This Saudi entrepreneur wants to bring you the Serviis you need

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According to data released in the WRL report, supporting organizations in the Kingdom, such as funds, coworking spaces, accelerators and incubators, have nearly tripled in in the past five years, growing from 13 between 2010 and 2011 to 36 between 2011 and 2015.

This dynamism has driven Saudi Wafaa Al Ashwali, who was the chief support services officer at Saudi conglomerate Al Muhaidib, to leave the corporate world and to start her own company.

Following 10 years in the field of investment and financial analysis, and support services, she launched by the end of 2016, Serviis, a platform that allows users to find service providers. It offers varied services such as home maintenance, wedding planning, and tutoring among others.

As her job entitled distributing tasks, she was inspired to create a task management platform that various people can use to meet service providers.

She then met Giacomo Zeini, one of the project managers at AlMuhaidib while working on a new project for workers management. He became her founding partner and now designs the Serviis website from Dubai.

Wafaa and her team. (Image via Wafaa AlAshwaly)

Afterwards, two Italian partners, Vincenzo Bourconia and Alex Daly Quadri, who work in strategizing, and had a previous experience in the Kingdom, joined the team.

Serviis now operates in many cities such as Jeddah, Makkah and Riyadh. It has a team of four Saudis currently based in Jeddah working in marketing and customer services.

How does it work

Serviis works as a mediator between customers who seek a particular service and service providers willing to reach out to new customers, whether they are individuals or companies.

If a client wants to paint his house for example, the website asks him to fill a form with few simple questions such as the location, the number of rooms, the approximate size of the wall, the preferred type of paint, the suitable working days, etcetera. Afterwards, the order is sent through the platform to service providers so they prepare and present quotations to the client. Only the first five to send a quotation can directly communicate with the customer. This strategy motivates service providers “to send the quotation faster,” explained Al Ashwali.

The customer receives the quotation, along with a review about each service provider, to help him decide.

Customers can use Serviis for free. Service providers can sign up to it and receive orders for free as well.

Even though the customers can use the platform commission-free, the providers must pay between one and five points to the platform (depending on the size of the service) to communicate with the customer and send them a quotation.

The service provider gets 15 free points when signing up to Serviis. Then they can buy three points for around 15 Saudi riyals (US$ 4). Just like wholesale procedure, the more points they buy, the less the points cost. The service provider can also get three additional points for referring other service provider and registering them on the platform.

Service providers won’t mind paying Serviis in points, said Al Ashwali since the platform gives them a chance to get new customers directly. “They are used to paying similar commissions for websites, newspaper and social networks,” she said.

This method ensures the seriousness of service providers, and encourages them to communicate with the customer after sending a quotation, said Al Ashwali. “Competing with the other four service providers will push them to give better prices,” she added.

You can search a service provider and get 5 quotations. (Snapshot from Serviis website)

In the near future, the company seeks to add more revenue sources such as the instant booking feature, which allows service providers to take simple jobs tender-less, such as changing a light bulb. Providers will also have to pay in points to use this feature, in condition to having good clients rating.

Competition is key

Platforms working in home maintenance are numerous in Saudi Arabia. These include Maharah, Ajeer, Sakrobe and Fix, among others. However, Serviis is trying to provide various services through its platform besides home maintenance. These extend to personal trainers, tutors, nutritionists, and even attorneys.

According to Al Ashwali, Serviis is trying to secure the lowest prices for customers through the tenders it brings. The fact that is commission-free also gives it a competitive advantage.

Throughout nine months, Serviis went through different stages. The team focused on developing a service provider base in the first few months before the platform started getting customers.

After that, the team faced glitches in the website, which they had to solve through redesigning the website to enhance the user’s experience, according to Al Ashwali.

After reaching 20 orders/month, the Saudi platform launched a social media marketing campaign in June 2017. It increased their orders to 98/month.  out of which 298 were completed.

No rush for investments

Al Ashwali used her own money to launch Serviis. They operate on a budget that covers employees’ salaries and operational cost till the end of 2017.

“We will have to look for an investor more actively in the second half of this year to carry on,” said the founder. Her company is in talks with many investors, and she expects to receive investment by the end of the current year.

This Saudi startup aims to cover 10 cities in the Kingdom by 2018, including Madinah and Damman, in addition to expanding to Dubai and Egypt.

Feature image via Serviis: During Talent Market, Jeddah, April 2017.

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