Abhiraj Bhal, CEO & Co-founder Urban Company/ UrbanClapin an interview with CNBC TV-18
This article covers an interview between CNBC-TV 18 and Mr. Abhiraj Bhal, the CEO & Co-Founder of Urban Company (formerly UrbanClap)
Topics covered — Abhiraj Singh Bhal, Abhiraj Bhal, Abhiraj Bhal Urbanclap, Abhiraj Bhal Email, Urbanclap CEO, Urban Company CEO, CEO Of Urbanclap, Urbanclap Founder, Urbanclap CEO Email
Urban Company (formerly known as UrbanClap) is a market place for home services. Urban Company (erstwhile UrbanClap) was started by Abhiraj Bhal, Varun Khaitan & Raghav Chandra.
Companies & Individuals like Ratan Tata, Accel Partners Saif Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Tiger Global Ventures, VY capital are the existing investors of Urban Company (formerly UrbanClap).
Q. What warranted the name change UrbanClap has become quite familiar to people isn’t it in the last six years that you’ve been around
Abhiraj Singh Bhal, CEO & Co-founder Urban Company: How we started with the name UrbanClap is an interesting story because you know the three of us (Abhiraj Bhal, Varun Khaitan & Raghav Chandra) were thinking of building a services marketplace, yeah and we were struggling to come up with a name I had almost paid a lakh and a half for another domain name called ‘prowala’ which didn’t sound interesting as UrbanClap.
Varun came in one morning it had been three weeks since we were looking for a name and he said you know what the domain name UrbanClap.com is available for 130 rupees I said you know 130 rupees one and a half lakhs that’s a good idea and a simple answer and then we said this is the name and how does it matter.
Domino’s has nothing to do with pizzas and Apple you know these are all companies will build great brands behind the actual product or service that they offer so you know this is about the quality of service we offer eventually people will like UrbanClap but as we went on and as we started to build and you know to take this company in global we realized a couple of things
Interviewer: ‘clap’ and what it means
Abhiraj Bhal UrbanClap CEO & Co-founder –Yes, ‘Clap’ and what it means in the Western context so we said look you know we would like to change that with people in Australia saying we don’t want to work for the ‘UrbanClap’.
The second thing we said is that look we’re no longer about just one service anymore so we thought about this more deeply and we said okay let’s have the Urban Company as the overall mother brand and over some time we can have sub-brands when the need arises
Q. Has there been any disruption in this rebranding process where your customer is concerned and your business is concerned
Abhiraj Bhal: surprisingly it’s been very smooth you know we’ve I think we looked at it as saying you know we’re rebranding but we’re not gonna make this you know the centerpiece of the company this is an activity that will happen and that’ll keep happening we will continue to focus on customers and service professionals and that’s what we have done.
I think the team that was looking at rebranding they’ve done a very good job making it very seamless and none of us have been impacted we’ve also been okay with the fact that for a few months you know the two names will coexist so while we are Urban Company now you might still have an UrbanClap t-shirt wearing service professional show up think what we’re much more focused about is the quality of experience at your doorstep and the life of the service professional
Q. Given the ease with which this rebranding has happened is it a milestone moment in the journey of a company that’s six years old into 2020
Abhiraj Bhal: In the first six years it was establishing our company in terms of offering a good quality of service figuring out a business model operating model.
I think now what we’re saying is hey we have twenty-five thousand service partners but over the next ten years can we take that number to 10 lakh that’s the big goal that the company has and 1 million service professionals on the platform by 2030.
so what does that mean in terms of training what does that mean in terms of helping service partners come on to the platform what does that mean in terms of government relationships what does that mean in terms of consumer outreach all of that is something that we are putting together that’s the sort of vision.
Q. When you look back now at 2014 when you launched and the three of you got together would you say in hindsight that it was the idea that got you where you are or the execution of that idea that got you where you are and how would you attribute the scale that you’ve managed to achieve for the company that you guys started
Abhiraj Bhal Urban Company CEO — I would say it was mostly execution coupled with the fact that we had the right idea at the right time so we got started with you know this very interesting idea of organizing home services and it was the right time because if you started this business in 2011 it would have been too early smartphones hadn’t penetrated and if you would have started this business in 2018 it would have been too late
Q. Why would it have been too late in 2018 or even 2020?
Urban Company/ UrbanClap Founder: Because somebody would have already taken the market you know I think in 2014 for the first time plumber’s carpenters, beauticians these people had adopted the smartphone right and we are a very hyperlocal real-time matching platform so both sides must-have smartphones. so I think the idea and the timing were right but they were 50 people who had the same idea and had launched at the same time we had launched.
Q. I think after that it was just execution you talking about execution.
We’re not in your corporate office we are in a large building in Gurugram or Gurgaon as most of us call it which houses your training center
so AC repair and servicing is the second most sought-after facility on the Urban Company. here in Gurugram young men from the NCR are being taught technical as well as soft skills in a training program that’s been certified by the Union Ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship Abhiraj believes that Urban Company has empowered people by enhancing value and unlocking potential
Q. We are talking in India for the last two-three years of jobs drying up you know a genuine concern of joblessness in that context what is the role do you think of these skills that people should acquire vocational training and how to do you think the government’s initiative on these fronts are performing like skill India?
I think it’s a big debate and a big topic of discussion overall I agree with you that creating more jobs is a huge need today as you know we have depended upon who’s data you follow between 30 to 50 million men unemployed we’re adding 12 million to that number every year we think that self-employment which is not self-exploitation is where you actually have a meaningful middle-class wage 30–40–50 thousand rupees a month and also have the umbrella of a large organization to provide for life insurance, accidental insurance, health cover, and financing loans. if you need it you’re part of a larger ecosystem that provides for skilling, then helps you upgrade, that’s one model that is going to create a lot of jobs and services. it’s going to create jobs in transportation, it’s going to create jobs in delivery and logistics this is what’s classically known as the gig economy and give platforms
How do you see them at UrbanClap (now known as Urban Company) given that you work with over twenty-five thousand people across categories and you told me that you wanted to go up to ten lakh people in ten years, so do you see these people as employees or do you see them as contractors?
Because we have alluded to the fact that worldwide there is a relook on the part of government authorities regulators on businesses as to how this relationship is to be categorized
Q. Historically you’ve had apps which have said we’re just an app, I made an app where people are associating with it and you know customers are finding this outlook we have no responsibility the government on the other hand in regulation typically you know follows and doesn’t need innovation the governments have then come in and said in the absence of any regulation we will take the factory principles of labor and work and we will apply it to this new economy.
We think that one has to reimagine what regulation should be for this new economy we don’t think apps have no responsibility we think they do have a responsibility and that responsibility is around you know ensuring that there is a safety umbrella and a safety net within which micro-entrepreneurs can flourish so while they can work for themselves and they have the flexibility to be an entrepreneur in some of the best professionals don’t want to work for a fixed wage they want to work for themselves they don’t want an upper ceiling to their earning they won’t have the flexibility to work when they want to work at their arts at the same time they also want to have access to benefits that a regular employee would have these are benefits around insurance these benefits around healthcare etc and so I think governments and companies like ours have to work together to reimagine what should be the regulation for this sector.
Q. What’s your outlook?
we’ve been proactively advocating for some regulation for the last three years we’ve said that apps need to have some responsibilities those domains need to be classified whether it’s around insurance whether it’s around financing support whether it’s around training at the same time it’s important to recognize that these service professionals are not employees they continue to be independent contractors they are gig workers and therefore the relationship is not one of employer-employee relation.
Q.Does that mean Urban Company won’t contribute to a public provident fund?
We would be happy to facilitate self contribution through a national Pension Scheme or Atal Beema Yojana or that schemes that government already has through our platform if we want to contribute on their behalf to PF that means that we will have to mandate a minimum number of hours we have to fix.
We don’t think that’s what service professionals want and we should talk to a couple of them you know most of them having earned just about twelve fourteen fifteen thousand rupees a month the minimum wage or even lesser sometimes through a platform like an Urban Company in there for the first time getting a chance to earn 40–50–60 thousand there’s no upper limit right so they think of themselves as independent micro-entrepreneurs and their rights.
Q.But the rates are being fixed by the Urban Company
Abhiraj: the rates are being prescribed and fixed, yes because that allows for a certain amount of standardization. So of course, we take significant input in every category from the service professional we have panels of service professionals when most cases give us their rate card because they’re the ones who are the experts.
Q.You’re making a strong case for the fact that labor laws need to be reimagined for 2020 and all the decades going forward right
Urban Clap CEO Abhiraj Bhal- I think we live in the technology in the Internet era yeah there was a time when you would go to an office or a factory at 9 check-ins and then punch out at 5:00 p.m.and labor laws were made for that era of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 which was made in 1947.
But in 2020 you have a large workforce that is working flexibly across platforms not necessarily just an Urban Company maybe a Housejoy something else and this is going to be a reality for the 21st century the internet is here to stay internet platforms are here to stay and a wide array of service professional gig workers feel that they can earn a lot more with the advantage of flexibility through these platforms
Q.There have been cases globally where they are exploited where sometimes they don’t make the minimum wage and so while they want the flexibility they also want some assurance of security.
Abhiraj Bhal: which is why we think that there has to be some law something in middle something in between there has to be reimagined for this particular sector starting from scratch.
Q.A company like yours is a reimagining, to begin with. Even though the system around you may not need it
CEO of UrbanClap: We think of ourselves as flag bearers in reimagining this model across the world. The average service professional in the urban cloud platform earns about 40,000 compared to 14 or 15,000 in the outside world they have life insurance and accidental insurance many of our partners have health insurance they all have a bank account they all have access to financing through the platform we have access to free training and this is not just upfront training this is an upgrade in their training.
They also get a certificate from the government of India for their training programs so for the first time they’re getting legitimacy into what they’re doing while earning a lot more and having flexibility and we think it’s a win-win model for everybody.
Q.How do you see your customers and what is your assessment of how they’ve dealt with Urban Company (UrbanClap)
Abhiraj Bhal, Urban Company CEO & Co-founder: sure so I think we have served close to fifty lakh customers to date across the length and breadth of India as well as in three countries internationally.
These same premises has a customer support office which houses more than 500 employees who help customers out whenever things go wrong.
Q.What would be like pain points where customers are concerned and how did you grapple with them
Abhiraj Singh Bhal: off the cuff, I should say that Indian consumers, by and large, are very nice and we’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how well they’ve adapted to this model and how much respect they’ve given to the service professionals.
Occasionally what tends to happen is there’s a pricing dispute you know or the quality of service was not up to the mark and the consumer wants a revisit so we have launched you know a warranty program in many of our categories up to 90 days
Q.What about beauty services let’s say and you know that that’s subjective right unless someone scars me let’s say a waxing job is on or something like burns me
Abhiraj Bhal — If you ask any of our professionals they have been given a carte blanche decide how they need to win back the consumer including an absolute no limit on the refunds we’ve had cases where many of them have refunded back you know 20–30–40 thousand in case something has been damaged accidentally by the service professional what we found is that that autonomy that we give to us to our customer support reps gets them to become more customer-friendly understand the core issues with the consumers and it, in the long run, leads to lower cost of service.
Q.The Indian customers very value-conscious yes we know that the Indian customer. if I have let’s say a beauty service provider that I have used thanks to your Urban Company and I like her and I say okay why don’t we just leave Urban Company out of it here’s my number give me your number and I’ll reach out to you directly so that happen
Abhiraj Bhal: it happens a little bit but surprisingly we have seen a lot less of that
Q.Would you allow for a relationship building
Abhiraj Singh Bhal: we do but through the platform but professionals will typically not want to go off the platform because that means
1. They lose the pricing power than the platform provides
2. All the benefits that come with the platform whether it’s training whether it’s insurance they end up losing that as well so the very reason to join the platform is to have a better livelihood and you know even consumers in this day and age I think consumers are very savvy Indian consumers in our opinion are at par with consumers anywhere else in the world they want to pay for convenience they want to pay for the quality.
They don’t want to have a relationship where they’re going off the platform most of our consumers say that hey the very reason they chose Urban Company was because in the local world there was no professionalism and if they go off the platform they go back to the non-professional approach of working which they don’t want. They want a professional service and they’re willing to pay for it
Q.How much have you had to educate the Indian customer or how much have had to reorient them?
Let’s say to buy stay in Dubai where we operate yeah everybody assumes a position of trust so consumers will by default trust service professionals and what that often means is when we go for cleaning homes consumers are just leaving the keys in a letterbox and saying take the key clean my home while I’m not even there because the position is one of trust
Abhiraj: India is a very different country people are skeptical of welcoming a stranger home because we live in a society where you have to watch out for yourself and therefore we have to work very hard on trust and safety in India that means background checks that mean specialized SOS helpline that means an entire trust and safety team and constantly going and telling our consumers that look we’ve done a lot of work at the back end to ensure only the most trusted trained professionals are going and even in the remote scenario that something does go wrong we have this entire team to help you out
Q.You’ve launched in Australia Singapore are you what is what has been you know early learnings and the early feedback that you’re getting here and what does that tell you about whether how big Urban Company can dream in terms of a global footprint
Abhiraj: so you know when we started in India the assumption was that these services are unorganized in India that’s why we need to solve for India but in the Western world they’re organized you know the plumber’s and the carpenters in the field
That’s a myth we’ve been very surprised to see that the quality standards are better than India but they are also they can also be improved so we’re excited about Australia. Australia’s you get the Gateway to other countries beyond the world is our oyster
Source of this article — transcription of a video interview between CNBC-TV18 and Mr. Abhiraj Bhal.
Watch the entire video here —
Some frequently asked questions about Abhiraj Bhal
Q.Who is Abhiraj Bhal?
Abhiraj Bhal is the CEO / Co-founder of Urban Company (erstwhile UrbanClap).
Mr. Abhiraj Singh Bhal holds a bachelor of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and a Masters’ degree in Business Administration from the Indian Institute of Ahmedabad (IIM Ahmedabad).
Post his master’s he started working with the Boston Consulting Group for 3 years as a consultant.
And later in the same year, he co-founded a company called UrbanClap with Mr. Varun Khaitan and Mr. Raghav Chandra.
UrbanClap was rebranded as Urban Company in early 2020.
Urban Company is the largest home services platform in Asia. Mr. Abhiraj Bhal led Urban Company helps users book and avail services from trained professionals at their homes.
Mr. Abhiraj Bhal takes care of operations and service provider onboarding at the Urban Company (formerly UrbanClap)
Mr. Bhal has played a key role in establishing Urban Company’s network of 25,000+ trained services professionals. Urban Company has served over 5 million customers across India and Dubai.
Abhiraj Singh Bhal has won awards like the Forbes 40 under 40. The Entrepreneur award at NTLF2020, to name a few.
Q.Who are the founders of Urban Company?
Mr. Abhiraj Bhal, Mr. Raghav Chandra, and Mr. Varun Khaitan are the founders of Urban Company.
Urban Company (formerly UrbanClap) is Asia’s largest home services platform. Urban Company enables users to book and avail services from trained professionals.
Urban Company CEO and Co-founders have played a key role in establishing a network of over 25,000+ trained service professionals and have led Urban Company to serve over 5 million customers in India and Dubai.
1. Mr. Abhiraj Bhal is the Urban Company CEO and Co-founder (formerly UrbanClap). He is an engineer from IIT Kanpur and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM — A)
Mr. Abhiraj Bhal oversees operations and service provider’s onboarding at Urban Company. Before starting UrbanClap (now Urban Company) he was a part of the Boston Consulting Group as a consultant
2. Mr. Raghav Chandra oversees the product and technology vision at Urban Company. He holds a bachelors in Computer Science & Engineering from the University of California Berkeley. And has worked with organizations like Twitter. Before starting Urban Company he had an auto-rickshaw aggregator start-up called Buggy. in.
3. Mr. Varun Khaitan has completed his BTech engineering from IIT Kanpur. He oversees Business Development at Urban Company. He has been a part of organizations like Qualcomm and the Boston Consulting group
Q.What is Abhiraj Bhal email? / Urbanclap CEO Email
We were not able to find Mr. Abhriaj Bhal’s email. We found several websites providing his email address or Urbanclap CEO email. We were not able to validate the same.
Q.Who is the CEO of UrbanClap
Abhiraj Bhal is the CEO of UrbanClap. Abhiraj Singh Bhal, an IIT-K graduate and an MBA from IIM-A after a 3year long stint with BCG Singapore started UrbanClap along with Varun Khaitan, also from IIT-K and BCG (America), and Raghav Chandra, a University of California Berkeley Graduate who had stints with Yelp and Twitter. These 3 after moving back to India started UrbanClap in the year 2014.
Q.Who is UrbanClap Founder
Abhiraj Bhal, Varun Khaitan, and Raghav Chandra are UrbanClap Founders. These 3 co-founded UrbanClap in the year 2014 and rebranded it to Urban Company in the year 2020.
Q.Who is Urban Company CEO
Abhiraj Bhal is Urban Company CEO. Abhiraj Bhal alongside Varun Khaitan and Raghav Chandra co-founded the home service platform UrbanClap in the year 2014.