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23 September, 2018 12:43:05 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 24 September, 2018 04:26:10 PM
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Swipe on screen to find your household help

Open the app, select the kind of cleaning services you need, confirm the booking, and that’s it – there will be a trained domestic helper at your place within an hour
FAISAL MAHMUD
Swipe on screen to find your 
household help

Sumaiya Afrin had plans that weekend. She was at home in Dhanmondi between work trips—headed out to Satkhira that Sunday—and wanted to spend time with her husband. Instead, she spent the two-day span waiting for her maid to arrive after several delays and frustrated phone calls.

It was the last straw. A week later, she fired the maid, installed an app named hellowtask and pressed few buttons. Within hours, a seemingly well-trained hired help arrived at her doorstep.

“I simply didn’t want to spend more hours, agonizingly waiting for my maid to show up. I wanted a sure thing and hellowtask at least gave me that. Now when I need someone for my household chores, I call on-demand maid through hellowtask. I am happy with what I get,” said Sumaiya.

Hellowtask connects people to the services they need to run their households, hoping to skirt the uncertainty and time lag that come with Dhaka’s informal economy, which still employs at least two lakh domestic workers.

The average middle- and upper-class Dhaka household runs with a steady stream of helping hands—a maid for ‘ghar jharu-mocha’ (brooming and sweeping), a cook to make three meals a day, and maybe a semi-trained nanny to look after the kids.

But talk to either side of the transaction and you’re sure to hear plenty of complaints. The cook uses too much oil, the hired help for cleaning shows up two hours late. And the families that hire them? The workers say they expect long hours and think about ten times before raising wages.

That’s where mobile apps like hellowtask—launched this year—are hoping to help both the service providers and consumers. The app provide a list of household services in different packages—daily, weekly or monthly—allowing customers to schedule the service with a few swipes. The rates are disclosed beforehand, and customers can choose to pay through the maid or directly to the company.

How the idea came into being?

The idea of starting an on-demand maid service to the household is not a new one and has long been on the plate for someone to pick up. Late Humayun Ahmed even wrote and directed a popular drama on the concept years ago.

But it had not materialized as the logistics involved in the business are too delicate and fickle in nature for an aspiring entrepreneur to handle. So what makes Mahmudul Hasan, the CEO and founder of hellowtask to take the risk?

“Failure,” said Mahmudul, “I started a product delivery services but that market is crowded with too many players already, so I failed to create any inroads there. In fact, in these days, you will eventually find a competitor in any given areas as ideas are right there for someone to implement,” he said.

After his first failed business, he choose to venture out in the area where other fears to tread: maid service through an app. “May be it was my foolishness to not knowing the risk fully well,” said Mahmudul, “The purpose of designing any app is primarily to solve the problem. Finding a maid to do household chore is probably one of the great unsolved problems of the city. I wanted to provide a solution,” he said.

The idea was well received, surprisingly, by the Mercantile Bank, which agreed to fund it. “Institutions like banks usually don’t fund tech startups in Bangladesh but Mercantile agreed to fund it under its Udayan scheme in which they fund the startups.”  

Mahmudul first developed the app with the name “RobotDako.” The name was back lashed by a lot and the investors said they wouldn’t invest further if he doesn’t change the name. “So we hurriedly change the name after its launching,” he said.

The key factors

 To make the technology work, hellowtask has to account for an age-old industry where word-of-mouth and personal recommendations have often trumped convenience.

 “What usually comes to mind is ‘these people are cheats, they won’t give me good service’,” said Mahmudul. “But we do extensive screening. We take extra care in bringing people to the trust factor.”

 Mahmudul said building the trust factor has been crucial for hellowtask. “And that trust building was needed for both sides. We needed to convince the maids that they would get a guaranteed job with salary per month and at the same time we needed to convince the household that we are not running a scam where we send maids to the households to steal goods or information.”

The recruitment and the training of maids are done through a well-established business model. “There are some verified recruiters who bring us maids from different places. We take the copies of their national IDs and the IDs of the two known people in their area. We keep all those information in our database for the security purpose,” said Mahmudul.

The maids are then trained in basic communication and their strength areas, like cooking, cleaning and babysitting are honed with further trainings from hellowtask. Then they are kept by hellowtask either with a monthly salary or daily package rates.

 “If someone goes to our app or website, s/he will see that there are four types of services—on demand, package, chuta bua and pre-book. It’s a comprehensive app and you will find all the information there about the rates and hours,” he said.

Mahmudul said their service was now available in several Dhaka neighbourhoods including Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur, New Market, Kolkabagan and Firmgate.

“I live in Mohammadpur, so I started with the area as I know the neighbourhood. After finding initial success here, I expanded into Dhanmondi and later into other areas,” he said.

According to him, the demands of maids and the affordability of hiring them vary from area to area. That’s why hellowtask is consciously expanding its operation. “We will soon expand our operation into Mirpur and Uttara,” said Mahmudul.

EA/IK

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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