At the current scale, where home services marketplace Urban Company is adding close to 4000-5000 new gig workers (or partners) every month, it spends close to ₹10 to ₹12 crores a month on skilling, Anand Dureja, VP Salon Business at Urban Company told Businessline.
The large part of this money is said to be spent on the training infrastructure that Urban Company has setup. The company has over 150 training centers across 50 cities. There are more than 250 full time trainers with Urban Company and it also hires part-time trainers during seasonal peaks to help achieve the demand.
“When we started, many companies were doing the aggregator business for services model, and we realized that the real winner in the space would be the one who cracks this model of skilling people. The key is to make partners so good that people want to book again and again, instead of just connecting users to a person without any guarantee of whether they will be skilled enough to deliver the service. By 2017-18, we realized that this is the only model which make us differentiated from others,” Dureja added.
Urban Company takes ₹3000 from partners to go through the company’s two month training program. For experienced workers, the training duration is about a week which gives them exposure to various tools that Urban Company partners use and other skills like using Google Maps etc.
“We charge this money as a check of intent so that they don’t drop out in between. ₹3000 also gets adjusted against the kit that the partners will eventually buy later to start working with Urban Company. So it’s just a just to check on intent and not something that we do to monetize or make money,” said Dureja.
He added that the typical churn in Urban Company partners is between 1 to 2 per cent a month. Further, the partners (gig workers) tend to spend an average of four years with Urban Company.
Last year, Urban Company’s spa and salon partners have orchestrated two worker strikes against the company. First one in October, demanding better payouts and unsafe working condition. Post the first strike in October 2021, Urban Company reduced its commission cap to 25 per cent from earlier 35 per cent along with releasing a 12 point agenda to improve partner earnings.
The second strike in December 2021 raised concerns about a new policy change that the partners believed impacted their earnings. However, this strike resulted in Urban Company filing a court petition against the partners protesting outside its office and asked the police to disperse the protestors.
Since then, Urban Company is said to have spent heavily in communication about policy changes with the partners. Dureja noted that during covid, overall company communication broke down and they were relying more on communication through the app and notifications, etc. Now, they have invested heavily in getting partners back into the offices, training rooms, and setting up sessions.
“We have around 12,000 plus women beauty partners, and we made sure that over the last six months in batches of 30-40, we have had multiple sessions to help them understand why and how certain policies have been changed and how they will impact,” he added.
Talking about the channels of communication available to the partner, Dureja said that there is a 24x7 partner helplines and weekly open office hours at most of Urban Company’s city offices. For instance, if Thursdays are open office hours in a city, category manager is said to be present at the office on that day and partners can walk in and meet the category manager. Urban Company said it also sets up town halls with the category manager every two months, where again partners can either come come to the office or join on Zoom to express any challenges, or opinions.