Home owners commonly encounter problems such as leaking pipes and clogged toilets, and while they can be annoying, they are far less troblesome than electrical short circuits and leaks, which require immediate attention. Fixing things around the house may feel like a doable DIY project at first, but keep in mind that they would most likely require you to devote time that you do not have, and in some cases, may require a certain level of skill and experience that you may not posses. Leveraging on the growing purchasing power and busy lifestyles of urban families, Handyman was established in Itanagar to overhaul the city’s domestic maintenance service market, while also generating employment.
Handyman helps residents resolve any sort of plumbing or electrical issues, in addition to providing services such as upgradation and installation for residential spaces and commercial plumbing needs of both small and large businesses.
Launched in September 2016, Handyman is more than just a home maintenance service providing platform, it is the first start-up of its kind that is tailored to match the ever-evolving society and its needs. But, what is the secret behind the success of this Itanagar-based innovative startup?
The story of Handyman, like other successful startups, started with a novel idea–to eliminate the pain of having to find a professional for home maintainence services who will charge affordable rates. Tsering Khrimey and Takam Bhai are the entrepreneurs behind Handyman, who started with nothing else apart from a vision combined with fierce determination. It is interesting to note that neither Khirmey, nor Rikam have any prior experience in the home maintenance business. Khirmey is a B.Com graduate from St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, and got his Master’s degree from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi. Rikam graduated from Karori Mal College, Delhi and completed his Master’s in International Relations from Cardiff University.
Khirmey and Takam may be new to entrepreneurship, but their brainchild ‘Handyman’ has become a household name in Itanagar. ‘The idea of opening Handyman came when I first met Takam in Delhi. In our short conversation, we shared our ideas on how to introduce something new to suit the current evolving markets,’ discloses Khirmey. The two ultimately decided to take the risk of opening a business together, inspired by the major success of London-based independent home maintenance service provider company called ‘Pamlico’.
‘After much research, we decided to bring it to the market commercially. We started with an investment of INR 10, 000,’ adds Co-Founder Rikam. Having spent years studying outside the State, the duo started keeping tabs on the town’s progress and its needs. Tsering saw immense possibilities in housekeeping services. The escalating demand for plumbers and electricians, a shortage of skilled labor to do household maintenance, and the high costs imposed by freelance workers, helped sparked the idea of starting the company.
‘The potential of the plumbing business can be gauged from the fact that the demand for plumbers and electricity never diminishes. In addition, people will always need plumbers and electricians, because it is an essential part of our everyday life,’ said Tsering.
Initially, the pair ran the business by outsourcing freelance plumbers and electricians to do specific projects. The pair later rented a small shop in Akashdeep to run the business for almost a year, before renting out an apartment in 2019 opposite Congress Bhawan. It has been operating from that location ever since.
The Ups and Downs
Every success story comes with difficulties and failures, and so, the pair also had to face their own challenges and hurdles. ‘I was pretty broke when the business failed to take off for at least 6 months. Not a single customer contacted us for three months. I was devastated as chances for success seemed low,’ stated Tsering. Both of them were shattered, but they didn’t give up on their dreams. In fact, Tsering personally used to drive the workers in his scooter to client locations, during the initial stages. ‘Sometimes I would have to wait for several hours for a task to be completed. And after the repair work was done, I would drive the workers back to their home. It was really frustrating, as it took time and energy. There were times when we both had to work all day, without even eating.’
The duo also struggled with fund constraints, mobility compounded by lack of experience in the field, and the like. ‘As we hired freelance professionals to do the task, there was little to no earning after sharing profits with them even after working all day long,’ chuckled Tsering. Regardless of many people telling them that their business will never succeed, the duo continued to push on. ‘The beginning was not a very pleasant experience, but we took it as a challenge and moved on. We started doing various market surveys and marketing at the same time. Within a year, we set a price list for our services,’ informed Takam.
The duo, in the second year, recruited two plumbers after demand for their service surged. ‘We began contacting different ITIs, and within a few months time, we recruited around seven students from ITIs. The number of employees started growing with increasing services demand by customers.’ After the company was able to generate decent revenue, the duo decided to do away with the outsourcing system, following which they were able to increase profits and lower company overhead cost. ‘Perseverance , patience and hard work have played an important role in shaping the business,’ reveals Tsering.
Up and Ahead
Flyers and posters were actively used to advertise and market the company services. Testimonials of clients were also uploaded on social networking sites to promote and generate awareness among the masses.
Handyman is currently racking up lakhs and has managed to raise INR 60,000 from normal maintenance service itself, excluding major projects—not bad for a small pilot project that was founded with a capital investment of INR 5000 each. The company’s revenue for the fiscal year 2018-19 was INR 14 lakhs and projected to cross INR 20 lakhs by 2019-20.
The duo is preparing to roll out its first branch at Bomdila the headquarters of West Kameng and expand the home maintenance services in other districts in the near future. Following requests from customers, the pair also plans to start a hardware store that will deal exclusively with plumbing and electrical supplies.
A successful start-up, Handyman is also a blessing for the common man as it gives people easy access to specialized plumbing and electrical services at affordable rates. Handyman’s success is proof that determination will yield results—even if it takes a few years.
By Jun Taki
This feature was first published in Eclectic Northeast March 2020 issue