Maintenance Made Easy: Pakistan's Chacha Services Offers A Centralized Online Platform For Day-To-Day Service Providers

Currently, ChaCha Services operates in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, with over 2000 registered vendors across different categories featured on the website.

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The concept of an online services platform is one that most people are all too familiar with, especially in an age where e-commerce has become the norm for many retail businesses. But not many might think of logging onto a website when there is an emergency plumbing situation at home, or if the air conditioning needs immediate repair.

These are just two examples of a plethora of issues that can arise at a common household. But very often, the required maintenance gets delayed because the service provider may not be reachable or available at the time, and/or a lack of vendors to choose from. Born out of a growing need to address these issues, ChaCha Services was created in May 2019 by Pakistani entrepreneur, Faisal Shehzad. Maryam Saba Dar, Director of Strategy and Media Relations at ChaCha Services, says Shehzad came up with the idea for the enterprise after encountering the problem first-hand.

"He said, in December 2018, he saw his mother in law chasing her husband for many petty household issues for weeks, which he wasn't able to pay attention to because of his extremely busy schedule," Dar recalls. "Even the services providers he arranged over the phone were not very qualified, and they were very expensive too. And despite putting in all the efforts, the issues were still there, and she was still complaining." This is when Shehzad decided to use his decade-long experience of working in the tech industry to find a solution to this problem that he -and many others like him- had experienced in Pakistan.

Source: Chacha Services

In the journey that followed, Shehzad (who is also the CEO of the firm) contacted over 5000 service providers in the Pakistani twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Over 3000 service providers responded positively to Shehzad's proposal, and said they'd be willing to offer their services via an online platform even if it meant they'd potentially have to pay a small commission fee; a further 1300 showed interest. In just a few months' time, was up and running, with the name being a nod to chacha, (Urdu for "uncle"), which is how people commonly refer to service providers in Pakistan.

One glance at the homepage of the site, and the user can see services ranging from cleaning, phone repairs, automotive repair to landscaping, painting, marriage events, and even fitness services featured on the platform. Dar now says that the startup is also looking to move into online grocery services in the future. "We have started with 15 main and over 20 sub-services, but the most requested services on our platform are cleaning, tour packages, plumbing, and painting services," she says. "We are not ready with our grocery option yet. Though, once ready, it will make the local grocery available for the customers around them, which will help local grocery stores with more revenue and also provide ease for the customers. We are also building the backend options, like points of sale, for the grocery owners, which will be directly linked with online orders, and also have the client history and store inventory."

Currently, ChaCha Services operates in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, with over 2000 registered vendors across different categories featured on the website. While the firm does intend to put a commission-based system in place for the service providers on the platform, it will be free of cost for them till the end of 2021. "As we connect the service providers to the customers directly, service providers will have to take care of transportation and delivery," adds Dar. "We also provide a service provider rating system once the job is done, so the customer can rate the service provider, which is visible for everyone. Also, the client can email or call us for any feedback and one of our representatives will contact them at the earliest."

Maryam Saba Dar, Director of Strategy and Media Relations at ChaCha Services

From a user's perspective, the process is quite straightforward- the user simply has to choose a category and post the service request to all the service providers in that category, the user then receives quotations from interested vendors, and can directly communicate with the preferred choice to finalize details and pricing, and later pay them directly. What is interesting to note here is the level of autonomy provided to both the user as well as the service provider- both parties have the option to pick who they would like to work with. This perhaps stems from Shehzad's sentiment behind launching this project in the first place: to ensure no customer has to pay a significantly higher premium price to receive good quality services. "It's a no-brainer that the services industry needs massive improvement and easy access to quality service providers," says Dar. "We are on a journey to create a platform where, if anyone thinks of any services, they will think of ChaCha Services. We will be the Uber of the service industry!"

While the last statement may seem to place idealistically big expectations on the startup, Dar is also aware that the team needs to continue innovating and technologically evolving in order to reach its goals. "We want to get into every service in the business and consumer sectors," she says. "Our next big steps are adding a salon appointment booking system, followed by e-commerce options that are only related to services we offer at the moment." With plans to raise its first seed funding round in the MENA region, Dar says aiming for an international launch is not entirely implausible. "We have a massive consumer base of over 120 million smartphone users in Pakistan," she explains. "So, we want to win the local market first, before we go international."

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