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A helping hand Serv’D to home staff

Chitra Narayanan New Delhi | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 02, 2016

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Pune-based start-up Serv’D is helping to formalise the domestic workforce

While demonetisation has made many postpone plans, Serv’D Tech Pvt Ltd, a Pune-based impact enterprise aimed at the financial inclusion of domestic workers, is actually advancing its plans.

“We wanted to launch on January 1,” says Jatin Agarwal, co-founder and director, Serv’D, describing how the problems folks are facing paying domestic staff has galvanised the team to launch early.

What Serv’d is trying to do is disrupt the domestic staffing space through technology by drawing up contracts between domestic staff (maids, cooks, drivers, gardeners etc) and their employers, specifying remuneration, leave policy, perks and bonuses. Its business model hinges on offering micro loans to domestic workers, and later, some insurance products as well.

Key features

Employers download an app where they can track payments, advances, leave, etc. Workers just need a cellphone — not necessarily a smartphone — as all functional touchpoints are replicated via a call centre, which works on a missed call.

The app has an attendance mapping system as well as a ratings and review system (akin to the one used by cab aggregators), where both worker and employer can rate each other.

Workers are rated on parameters such as punctuality and hygiene, while employers are rated on dignity of labour and other parameters.

Given that the government, trade unions and bodies such as ILO have not been able to formalise this space, what gives Agarwal and his two co-founders the confidence they can do so?

Technology, timing and activation teams will make the difference, says Agarwal. “We believe the timing is right as India is undergoing a mindset change right now,” he says. “Besides, we are not relying on technology alone, but have proper activation teams with experience in large grassroots operations.”

100 active contracts

So far 100 active contracts have been drawn up in Pune, where a pilot has been on for a while. Five teams of nine people each fan out to slums and evangelise the app and Serv’D concept to domestic workers even as employers are being reached over social media and through RWAs. Part of the deal is to get Aadhaar cards of the service provider verified and to educate them on opening bank accounts.

Once a domestic worker enrols as a member on Serv’D, a credit history is drawn up, and based on that, the company will offer micro loans (at interest rates of 18-20 per cent), in partnership with NBFCs, for emergencies. As volumes go up, rates may come down, says Agarwal.

Currently bootstrapped with an investment of ₹2 crore, Serv’D is now raising a further $3 million from friends and family. With the size of the domestic workforce in India pegged at 10 million, Agarwal believes there is immense scope to scale up.

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Published on December 02, 2016
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