It's been a dull week and all you wish to do is unwind at home, curl up in bed, watch some TV and get a refreshing massage. But much to your annoyance, the TV's not been working for days, the AC isn't cooling properly and your favorite salon’s been shut down because of the lockdown. Now you are forced to make calls everywhere in order to find the right person. Pretty frustrating isn’t it?
At least that was the case until the rise of Urban Company (previously known as UrbanClap), a platform that magically provides solutions for each of these problems and more!
It's been the decade of startups, especially in India, one of the nations that have offered a lucrative platform for startups to boom and flourish. Whether it's Unacademy, Razorpay, Flipkart, PayTM, or Snapdeal, there has been immense upscale growth for startups in India. Joining the bandwagon is Urban Company, a home services platform with a fresh idea and an intriguing follow-through.
In a handful of years, Urban Company has established itself as a leading and successful startup. The platform facilitates the ritual of discovering professional servicemen for a number of varying jobs. All the invaluable home services ranging from a dietician, appliance repairs, plumbing to pest control, this platform’s offering it all.
“Urban Company strives to provide comfort and convenience at the doorstep of its consumers. Therefore, it has become the preferred option for all home services’ needs. It is the trust our consumers and 35,000 service partners have in us that makes Urban Company Asia’s largest home services marketplace.”
Urban Company homepage
Urban Company has over 35,000 service partners across 35 cities in India, the UAE, Singapore, Australia and Saudi Arabia. The company’s marketplace offers a range of home services to consumers, ranging from beauty treatments, haircuts, deep cleaning, plumbing, carpentry to appliance repairs.
“There is no niche-target of Urban Company as such. However, generally we aim to target customers belonging from the middle class having an annual household income around 6 lakhs-8 lakhs per annum.”
The platform is steadfast in its focus on cultivating and training its service partners to ensure that their consumers are rewarded with delightful services on every encounter. The platform empowers its partner network through financing and insurance, product procurement, training, and certification along with tech-led standardization of services.
“Our mission is to empower millions of service professionals by delivering services at-home in a way that has never been experienced before.”
Did you know that the platform even offered services like shooing away birds for its consumers once? Interestingly, the platform has receded its number of services compared to the time when it kick-started.
From offering around 120 services at the time of its inception, presently the platform has divided its services into two verticals –
ii) Home Repairs & Servicing.
Although the platform may have tapered off on its number of services, the number of professionals working with the company has steadily increased. Through well-crafted and executed performance marketing, the brand has promoted its services.
The company has been constructing a fulfillment-led service platform for reconstructing and preparing the key verticals of the home services industry.
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At scale, Urban Company aims to shape up 1 million+ service professionals to make them micro-entrepreneurs and offer superior and high-caliber home services to their consumers. The platform aims to help them out in 5 integral areas -
Unlocking market access: Working as an individual franchisee of Urban Company
Financing Access: This ranges from bank accounts, access to loans, insurance, etc.
Tech-led Service Standardization: Fixed pricing, clear deliverables, SOPs, delivery tracking, payment systems, reviews, etc.
Training: Soft and core skills training at training centers and through the app.
Consumables Supply Chain: Bulk procurement of service consumables
This full-stack model benefits customers in three ways:
Urban Company offers end-to-end ownership of service delivery for ensuring delightful services. As a result, the company places extensive focus on its partners or service professionals, training, and products and tools.
End to end service delivery
With a vision to organize the services ecosystem and build a community of skilled professionals, Urban Company today is the abode of over 40,000 trained professionals. The company provides these micro-entrepreneurs with financing, insurance, and product or consumables support. The platform aims to create over a million micro-entrepreneurs in the coming 5 years.
Urban Company is actually not the first venture that its founders Raghav Chandra and Varun Khaitan have established together. Their first collective venture was actually Cinemabox, an on-demand movie streaming platform that offered entertainment for long-distance buses, trains, and planes.
Bhal meanwhile had been attending to a startup of his own. Although the duo had unique and out-of-the-box ideas at the point of launch, yet they didn’t thrive, realizing that their hard work had gone in vain.
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At this point, the duo was introduced to Abhiraj Bhal. The trio joined forces with the goal of creating something exceptional and by contributing a sublime total of Rs. 10 lakhs, the three founders proudly established UrbanClap, which is now Urban Company.
Services with fixed charges - Urban Company follows the Commission model for earning money. Basically for electrician works, plumbing, and home cleaning services the company acquires the money via the app and pays the hired help their dues.
For instance, typically, in a parlor, a beautician generally works 6 days a week, at least 10 hours a day serving numerous consumers. But in spite of all the effort, she is merely offered around 20% of the total earnings whereas the salon owner gets to keep the remaining 80%. Steering from the normal procedure, Urban Company has revolutionized this model. The platform's beauticians keep 80% of the earnings and the platform gains only 20%. The main focus is on offering more money to their partners and empowering them.
Urban Company is well known for its adoption of various technologies. Quite a lot of the credit for the success of the platform has to be offered to the way it keeps technology at the core of its operations.
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The company has a big data system that helps manage its inventory, everything from tools, spare parts to cosmetics, that is purchased by professionals from Urban Company.
The platform has also got prediction engines to help it predict how many spare parts or cosmetics are consumed by a professional in general. Keeping this information in mind, the service professionals are notified to buy products.
We’re going to focus mainly on two technologies here namely, Urban Company’s use of Azure Cognitive Services and its Central Communication Platform: Raven.
This service has allowed the Urban Company to explore and access high-quality domain-specific AI models and API services that have been created with the purpose of making artificial Intelligence accessible for each developer.
The solution kickstarts when the professional gets to a customer’s house and takes a selfie prior to beginning the job. The selfie is a confirmation for ensuring that the professional present at the customer’s house is the same as the one assigned for the job on the application.
Once the identity of the professional is confirmed, he or she can kick-start their work, and if not then the suitable action will be initiated by the Trust and Safety team. The purpose of this solution is to help verify the identity of professionals, and ensure that no impersonation takes place.
This self-learning solution also additionally enables images to be added to the profile of the professional as time passes. This is done to ensure that the professional’s profile stays updated and that all the aspects ranging from changes in facial hair, any weight gain or loss, or any shift in the hair color are incorporated.
Urban Company’s initial communication platform while succeeding at executing the basic purpose required from it encountered a couple of limitations in terms of the high reliance on the developer as well as issues in the configurability and logic. Instead of resolving these limitations individually, the company chose to reconstruct the service and develop Raven.
Raven is a platform that not only gets rid of these limitations but also offers a plethora of other perks and opportunities for adding plenty of fresh features. The platform has been named Ravens, interestingly as a symbol to denote how black crows used to be a dependable mechanism for communication back in the ancient mythical times.
Raven’s High-Level Architecture - Source - UC Engineering
Delivery: Raven being an async service helps to ensure that even when the service falters, all communications are properly conveyed with the queue holding up the subsequent communication packets till the service resumes. So even if the service goes down, the queue will hold the subsequent communication packets until the service is up and running. Async also ensures that there’s no overflowing effect on the calling services even when the platform slows down.
Priority: UC primarily has 3 priority queues for varying priority interactions, be it high, medium, or low. This ensures that the low priority queues do not influence the higher ones. The varying consumption rates of the queues ensure that the delay is less in managing high-priority communications.
Cost: The communication packets are held by queues and make up for small communication delays so an explosion of marketing communication wouldn’t require the platform to expand or contact its servers in accordance with the load.
Dashboard from where PMs can change the parameterized content
Content: The PMs no longer need to depend on the developers to update the content or for enabling or disabling a communication, minimizing the necessity for the set up of calling service. This can all be executed through Raven’s dashboard.
Type of communication: The above panel shows that the platform allows the PM to configure any types of interaction combinations anytime they wish to, without having to involve developers. The dashboard also ensures that the types of communications being triggered are discernible to anyone who intends to work on it.
Configurability and logic: In the case of the same trigger, the calling services are no longer required to offer varying logic for varying content. For instance, if the platform wishes to send both SMS and push notifications to its UAE users but only SMS notifications to its Singapore users, this can easily be executed through the Raven dashboard.
As of 2 June 2021, Urban Company has raised Series F funding of $255 million. The Series F round was led by Prosus Ventures, Dragoneer, and Wellington Management, with participation from Vy Capital, Tiger Global, and Steadview.
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With this latest investment, Urban Company is now valued at $2.1 billion, as per the platform’s June press release. The latest round includes a primary capital infusion of $188 million and a secondary sale of approximately $67 million by select angels and early investors.
Urban Company plans to make use of its fresh investment for purposes like innovation, training, product development, enhanced quality control, and safety measures for both partners and consumers. The platform also aims to enhance its geographic footprint by entering the top 100 cities in India and further expanding into international markets.
In terms of the future, Urban Company plans to extend a greater focus on technology & and training aspects. The preeminent notion is to zero in on enhancing the customer’s experience.
The platform is also steadfast in its endeavor of exploring different ideas. For instance, the barbers associated with the Urban Company will take a snap of the customer’s haircut and keep it stored online, to ensure that the customer can get the exact same haircut if they wish for it.
The platform also plans to situate appliance specialists who can instruct and help out the customers through video conferences, helping them in resolving their problems themselves.
Urban Company aims to continue to penetrate into existing markets while venturing into new overseas geographies this year.
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