Benita Chacko

"Appliance repairs just the start of video consult, we will extend it across all services": Urban Company’s Abhinav Tyagi

The senior VP-marketing says the new service will save the time of both the users and the partners, eventually widening the consumer base.

Last week, Urban Company launched a service that is set to change the way household appliances are repaired. It will provide free video consultation for appliance repair services across India. Provided by senior experts with over 15 years of experience, with this the consumer will be able to understand the exact issue with an accurate diagnosis and cost estimate, all through a video call.

Urban Company believes that this service will solve challenges on both the consumers and its service partners side. For the consumers, it will save their time as they don’t have to keep waiting for someone to come home and repair and also costs as they can solve minor problems on their own. For the partners, knowing what the issue is will help them allocate their time better and in turn they will be able to complete more orders in a day.

In an interaction with afaqs!, Abhinav Tyagi, senior vice president – marketing, Urban Company, said, “When something goes wrong with a household appliance, one of the biggest pain points of consumers is committing time to get someone home to repair it. They aren’t even sure of how much time it will take to repair it once the technician comes. This throws their entire day in a tizzy as they can't plan anything else. The same problem is faced by our partners. When they receive a booking, it is very difficult for them to estimate how much time it will take, making it difficult to schedule other bookings for the day.”

Being a free service, the service doesn’t add any direct financial benefits to Urban Company. But since it allows predictability for both consumers and the professionals, it believes that more consumers will get on board.

“At a larger level, we believe that a larger consumer base will come to us more often. We will be able to service and handle far greater queries with greater accuracy. It also increases the partners’ opportunity to do more jobs in a month's time. This is just the start of a video consulting service. We will eventually extend it across other services,” he adds.

During the pandemic-induced lockdown, many people struggled to get their home appliances repaired. With shops shut and technicians going back to their homes, people delayed the repairs or just tried to fix it themselves. Wouldn’t this service be a saviour then?

While Tyagi agrees that it would have been quite helpful, he says that about 70 to 80 per cent problems require an expert to come in with the right tools and spares to replace it and at the height of the pandemic that was not possible.

“We did think of it at that time. But it was not possible for us to get everything in place then. We needed to understand how useful the services are and how well it works. We had to have the backend in place to ensure that the diagnosis is accurate. The use case for simple problems during lockdowns is high. But the simple problems are a very small part of the overall problems that are faced. So it would have been useful but only in a limited way,” he says.

This gives Tyagi the confidence that the service will not eventually replace physical visits altogether. “This service will eliminate the need for a physical visit for simple cases, like a switch setting needs to be changed. It is a waste of time and effort for our partners. And the large meaningful jobs will get maximised. These will require a physical presence, at least in the foreseeable future,” he says.

"The large meaningful jobs will get maximised. These will require a physical presence, at least in the foreseeable future."

Having said that, the pandemic has got people accustomed to the idea of video calls for everything making it easier for them to accept this service.Tyagi is confident that irrespective of the pandemic the service would have still taken off.

Currently when consumers are faced with a malfunctioning appliance, they have three options before them- get it repaired at a small local shop nearby, call the company’s authorised service center or book a slot on online service providers like Urban Company and Housejoy. Urban Company doesn’t believe that their new service will rival any of these and instead sees it as an add-on service.

“This service will help you find a better way of finding out what is wrong, and how long it will take to repair it and what is required for it. So it is an add-on that will make the appliance repair experience much better, more predictable and more transparent for both the consumer and the partner. We don't see it as a rival to anything,” he adds.

Tyagi foresees two challenges with the new service. “There is a technological challenge to ensure that the diagnosis is accurate. For example, if a washing machine is broken down, it will be difficult to ask the consumer to open it and diagnose it further. Also at times the virtual session may not be accurate enough. When the technician opens it he may realise that other things could have gone wrong. We will continuously push on those limitations and reduce them as we go along. We want to eventually build up a process that can take care of these outlying cases. That's the ongoing work that we have in the next few months,” he adds.

"We will continuously push on those limitations and reduce them as we go along."

Urban Company believes that this industry-first initiative is revolutionary and will change the way the appliance repair industry operates.

“This service makes appliance repair a far more delightful, transparent and valuable experience for our consumers and partners. This should give consumers a far better outcome and experience than what they can get locally,” Tyagi says.

With the pandemic keeping people indoors, many services have gone online and many of them are being conducted through video consultations. L’Oréal provides beauty consultations on video chat. Havells is providing home solutions through video consultations. And even doctors are providing online consultations. Urban Company sees tremendous potential in this new service.

“We believe that it can add value for consumers and partners across a range of services we offer. We have started it for appliance repair, but we are working on extending it as much as we can. And wherever it adds those benefits, we want to take it forward. We expect it to roll in the same way in the larger ecosystem as well. We see this becoming an add-on option for a certain set of use cases which simplifies the experience and makes it more accurate across a range of services, both for us and in the wider ecosystem as well,” he concludes.

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