Slow and steady the way for Maideasy as it looks to offer more value
By Kiran Kaur Sidhu August 30, 2019
- There is a perception shift of cleaning as menial work as 30% of crew are students
- At breakeven point and approaching profit, seeks to introduce more domestic services
BACK in 2015, Meriza Mustapha (pic) and her husband, Azrul Rahim, founded Maideasy, a mobile or web platform for homeowners to easily and quickly hire part-time cleaners. The business idea came about from Meriza’s own need for a reliable cleaner for her home.
In trying to solve their own needs, they soon noticed a recurrent issue of reliability and punctuality in existing cleaning agencies in the market. “Many are foreigners and move from place to place by a van service. Often, travel time between one job to another can cause a delay up to one hour.”
After being in active business for four years, Meriza talks to Digital News Asia about how her company addressed market pain points, the challenges faced and its progress so far.
“The good news is we reached the breakeven point in the middle of this year. So we are now looking to give more value and expand our products and services,” Meriza said.
From day one, Maideasy has differentiated itself from conventional cleaning services by only hiring locally. In addition to uplifting the Malaysian B40 community, the company removes itself from the tedium of immigration processes in hiring foreign help.
Challenges in hiring and onboarding student cleaners
While sourcing cleaners locally is more sustainable, it was definitely challenging for Maideasy in the early stages since, “Malaysians aren't used to doing cleaning jobs” and view it as menial work. However, Meriza acknowledges that a perception shift is happening slowly but surely.
In fact, today, as many as 30% of the cleaners on the platform are students. According to Meriza, the trend first started when news began spreading of a group of engineering students becoming cleaners to get by.
“Then, we started getting students referring Maideasy to their friends. Some were shy at first, but we did a lot of promotions communicating the fact that this is quite normal in western countries. In fact, my Malaysian student friends in London worked as cleaners part-time to support themselves. It was nothing to be ashamed of, especially when they can choose work timings to fit their academic timetables well,” she explained, adding that some continue to work as cleaners even upon graduating.
While the challenge of maintaining a healthy supply of local cleaners still remains to this day, available cleaning crew at any month remains relatively steady at 500 to 600 staff month to month. “I think we’ve found that sweet spot where it's pretty much stable, unless we want to [expand our services] beyond cleaning.”
All new Maideasy hirees undergo a three-day training programme that is guided by an in-house developed manual to ensure quality of service delivered. To date, the company has trained around 5,000 cleaners.
Due to the temporary nature of the job, not all of them stay on. “They may find themselves a full-time job or they have accumulated enough capital to start they own business and they leave. But this is a situation that is common in the cleaning industry,” said Meriza, adding that hiring locals makes the replenishing process faster.
Yet another challenge for Maideasy to grapple with is incentivising both user and cleaner to continue using the platform instead of dealing directly with one another. “We have to offer value add to both parties. For the customer, it is consistency of service. If a cleaner is unable to make it, we can offer a replacement.”
As for the cleaning crew, the Maideasy app facilitates them in managing customers and setting a timetable. “Any change is easily reflected. We are looking into adding more value to the service but predictability is something we work hard on,” she added.
Users of the platform may note that Maideasy employs a significant pool of male cleaners. Meriza declined to provide the male-female percentage breakdown but commented: “We are trying to break the gender barrier. Cleaning is not necessarily a female’s job,” adding that male cleaners come in handy especially when it comes to moving heavy objects.
Expanding suite of services and touching profits
With the company reaching breakeven point this year, Maideasy is keen on introducing more service combinations for users to enjoy. Some examples include partnering with laundry and grocery services although no timeline has been set for now. “We want to offer all these domestic services just via the app.”
In fact, Meriza believes the company is set to achieve profitability by year end. The introduction of value-added services, however, would boost revenue and help Maideasy differentiate itself further. “In this industry, the race is about who offers the cheapest service and not who gives more value. We want to offer more value rather than engage in a war of low prices,” she explains.
While the company declined to share its investment to date, raising funds may be on the cards next year for further expansion.
In addition to adding services and partnerships, she said: “We want to expand to large cities in Malaysia like Penang and JB where there are sizeable affluent neighbourhoods and a supply of individuals interested to take on cleaning work.”
As far as year-on-year traction goes, Meriza described growth as being “moderate but on an upward trend” acknowledging trade-offs need to be made to achieve the goal of profitability and sustainability.
“Tightening up the operations, solidifying the products means customers will use us again and again. Growth has mostly been word of mouth so its organic. Companies that grow through subsidising and fierce customer acquisition through marketing can mean a broken business. Our growth, though organic, is healthy,” she said.