Bai on call: How home service apps are changing domestic help market
She greets you with a ‘Good morning’, then puts on her gloves, apron and a mask, and immediately gets down to mixing chemicals and cleansers in exact proportions. She is no paramedic.
Meet the new-age Indian bai, who now accepts all sorts of assignments, right from cleaning and cooking to babysitting and eldercare, via an app on her smartphone.
This professionalisation of your regular bai is a result of a host of home grown mobile apps that are offering both on-demand as well as permanent placements for maids, cooks, babysitters, eldercare assistants and handymen. To be precise, at least four such apps — six-month-old MyDidi.in, BookMyBai (March 2015), Taskbob (December 2014) and MrRight.in (April 2013) — have sprung up, all in the past three years, across metros such as Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru.
Read: Maid to order
And all of them aim to fix the one perennial problem at most Indian homes — the search for a well-trained, professional maid who lasts at the job. At the same time, the focus is also on improving the lifestyle of the average domestic help and their families through better pay, and perks like insurance benefits, flexible work hours and paid weekly-offs.
Treating maids with dignity is just as important. At Mumbai-based MyDidi, for instance, you book a ‘Didi’, not a maid.
“MyDidi’s philosophy is to make the women financially independent, lend them a sense of purpose and motivate them to work more professionally,” says founder Jhonny Jha, 27, a former McKinsey consultant. “We have opened bank accounts for each Didi, and their salaries — Rs 8,000 a month, plus performance-based bonuses — are 50% to 60% higher than their previous salaries.”
Forty-year-old Pushpa Shingare, for instance, earlier made Rs 8,000 for 12 hours. She now earns Rs 12,000 for an eight-hour shift, of which four hours are spent on orders, the remaining four hours at the MyDidi office taking legal and financial counselling.
“More than the money, this job has given me confidence,” says Shingare, a mother of three. “I know how to operate a bank account now and I’m no longer afraid of technology. A car takes me around from order to order. I enjoy meeting new customers each day, and I am constantly working hard to get a 5-star rating from them.”
It’s a win-win situation for customers too.
Powai-based businesswoman Jaya Abraham, 50, hired cleaners via Taskbob when her regular help went on long leave in December. “We aren’t a house that uses cloth to clean the floor, and we’re particular about cleanliness,” says Abraham, who insists on different gloves being used in the kitchen and the bathrooms. “I was pleasantly surprised to see Taskbob cleaners come in with their own equipment, down to a uniform. They were well-dressed, clean and focused on getting the job done.”
Impressed, Abraham has already used the service to get a plumber, and says she will definitely recommend Taskbob to others.
Currently, this on-demand home services app, which started offering maid services only six weeks ago, is clocking in 35 requests per day in Mumbai’s Powai and Chandivli areas. In two months, they plan to cover all of Mumbai.
“Our staff members wear uniform, carry protective gear, and are trained to be courteous. When clients see them this way, they automatically treat them more respectfully,” says Taskbob founder and CEO Aseem Khare.
The 50 women on MyDidi’s platform are professionally trained too. “Through karaoke and Dubsmash and other interactive activities, we train them on how to deal with customers, clean efficiently and become tech-savvy by using the app on a smartphone given by us,” adds MyDidi co-founder Jha.
At 11-month-old BookMyBai (BMB) — an aggregator app, with a database of 10,000 maids enlisted for cleaning, cooking, babysitting and other housekeeping services, in Mumbai, Pune, Surat and Ahmedabad — domestic staff can be paid in two ways. Offered on a long-term hiring basis, the staff can be paid either by the client, or be on BMB’s payroll.
“These workers are largely illiterate, and are often taken for a ride by placement agencies,” says co-founder Anupam Sinhal, who also founded another start-up called Nanojobs for other blue collar services. “Agencies often take a large commission out of their paycheck. We run strict checks, and ensure that there is no commission involved. On our payroll, the salary includes provident fund, insurance and other benefits.”
For 26-year-old Shahid Shaikh, this makes life much easier. Working as a cook in Juhu, Shaikh’s earlier job paid him Rs 10,000, of which Rs 2,000 went to the placement agency. Working with BMB for six months now, he earns Rs 15,000 net.
“I am finally saving enough to send about Rs 5,000 a month to my family near Ranchi,” he says. “The money has helped me live more comfortably in Mumbai, and my brothers to save up for a better life. We want to buy a larger house in the village eventually.”
Yet, there are challenges. Recruitment is one.
“For one, we are telling even maids with 15 years of experience that they need training,” says Jha of MyDidi “It’s hard to explain to them why — even if we tell them it’s free, many don’t want to take the training. It took us three months to find our first Didi — but since we did, none of our employees have left.”
Others are apprehensive of the model itself — to work at different houses each day.
“Many of the maid’s husbands were uncomfortable with not knowing where they would be all day,” says Shreya Prakash Das, head of the maids vertical at Taskbob. “We need to bring about a mindset change. But for now, we have tried to incorporate features in the app where every time the woman accepts an order, her husband gets an SMS with the order details too.”
Still, growing databases and swelling customer bookings indicate just how quickly some of these services have become popular.
With about 10 orders a day, BMB is set to close this financial year with Rs 2 crore revenue. MrRight.in is expanding 20% month-on-month, with close to 250 total requests a day, of which about 10% are for cleaners and cooks. MyDidi is growing at 40% each month, with about 100 requests every day, and Taskbob, at 60%, with about 35 requests per day.
“I’ve used MrRight.in for repair services earlier, but got a maid from them for the first time in December, to help me look after my eight-year-old son,” says Noida-based software tester Neha Gupta, who is in her thirties. “It’s been two months, and I have no complaints. She is clean, well-behaved, eager to learn and has no hang-ups. There is definitely a difference in the service you get from a market-driven company versus the unorganised sector.”