HandyMama is an enterprise that started out in 2015 and since then, being an on-demand platform for maintenance and handyman services it has revolutionised the household service industry of Bangladesh. This company connects users or customers with verified service professionals like professional cleaners, painters, carpenters, plumbers, etc. The revenue for the platform comes from a commission charged on these matches, typically 15 to 20 per cent. With rapid growth, profitability and economic and social impact this is one of the new businesses to keep an eye on.
In order to learn about the story of this incredible startup, Md Zarif Tazwar Shihab interviewed HandyMama CEO Shah Paran and CSO Rezaur R Robin.
Question (Q): How did you come up with the idea of HandyMama and what was your primary target group during your conception phase? To what extent did it change during the course of time?
Shah Paran: Before HandyMama, when I was setting up my first office, I had to go out and get the workers help me. This process took an entire month. Back then there were only a few websites with numbers of plumbers and service people but nothing was organised. It was then the idea of HandyMama occurred to me. Back then this concept was entirely new, which made it hard to get people on our team. There was a big trust gap between us and the blue collar people we approached. Now it's different and people apply to become 'service partners'. Our main target group was and still is the middle to upper class families. Initially it was just within Dhaka but now we are expanding and we aim to go global.
Q: How much has HandyMama grown from the start to now and what is your ultimate vision with this platform?
Shah Paran: We launched in April 2015, so we have finished our fourth year of operations. Currently our services are available all over Dhaka and so far, we have over 1,500 verified service professionals on our platform who work actively. Besides, more than 55,000 households and 5,000 businesses used HandyMama. We are a team of 35 full-time people at HandyMama headquarter. Our goal is to become a synonym of handyman for all kinds of household services in the next 10 years.
Rezaur R Robin: It is also our vision to work on employment and create at least 20,000 jobs within the next seven years, especially for women. We want to train people and incorporate them in the shared economy so that they do not lose their jobs to automation.
Q: Does HandyMama have any major competitor? If so, how does HandyMama position itself among competitors? What competitive advantage does HandyMama have which help them to differentiate themselves from other competitors?
Shah Paran: HandyMama's competition is not just platforms such as Sheba but also local service professionals. Currently this industry is far from saturated. If we consider Sheba, it is like a marketplace which accommodates vendors and lets you choose your services/vendors. The payment, the services and the quality are based on the negotiation between you and the vendor you choose. HandyMama connects you to the best vendor considering the prices, ratings and services. Furthermore, we control the pricing and quality, considering the welfare of consumers and service providers. HandyMama is more convenient and user-friendly which sets it apart from the rest.
Q: How do HandyMama technicians get recruited? Does HandyMama have any appraisal and control mechanism in place to ensure that its services remain upto mark?
Rezaur R Robin: HandyMama is a platform where service providers and technicians can register by themselves with required information and documents. However, HandyMama maintains a six-step capacity sourcing and development protocol to select registered handymen. It is actually quite difficult to work with the blue collar population of Bangladesh as they do not follow standards or have certification. Initially, potential people are approached by our team and the concept of HandyMama is explained to them. Those who understand it and are willing to work are then put through screening steps, training and then provided with necessary tools. After these steps one becomes a service partner of HandyMama.
Q: How does HandyMama treat customer feedback? Is there any policy for customers who are dissatisfied with services?
Shah Paran: When you work in a service industry and when you directly provide the services or work as an aggregator, you have to care about what your customers say. Being a service aggregator like Uber, we do care about our customers' feedback and really take those seriously to improve the service quality and also the experience. We have had a few disputes and customer issues that we needed to respond and solve. For issues like theft, damage, poor service quality, service providers' professional issues, we have a strict service policies with our registered service partners. We play a critical role in resolving those issues with our customers.
Q: Where do you see HandyMama in 10 years from now? What can we expect from HandyMama in the next couple of years in terms of new services/expansion, etc?
Shah Paran: Our vision is to become the number one household service company in Bangladesh-- catering everyday service needs of at least one million families in the next 10 years. Thus, by that time, HandyMama will create 20,000 new employment opportunities in household services industry. From our inception in early 2015, we have been working to standardise this unorganised blue-collar service sector by setting up new standards in terms of pricing, service quality, safety measures and of course customer expectation. Overall, HandyMama will be the smarter way of getting everyday household services including home cleaning, property maintenance, home appliances repair, handyman and the services that make households even smarter and hassle free.
Q: How is HandyMama contributing to the economy and society of Bangladesh?
Shah Paran: Previously only a few veteran handymen got real jobs and a vast majority of the people did not get any work. Now we connect these handymen to work and also simultaneously certify their work. The certifications show how skilled a handyman is and can therefore fetch him/her more jobs later. This way we are increasing the income of several people significantly and generate employment.
The interviewer is a third year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org