‘NamasteSir: Your Service Partner’, which then assigns these orders manually to its registered partners. However, it is developing a partner app ‘Sir Partner’, which will allow partners to accept bookings directly from the nearest customers.
The startup charges a commission of 15 to 30 percent. The price of the services varies for each category.
According to the founders, being bootstrapped and having limited industry experience, the duo faced several challenges in attracting partners and clients initially.
“Our bigger issue was tech development and we didn’t have a large amount to pay an IT company. We wasted a lot of time searching for IT professionals for less amount, but could not find anyone,” recalls Nitin.
The duo then decided to register the startup as a company and hire tech interns. Soon, with the help of interns and a few seniors from their college, they made the current app and website.
Nitin adds, “Although our target audience can be anyone, we started focussing on upper middle class families because of their wider need for the services we provide.”
For initial sales, the team used free mail marketing, text messaging, apartment visits, and in-person sales calls. Further orders were received via word of mouth.
Covid-19 effect and future plans
According to Verified Market Research, the global home service market was valued $281.65 billion in 2018, and is expected to reach $1133.40 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 14.67 percent.
COVID-19 and the resultant lockdown has hampered businesses across sectors but Nitin says it actually benefited his company with the rising demand for essential services at home.
“During the pandemic, we saw the market going down, especially in our industry. We restructured the process of our service delivery and looked for opportunities even during this time,” he adds.
The startup launched newer services like ‘salon at home’ service for which it started taking advance bookings. And as salon services received permission to operate, it started completing the bookings.
Service providers need to adhere to certain guidelines before taking up a booking. These include a daily temperature check before each appointment; equipping professionals with masks, gloves, sanitised tools, and single-use sachet products; showing their report to the customer on Arogya Setu app before entering a home; and finally, following all hygiene and safety rules as per WHO guidelines.
In the nine months since its inception, including the four months of the pandemic, the startup has managed to stay profitable. The founder claims NamasteSir has acquired more than 750 customers without investing in any type of marketing.
Nitin says, “We are looking for angel funding to ease the tech development and to improve the quality of service with innovation so that maximum number of people can use NamasteSir.”