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Technology

Babysitting, laundry, even astrology: Indian developer brings Uber-style on-demand service app to Hong Kong

CEO Arun Kapoor says 6,000 vendors are currently available, with plans to have up to 25,000

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 3:47pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 11:05pm

A smartphone app from India that will provide “Uber-style” on-demand personal and household services made its debut in Hong Kong on Friday.

OkSir is a lifestyle app that connects customers with thousands of vendors across the city providing in-home services such as babysitting, plumbing, laundry, elderly care and even astrology.

The app was first released in India in 2015 and serves customers in five major cities. The developer claims the software fulfils 3,000 service needs daily there.

Hong Kong is the first city outside India to have the app available, and there are more than 6,000 service providers lined up at launch.

“There is a need [for service] every day, every hour … it is a complicated world to get things organised from an unorganised [world],” OkSir founder and chief executive officer Arun Kapoor said.

“We hope OkSir will help people spend time at home more.”

Kapoor got the idea for the app after having a bad week where everything seemed to go wrong. His wife was in hospital, he got locked out of his house, his driver did not show up for work, his car broke down when he had to take his son to school – all in the same week.

Kapoor then tried to figure out how to solve these kinds of issues where qualified service was needed immediately.

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The company has set up its East Asia headquarters in Hong Kong as a launching pad into other countries in the region, after receiving backing of US$5 million from a local angel investor.

In 2016, 89 per cent of smartphone users researched a product or service online, with 70 per cent preferring to shop online due to convenience. OkSir hopes to tap into this market segment.

The app connects customers to the vendors closest to them. The customer will be able to browse a list of service providers and choose which one they want. After an order is made, the vendor can accept the job and provide an estimated time of arrival to the customer’s location. After the service is completed, the customer confirms this and payment is made by credit card. A cash-on-delivery option is expected to be introduced early next year.

The app developer takes a cut of 10 to 50 per cent from the customer, depending on the service used. If customers are unsatisfied with the service they received, OkSir will provide a refund.

Kapoor said complaints were “not often” received. A spokeswoman for OkSir said refund rates for services completed through the app in India was 0.01 per cent.

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Getting Hong Kong vendors to share their personal and banking information was the most challenging part of setting up the business here, the CEO said.

“Initially when we came, there was a challenge that [the vendors] didn’t share their ID card numbers or bank account information … they were really rigid.”

In response, Kapoor held seminars for vendors to explain why the information was needed as part of their know-your-customer compliance and to provide payment to business owners.

Kapoor hopes to have up to 25,000 vendors available within the next six months. He said service providers are vetted before they are allowed to join the marketplace – including the checking of licences, qualifications and certifications.

Kapoor plans to launch the app worldwide in the future and believes it could become a major player like Alibaba and Amazon. The app is set to launch in Singapore next.