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Need house help? There’s an app 'maid' for you

Need house help? There’s an app 'maid' for you
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Popularity of websites and apps providing trained domestic help is rising, but some challenges remain

Geeta Mathais, 32, mother of two and an independent graphic designer, spent almost three months looking for a live-in house help who could assist her with cleaning, running errands, and looking after the kids. Few weeks ago, she took her hunt to the Internet upon a friend’s advice. Today, she has 28-year-old Laxmi working for her full time, for Rs 15,000 a month.

Likewise, Raj Unnani, 31, engineer working with an MNC in Mumbai, turned to the Internet to hire a maid who’d look after his ailing mother for eight hours a day. “I met a lot of people, but nobody seemed trained for the job. However, some websites promised trained, and well-groomed staff. I thought of giving it a try. Since then, I’ve had a help who’s been with us for almost 10 months now,” says Unnani.

Both Mathais and Unnani are representative of a society where finding a domestic help who’d do the job well and last at it, is a perennial problem.

However, where there’s a problem, there’s an app or a website. Some apps and websites are providing domestic help trained in cleaning, cooking, babysitting and caretaking on per-day, per-hour, as well as live-in basis.

Bookmybai.com (March 2015), a domestic help aggregator with presence across multiple cities, claims to have over 10,000 registered house help based on region, religion and language. Helper4U.in provides part-time and full-time placements to baby-sitters, help, cooks, drivers, who it sources from “the slums of Mumbai and Pune”, says company CEO, Meenakshi Jain.

Housemaidforyou.com , a site that operates only in Bengaluru at present, offers only full-day maids for 8-9 hours, while maidinindia.co ensures that the maids it places, go through basic vocational training in chores ranging from dusting, sweeping and mopping.

Anupam Sinhal, director of Bookmybai.com , which carries out background checks on maids with the help of verification companies, says that “the domestic help market has been plagued with unprofessional maid bureaus, which are either fly-by-night, or rogue agencies. In a scenario where every household is hunting for credible, reliable and loyal help, dedicated sites are the need of the hour.”

Jain agrees with Sinhal on credibility. That is why Helper4U.in lets prospective employers filter out the type of maid they seek, through various filters on the site, and even lets employers directly interview the help over the phone or through a video chat.

“Most workers who come to us are either uneducated or minimally educated, are migrants from backward States, and are mostly, the prime earners for their families,” says Jain. “They are then trained and polished,” to suit the preferences of individuals, who want their help to be well-groomed, trustworthy, know how to handle hi-tech appliances, and follow hygiene.

Sushmita Dalmia, 37, an entrepreneur based in Mumbai who hired a cook and a babysitter through bookmybai.com , says security and hygiene were her topmost priorities. “Both, the cook and the caretaker of my child, came well-trained on both fronts.”

However, credibility of websites is an important aspect, and there have been instances where an employer had to regret hiring a maid within minutes.

Richa Khandelwal, a 32-year-old dentist, and a resident of Ghatkopar, narrates her experience of hiring a maid for eight hours a day for basic cleaning of her house and supervising her seven-year-old daughter.

“I was told she had three years’ of experience, but she was simply a novice. I had to handhold her at every step. I was not even sure if I could leave my daughter alone with her in the house while I was away.”

Similarly, Ravi Jhajjar, a chartered accountant was left disappointed after being promised that the cook he paid for would arrive the next day. “I waited for four and a half days, before the cook finally arrived at my doorstep,” says Jhajjar.

So, then, is it better to simply send a word around with one’s watchman, or a neighbour, and keep one’s fingers crossed until a domestic help arrives? “Not really,” says Sinhal. “Word-of-mouth hiring comes with its own set of problems: the employers do not get options to choose from, they have to adhere to the unreasonable demands of the help since they don’t have any choice, security is a huge concern, and the time taken to hire is usually very long.”

The most interesting part with hiring help online, is the reversal of a trend, says Jain.

“While earlier, the jobseeker would approach the job provider, now it is the other way round. Now, we, on behalf of employers approach the service provider.”

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2018 12:18:50 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/need-house-help-theres-an-app-maid-for-you/article8350946.ece