India's largest home service marketplace is launching in Dubai in a bid to use technology to make people's lives easier
Start-up UrbanClap was co-founded in 2014 by CEO Raghav Chandra and now serves five million clients in India through a network of over 50,000 professionals, ranging from plumbers and maids to beauticians and fitness trainers.
The company works through an app which he says ultimately benefits both the professional and the client – and now that’s coming to the UAE.
How did you get this idea?
All our co-founders had very diverse experiences, some very tech heavy, some consulting/strategy heavy. In about 2013 we all three decided we wanted to do something that is impactful. We tried ride sharing and auto-rickshaws, all fuelled by the idea of how we can create large-scale consumer impact.
After our first venture we asked ourselves what ideas are being left out, and our personal experience showed that it was people-to-people services. It’s massive and unstructured, and lacks trust and quality, and that’s what we went out to solve.
Why is this service needed in the UAE right now?
The UAE is a very interesting market, and it’s similarly set up to a certain degree. In Dubai there are about 400,000 households who need different services. We realised the need for high-quality services and the “trust equation” is quite massive here. From the supply side, there are also lots of professionals but no broader infrastructure.
We realised the need for high-quality services and the ‘trust equation’ is quite massive here
There are similar platforms out there. What do you offer that they don’t?
This is about establishing a very high-quality benchmark when it comes to services. We want to establish a playbook for any category that we operate and then we go through a lot of pain to fulfil that. We visit the professional, look at their work, their training, and do a thorough background verification check on everyone.
We also back that up with a mystery audit to get a sense of how good the service is. We lay out our own standardisation of how things need to be done, and the pricing. Everyone is supposed to deliver the same experience in every single service.
What is your business model?
When a booking is made, we take our commission from the professional not the customer. It’s a very straightforward model. Our role is not just helping the professionals get business, but helping them grow as a professional. We help them understand where they’re failing and help them deliver on time.
How are you funding this expansion?
We’re very well-funded. We’ve raised over $56m through VCs and very highly regarded angel investors. That gives us enough funds.
Are you a tech company or a service provider?
We’re a tech-enabled marketplace. Tech helps us to measure every part of the business or experience. The high quality of the experiences we can offer is due to the high amount of automation that takes place. Everything rests on our tech platform.
Governments are being more proactive, technology is making it easier, and capital is a lot more accessible
What are your future plans?
The idea in Dubai is to step in and start with a few service categories that are the biggest pain points and go from there. In a few months we’ll have served 5,000 customers, and in the next quarter or so, we want to do 10,000 orders every month. From Dubai, a couple of natural extensions would be Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
We don’t currently have immediate plans to venture into other countries. We’d love to go deep into Dubai and the clusters around Dubai to establish a household name when people think of anything to do with home services.
Is there a lesson or piece of advice from your journey for other entrepreneurs?
To young people, I’d say: pick a problem and solve it. Governments are being more proactive, technology is making it easier, and capital is a lot more accessible. It’s a great time to solve problems. Grassroots, challenging problems can be solved at scale.