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The next wave of ecommerce is very definitely service oriented. Apart from the group of taxi and online entertainment focused services, just a few weeks ago we wrote about Cape Town’s WumDrop, which is looking to disrupt the local courier industry. We’ve also written about Washrr — a platform that collects your dirty clothes and brings you clean ones. Needless to say, there is a definite trend here. People want what they want, now.
SweepSouth, a new tech startup looking to sort out everything from the grime under your fridge to the dusty furnishings in your lounge, is very much on trend in that regard. It wants to change the way South Africans book cleaners for their homes as well as the way in which they perceive the entire process. It works similar to Uber but instead of sending over a car service, it sends out a cleaner.
Whether you’re familiar with the usual on-demand request procedure or not, the process is incredibly simple. You book a cleaner on the website; fill in your contact details and preferences (including the date and time); pay using your credit card or EFT; after which an email containing information about your cleaner will be sent as confirmation of your request. They then pitch up at your house in their blue SweepSouth-branded shirts, clean and leave. Like so:
Aisha Pandor and Alen Ribic launched SweepSouth earlier this year. Inspiration came to them when they struggled to find a part-time domestic cleaner over the holidays.
The married couple says that the business works because they both respect the skills the other one brings to the table. “It isn’t a case of going into business with your husband or your wife, but rather with an excellent partner who happens to be your spouse,” they tell Ventureburn.
With a PhD in Science, Pandor used to be a management consultant at Accenture. In 2011, she received a South African Women in Science Award and was named one of the Mail and Guardian’s top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.
Ribic, on the other hand, has experience in engineering scalable software systems. He has also served an advisory role to the government on modernising the National Home Affairs Department. In addition to SweepSouth, Ribic has also co-founded Eldo Software Solutions, an energy efficiency Software-as-a-Service company.
“We decided to start the business together because of the complementary skills we could both individually bring to the table.” While one has the solid tech skills, the other could match up with the business management and operations side.
SweepSouth says its cleaners all go through a “rigorous screening process which includes background and criminal checks, document verification, numerous interviews and test cleans.” On top of that, the company reassures us that all its employees have at least two years experience.
The process relies on a rating system that both the clients and the cleaners use to promote good experiences and point out the bad ones.
On top of the cleaning services, SweepSouth has managed to sneak in a nice ecommerce element to the service by offering a range of eco-friendly products on the side. With its exclusive product range at hand, it’s hoping to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit in the cleaners using SweepSouth.
According to the co-founders, SweepSouth cleaners benefit by earning excellent rates, flexible hours and working for a company that looks to empowering them further:
“We encourage entrepreneurial skills and support cleaners who would like to earn commission from selling our eco-friendly cleaning products to clients or to their friends and family. From next year we will hold computer and management skills workshops for cleaners, and will also skill and hire cleaners who perform well and are rated highly, to customer support and cleaner training jobs within SweepSouth.”
It’s experienced impressive traction in Johannesburg since launching in June 2014. So much so that it’s hoping to expand to Cape Town towards the end of 2014. The couple also notes that SweepSouth’s client satisfaction is high, with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5. Moreover, 70% of its customers have returned already and 100% have expressed intent to use the service again.
In South Africa, the national hourly rate of a domestic worker is between R9.50 — R49.32 according to Payscale.
SweepSouth takes a percentage of the cost of each booking which charges R50 per hour. The hours can be set manually similar to the specific tasks (laundry, inside oven, interior windows, etc.) though the minimum is three hours, which means one session will cost you R150 or more. You’re also charged R40 extra if you want to use the company’s cleaning products or provide your own.
SweepSouth is also going north. Last month it was named one of ten other African startups that will be attending, pitching and having a good time at the Web Summit in Dublin.
Asked about what this achievement means for such a young company, they say that it’s a great opportunity to showcase SweepSouth as an exciting African startup, and to represent both South Africa and Africa at an international event. It will also help them connect with potential international partners, mentors and investors.
“SweepSouth will change how we view domestic services in general, and will bring technology to an industry that has remained antiquated and in developing nations has not progressed much in the 21st century,” Aisha tells Ventureburn. “We will help to find work opportunities for the many domestic service professionals who struggle to connect with homeowners who need their services.”
Asked about whether or not it plans to diverse its offering into other domestic services, Pandor says that things like gardening or baby-sitting would be natural extensions of the service, but they also “believe in focusing on one thing, and doing that thing well before diversifying.”
So far, it’s self-funded though the founders are currently looking for funding.