Urban Company (formerly known as UrbanClap), a soonicorn with its last round of valuation at around $935 million, is investing a substantial portion of the capital it has raised till date towards training and safety of the 30,000 service professionals who work for its platform.
Abhiraj Singh Bhal, Co-founder of Urban Company, told YourStory that the company will be investing Rs 150-200 crore ($20-27 million) towards training, quality control, and safety-related efforts over the next three years.
Abhiraj Bhal, Co-Founder of Urban Company with one of the home service professional
Meet the Mavericks: Abhiraj Singh Bhal, Co-Founder CEO of Urban Clap, India’s home services startup
Launched in 2014 by Abhiraj Bhal, Varun Khaitan, and Raghav Chandra, the startup today operates more than 100 classroom training centres across 22 cities in India and has presence in a few international markets.
It has built an in-house team of 150 full-time trainers, who train between 3,000 to 5,000 professionals a month. These training programmes focus on both core skills and soft skills, and can last anywhere from one week to two months. The company is also working closely with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) and the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to certify its fleet of service professionals.
When it comes to maintaining trust and safety (T&S) on the platform, the company has adopted 10 key initiatives to enhance the same. These initiatives broadly fall into three buckets – before the service, during the service, and after the service.
As part of before the service at the time of onboarding, Urban Company has partnered with government accredited third-party platforms like AuthBridge to verify the background of every service professional.
Each professional is interviewed in person by a category manager to check for behavioural traits. The professionals will have to also undergo an upfront “skill test” or “skill interview”, typically administered by the trainers themselves.
“These processes ensure that on an average, only 25-30 percent of the professionals who apply are selected. Coupled with a strong referral programme, this ensures a strong upfront gate, through which only the best professionals are onboarded,” says Abhiraj.
The Gurugram-based home service company said it has also partnered with Microsoft Azure to leverage its cognitive services to verify the identity of each professional before the start of the job, ensuring that jobs are not passed onto someone else.
Abhiraj tells that the company recently launched its safety centre and SOS helpline on both the customer and the partner app. This helpline is powered by a third-party company, trained to administer quick response and provide emergency help.
Sharing an example, Abhiraj tells that a professional had met with a road accident some time back, and a bystander called the SOS helpline using her UC app on the professional’s phone. “The SOS helpline was able to detect the precise location of the accident and ensure the ambulance was at the spot in five minutes,” he adds.
As part of post service delivery on Urban Company, both professionals and customers can rate each other. The minimum requirement for professionals to remain working on the platform varies between 4.2 to 4.5, depending upon the city and the category. The platform also blacklists customers from time-to-time, who do not adhere to its policies or have a low rating, tells Abhiraj. He adds that thecompany has also set up an in-house Trust & Safety (T&S) and Law Enforcement Response Team (LERT), which ensures that any safety-related escalations are properly managed, working in conjunction with the law enforcement authorities of the city.
Apart from the above, Urban Company is also building a robust supply chain of tools, products, and consumables used during the service delivery process, partnering with brands like L’Oréal, O3+, RICA, Man Company, Diversey, Bayer, Kärcher, etc.
Lending on the cards
Further, the company has partnered with many NBFCs to offer upfront kit loans as well as personal loans for its professionals. It has also applied for an NBFC licence. To ensure that professionals have a safety net, the company said it has launched a life and accident insurance cover for all its professionals in India, in partnership with ACKO General Insurance. It is also extending a health insurance cover to select professionals.
In August last year, the Gurugram-based home services startup had raised $75 million in a Series E funding round led by Tiger Global Management, the US-based investment major. Along with Tiger Global, the round also saw participation from existing investors, including Steadview Capital and Vy Capital. In its most recent and major development, the startup rebranded itself as Urban Company from UrbanClap (as it was known earlier), aspiring to be a horizontal gig marketplace with a global footprint. Its ambition is to be a leader across service categories like beauty and wellness and home repairs and maintenance, the home-service firm stated.
Summarising its efforts across training, safety and quality control, Abhiraj mentioned that from the outside, one only sees the tip of the iceberg, and might not fully appreciate the investments needed to run a platform like Urban Company. He further added that it is a misconception that ecommerce companies spend most of their investments to fund discounts.
For a platform like Urban Company, it claims that less than one percent of the capital raised till date has been used for giving out discounts. On the contrary, it adds, the vast majority of its capital, over 99 percent, has been used to build the backend infrastructure, which ensures consistency and quality on the platform.
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