Many low-income workers suffer, not from a lack of work ethic, and sometimes not even from a low pay rate, but lack of actual jobs to fill their day. The survival of families is often dependent on their abilities to find small ways to make money. Since low-income work exists in an unstructured market, work inefficiencies abound and exploitation also sets in. On the other side of the market are employers or customers of low-skilled work that often find difficulties in getting profiled low-skilled workers in a hassle free manner.
As of May 2012, mobile devices are accessible by 68% of people worldwide. These devices are quickly becoming even more accessible to the low-income population. This is where Odd Jobber comes which connects taxi and rickshaw drivers, domestic workers, cooks, delivery men, and construction workers through mobile phone that allows them to see availability of jobs and respond with their bids, even via text-message alone. Odd Jobber moves finding these kinds of short term jobs from frustrating and disorganized to easy and simplified. It allows employers to place service requests in a variety of ways including mobile application, website, phone or SMS to help them get qualified workers at competitive rates in a hassle free manner.
Never has such a sophisticated and simple product been created for low-income individuals. This speaks to the proliferation of mobile technology as well as Odd Jobber’s commitment to social change. We look forward to the ways that Odd Jobber will improve job accessibility to lower income individuals.
We are working on ideas for social impact with focus on low-income workers. Our team consists of experts in business and technology areas with passion to solve complex social problems in a sustainable manner.
Most low-income workers suffer from lack of enough work to fill-up their days which directly impacts their livelihoods and that of their family. Furthermore, the market for low-skilled lacks structure which results in huge work inefficiencies and poor service experience. Over the years mobile phone usage has become extremely popular even amongst the low income population. In such a situation, Odd Jobber plays a very effective role in creating a marketplace for low-skilled workers who are alerted about opportunities over their mobile phones based on their proximity to the service request point, skill set and service ratings. Workers respond with their bids against each request and are informed once the users accept their bids over the mobile phone network. Workers are routinely screened against certain performance benchmarks and provided trainings and tips to improve their service ratings.
Our initial target market is the rickshaw drivers and their passengers which include school/ college /university students, office workers and middle and lower income families in general. We charge 8-10% fee from the rickshaw drivers on each transaction that occurs on our system e.g. if a ride is closed at $1 we get $.1.
We use outdoor enrolment team to register rickshaw drivers on our network after which we inform them about the rating mechanism and train them on how they can use the technology best. We also use outdoor marketing in the form of banners, posters, rickshaw stickers, streamers etc. We also participate at different exhibitions; public gatherings etc. to create more awareness and are expanding our network of brand ambassadors at different universities, colleges and schools. We run cable TV ads as well as offer a referral program to increase our reach.
Pakistan has more than 60% of the population living below the poverty line. Also the population continues to grow at around 2.5pc and a large chunk of the population is entering in working age every year. The market for low-income workers constitutes around 108 Mn people. This segment results in $216 Mn a day or $78.8 Bn a year (at $2 a day). A large section of low skilled workers turn to micro-work opportunities including driving a rickshaw, domestic work, agrarian work or office work. According to our field study there are around 120,000 rickshaw drivers in the city of Lahore catering to the population of around 7.1 Mn. Whereas the number of drivers in top 20 cities is estimated as 625,000 catering to over 37 Mn people . This constitutes the total available market of $1.3 Bn (at $6 per day). These drivers waste more than 60% of their time on the road searching for a passenger without reliance on location based technology or sophisticated match-making techniques.
The company gradually builds up the rickshaw driver enrolment to reach 4,735 in year 1 while conducting various experiments to refine its business model and optimize its operations. In year 2, we ramp up the enrolment rate significantly and attain the level of 42,221 drivers. By year 3, we consolidate business and keep a steady growth in rickshaw enrollment to reach 67,598 rickshaws (with 108,226 in year 4). Additionally, we aim to use rickshaws as a means of outdoor advertising for the companies to take a share out of the budget spend estimated at $26 Mn in 2009-10(Gallup Pakistan).
The project makes creative use of technology to create a sophisticated market place where low-income workers can use their ordinary mobile phones to obtain additional income for themselves which is essential for the survival of millions of Pakistanis. The project is scalable and has a sustainable business model and can make use of the ISIF Award to create significant impact.
We have an ambitious plan of bringing aggregate additional income of $80 Mn for about 67,000 rickshaw drivers in three years (growing additional income / worker / day incrementally to $0.08, $1.84, $4.10 in the first, second and third year respectively). This can be achieved by removing work inefficiencies (that waste 60% of the worker's time), providing convenient access over SMS, phone and web to passengers/ employers, competitive bidding, standardized interaction, and improved work quality. Furthermore, we will also evaluate the impact of decreased fares/ worker rates (due to higher probability of return rides) on the over all worker income and build it into our model.
IdeaCentricity's Odd Jobber has been awarded the Fulbright Social Innovation Award after pitching at TEDxFulbright DC. It was also the 2nd prize winner of Pakistan Startup Cup and finalist in GIST Tech -I competition. The company has also been featured in local as well as international publications including Fast Company, Tech in Asia, Pakistan Observer, Acumen etc. This goes to prove that the project is based on strong footing. Also the team leading the project has years of experience and relevant skill-set and leadership qualities to be able to inspire people to rally behind the project.
Our mission is to create a structured and convenient market place that caters to different low-skilled worker segments. The workers should be able get information about nearby work opportunities on the mobile phone and participate in a fair and non-exploitative way based on biding and service rating information.
We believe in enhancing micro-work opportunities and skills as a pathway out of poverty. Our vision is to create the most pervasive and popular market place for the low-skilled workers that can enhance worker productivity and remove exploitation and quickly impact lives of the poor.
The project makes use of mobile SMS, web and Android based mobile technologies to receive incoming requests from prospective employers/ passengers. The Odd Jobber is built using Microsoft .Net platform where as the voice call processing system is being built using Asterisk. The tracking of workers is done over mobile phone network using GSM triangulation technique and mapped using Google Maps API. The bidding mechanism involves SMS and automated voice calling system.
The platform consists of the following important modules:
-Match-Making: Responsible for engaging with qualified service providers based on customer requests, based on which it checks from a pool of available and registered service providers to find which meets the customer requirements closely. The platform is capable of producing responses based on the proximity of the worker so that customer request may be handled in a timely manner.
-Deal Center: Once match-making is performed, the deal center ensures that the service provider and his customer are engaged in a non-exploitative manner to finalize on their terms of engagement including monetary compensation, quality expectation (time to arrive, comfortable driving etc.). Elements of negotiation including monetary settlement are standardized where ever possible and based on market acceptability. In most situations the platform is capable of sharing customer rating or referrals to facilitate in the process, along with sorted list of fares, or service compensation for customer convenience. Based on this the employer can make a decision to hire a specific worker by entering the desired option after which the platform informs both the customer and service provider about it and associates a deal ID with this transaction. Deal center also manages the entire service cycle of a deal. In case of the rickshaw/ taxi rides, it monitors and tracks the process of service engagement by keeping track of its whereabouts and expected time of completion of service, after which the worker is shifted back to the pool of available service providers.
-Feedback and Quality Management: The service platform keeps track of completed deals and records feedback from the worker as well as the employee to associate ratings for registered users. In case of issues with respect to quality or in terms of altercations these are recorded through call or SMS for further processing. With bad approval ratings the chances of earnings or for posting request for services may become limited. Others forms of actions may also be taken to ensure service engagements occur with better experience.
-Tips & Training: Based on compilation of responses obtained from the employers or workers, appropriate tips, trainings and instructions can be passed on through the platform that can be imparted on the phone, SMS or the web. Also instructions with respect to using service to enhance its utility can also be provided including service trainings on feature additions. Tips may be provided on important events, places where temporary jobs for additional incomes may be obtained.
-Process Manager: This is able to flexibly create service engagement and deal management processes for different job categories. It is able to specify the order of steps for each job category, and alter these as and when required. It also allows business managers to run simulations to notice any problems that there might be before introducing the process to users. Through the process manager one can even specify the type of interface to be used to communicate with the customer (e.g. sms, voice call, web or a combination of these). The administrator can set timeframe for response for each step to indicate to the service agent to act on, against which his performance is monitored.
-Service Agent Console/ Admin Panel: This allows the agent to view and process incoming service requests. It provides the agent a unified SMS and voice calling facility to matching service providers and record their responses (or view these when responses are received automatically) and close the deals. The service agent console provides constant updates on the total requests received, being processed, cancelled or closed successfully along with his performance against KPIs for the day.
-Reporting & Analytics: This offers management the ability to see daily trends with regards to trips, deals, requests, revenue etc. according to different service types, and time periods etc. It also provides information on status of deals, service ratings, new vs old user activity etc.
-Tracking & Mapping: Information on live tracking shall be obtained from the telcos using an API or by using tracking devices. The information be displayed on the website and can be updated on 15 mins interval basis or upon need.
-User Rights & Privileges: The service platform shall have rights based user access differentiating between employers and job seekers, service agents, finance and accounting personnel, business managers and finally administrators.
-Service Definition & Configuration: Services can be created on the fly that can allow a business manager / administrators to define key information attributes of the interacting parties and the process map of interaction between them.
-Billing & Payment Center: This will help create and manage different billing plans including post and prepayment plans and set thresholds when payments are due. This module will be integrated with services such as EasyPaisa, and banks for receipt of payments etc.
-Mobile Application: Mobile application will capture the attributes of the webportal for Odd Jobber service. This will also provide interactivity to find available service providers near the vicinity and enable sales force of our company to quickly take down information from workers who would like to register for our service while taking snaps of the candidates from the mobile phone.
The team got together in June 2013 and was selected for incubation by the Government of Punjab. After this we got registered as a firm with the Federal Board of Revenue in December 2013. During this time IdeaCentricity has participated in various competitions and won prestigious positions in GIST-Tech –I (ranked as top 15 startups from around the globe) and Pakistan Start-up Cup (1st runner up from amongst 400 competing startups). It also won the prestigious Fulbright Social Innovation award in April 2014. The company is in early revenue stage with the target to achieve of $ 39,865 as revenues by end of December 2014. Activities performed so far:
The milestones activities before June included running a successful trial service in at least 3 universities and 2 residential societies of Lahore. During this time we attempted to refine our business model, operations and marketing techniques and engage in further team building too. The voice, SMS and web based platforms were built during this time as well.
-Lean for startup and customer development surveys
-Minimum Viable Product
-Rickshaw Driver Enrolment (500 of them have been enrolled)
-Partnerships with Telcos
-Trial initiated in December
-Trainings of rickshaw drivers
Milestones from June onwards include incorporating intelligence into the SMS system which can automatically correct location information received from the passengers without call center intervention. We will also develop an android application for passengers as well as for our outdoor staff to make it easier for them to enrol rickshaw drivers and for users to place an order with us. Another milestone is to develop an automated voice calling platform to collect bids from the users.
Relevant outcomes so far:
-Voice, SMS and Web based application for rickshaw rides launched
-Around 500 rickshaw drivers enrolled and trained
-Completed trial projects with Nestle and Sprite for Rickshaw advertising
-Additional income provided to 100 rickshaw drivers (approximately $700)
-Partnerships with telecom operators formulated
-Targeting additional income of $80 Mn for > 67,000 workers in three years
-Around two hundred rides have been provided out of which 75% is from repeat customers
Sales force activation will enable us to target Rickshaw drivers, and other workers etc. In order to market to the passengers we are using the following: Branding and sticker pasting on the rickshaws; Cable TV ads; Outdoor marketing with the help of posters, banners, streamers etc.; Participation in exhibitions/ festivals and large general public gatherings like book fairs, lifestyle exhibitions, job fairs etc.; Appointing brand ambassadors at universities/ colleges / schools; Point based referral program; Social media marketing; SMS marketing; and Discounts at shopping malls, restaurants etc. for using rickshaws to reach there.
Some sample publications include:
-"In Pakistan, This Uber-Like Service Works Without A Smartphone And Calls You A Rickshaw". URL:
http://www.fastcoexist.com/3029397/in-pakistan-this-uber-like-service-works-without-a-smart-phone-and-calls-you-a-rickshaw. April 25, 2013
-"IdeaCentricity gets 2nd prize in Pakistan Startup Cup". URL: http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=226119
https://islamabad.tie.org/article/24/awards-ceremony-pakistan-startup-cup. December 08, 2013
-"Targeting the rickshaw community and beyond". URL: http://www.i-genius.org/news/index.php/id/414. December 02, 2013
-"Creating a Network that Will Change the Lives of Low-Income Workers". URL: http://thegistinitiative.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/creating-a-network-that-will-change-the-lives-of-low-income-workers. October 11, 2013
-"International Geekette Of The Week". URL: http://www.geekettes.io/blog/2013/10/2/international-geekette-of-the-week. October 2, 2013
-"StartUp Cup rocks Pakistan - IdeaCentricity emerges as one of the favorites!". URL: http://www.techinasia.com/pakistan-startup-cup-2013/. August 30, 2013
-"IdeaCentricity successfully completes +Acumen and IDEO Course". URL: http://acumen.org/blog/getting-out-of-the-building/ August 22, 2013
GIST TECH-I Finalist Fulbright Social innovation Challenge Pakistan Startup Cup 2nd prize Echong Green Finalist Regional Fellow Acumen Fund
Adnan Zafar Khawaja