#Asia Out goes the Indian butler, in comes a startup


Competition for the loyal butler. Photo credit: The lost gallery

Competition for the loyal butler. Photo credit: The lost gallery

A bit like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp, this company is at your service. With 5,000 requests every day, it looks like busy Indians are readily opening their doors to UrbanClap, which offers 84 types of home services that can be ordered online, ranging from yoga to guitar lessons to wedding photography.

The Delhi-based startup has just raised US$25 million in another round of funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners, the Economic Times reported today. Existing investors Accel Partners and SAIF participated in the round.

With the fresh funds, the company is now valued at US$100 million, and is likely to emerge as a leader in a market that is estimated to be pegged at close to $100 billion and has seen at least half a dozen players raising capital in the recent past.

For instance, there’s UrbanPro, which allows professionals like tutors, event organisers, photographers, and trainers to create a profile in order to get hired, while consumers post their requirements and connect with relevant service providers.

Then there’s Flatpebble, which helps people view the work of photographers, get detailed quotes, and engage with them.

But the year-old UrbanClap, run by Abhiraj Bhal, Raghav Chandra, and Varun Khaitan, seems to be taking the competition head on.

Growing demand

Traditionally, Indians have banked on tried and trusted domestic help for home services. Bollywood is famous for eulogising the loyal old butler, often called ‘Ramu kaka’, and the matronly maid who could be left to run household affairs smoothly in the absence of the home-owners. They were even considered part of the extended family.

With a huge population ensuring a constant supply of migrants from villages to cities, a battery of helpers has typically been available to Indians for mundane affairs like cooking, cleaning, shopping, and taking care of children. That is still true of most cities, especially in homes where women go to work and where part-time helpers play a crucial role.

But the shrinking size of homes and families, and changing lifestyles that afford little time and dictate a greater need for privacy, have made live-in butlers and maids the preserve of a few. Plus, there is a growing demand for quality services.

Startups like UrbanClap and UrbanPro have stepped into this space, promising to keep both the ‘trust’ and ‘quality’ factors in mind.

Trust and reach

Given that safety is a key issue in crime-prone cities like New Delhi, UrbanClap has woven it into its tagline – “The simplest way to buy trusted services in Delhi National Capital Region.”

It promises to put customers in touch with “trusted professionals” – right now it as more than 20,000 professionals in place. It conducts rigorous background checks. Customers are allowed to dig into the workers’ past works too.

UrbanClap operates in Delhi and the national capital region, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, and Pune. The company plans to extend its offering to 25 cities and 100 categories over the next one year, the Economic Times reported.

Winning combo

The startup operates on different business models. For regular services like home cleaning or electrical work, it offers a list of professionals.

For specialized services like photography, interior design, or yoga, UrbanClap uses an automated match-making algorithm on the basis of the service request and throws up a choice of sellers who quote their price. Customers pick their choice thereafter.

It’s this stress on technology that impressed investors.

“It takes a ton of technology-led processes and supply-side thinking to make it work so fast, that it creates customers and providers delight,” said Vishal Gupta, the MD of Bessemer Venture Partners.

In India, where urbanization is changing lives everyday, this may be just the beginning for startups eyeing the market.

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