On the up · 8 March 2017

Housekeep founder: “I’m naturally wired to look to the next milestone”

Avin Rabheru

Entrepreneur Avin Rabheru always had the urge to start his own business, but it wasn’t until after his early career in management consultancy, and six subsequent years in venture capital, that he decided to take the plunge.

The University of Oxford graduate set up Housekeep in 2014, making life easier for professional cleaners and their customers by providing the sector with an automated payment platform to make transactions, avoiding the necessity for cash.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

I’m Avin, Founder and CEO of Housekeep.com, which is an online service for finding experienced home cleaners in your local area.

(2) How long have you been around for?

We started Housekeep in 2014 and have grown very fast since. We grew 25 per cent per month in 2014, 20 per cent per month in 2015 and over 10 per cent per month in 2016.

We started out with one cleaner and a handful of customers, and in three short years have scaled to become the UK’s market leader.

(3) How do you make money?

We build the technology that sits behind the market place matching up customers and cleaners. Customers pay £12.50 per hour, of which the cleaner takes the majority and we take a booking fee.

Our technology has been built for customers who want a regular weekly or fortnightly clean, plus cleaners who are looking for such clients, so most of our fees are recurring, resulting in very valuable customers over the long-term.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

I’ve spent my career investing in and advising young, fast-growing businesses, having invested in around 40 businesses. It is great fun working with talented entrepreneurs but having learnt what makes businesses tick, I wanted to take on the challenge of building one myself.

The scope for Housekeep is huge. House cleaning is a £4bn market in the UK alone, with 90 per cent of the work undertaken by independent cleaners.

This means our technology can transform this old, tired industry, making life easier for consumers whilst allowing cleaners to earn radically more. We’ve made good progress in our first three years, becoming the UK market leader and receiving 40,000 excellent customer reviews in the process.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

​I was looking for old, tired markets that could be transformed with technology, so was browsing through different businesses for sale when I spotted a traditional house cleaning firm for sale. The more I thought about it, it just didn’t seem like customers or cleaners were getting what they wanted, so we started digging deeper.

​We started by surveying customers and cleaners to understand their pain points. Of course it was mandatory to do some cleaning too!

That research showed us that most of the market value was in regular weekly and fortnightly customers, and there was a big problem with cleaner quality and reliability. We’ve turned these insights into our main points of differentiation.

Knowing our market better than anybody else has been key to our success.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

I’m proudest of our approach and value we’ve created for cleaners. In many respects the customer story here is obvious – bringing simple, online technology to an old industry.

However, cleaners are really core to what we do and we’ve helped them get more work, closer to home, with less travel than ever possible before. This means a cleaner working with Housekeep can earn around 50 per cent more than they could before, in what’s ultimately a tough job.

We’re pleased that our customer Net Promoter Score (NPS) – a management tool used to gauge loyalty to a business – is 70 per cent, but most proud that our cleaner NPS is more than 80 per cent.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

We run a service business, with lots of humans on both sides of our market place, so each time we fail to deliver a five-star service it hurts. But it gives you the determination to keep building a better product.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

Our dream is to become the world’s trusted choice for all home services, by helping people find the best professionals in their local area, and helping professionals find the most valuable work.

We’ve started that journey in London, where we’re already the most popular choice for home cleaners, and are excited about building a long-term, valuable business.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

The one tip I’d give to others starting out is to enjoy the journey and focus less on the end result. Whilst I’m delighted by the progress that we’ve already made, I’m naturally wired to be impatient and to look at the next milestone. I remind myself to celebrate the successes along the way.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

I’m inspired by people who have shown the unusual ability to build large, valuable businesses over long periods of time. This means that the latest funding story doesn’t interest me much – after all, it’s better to build through profits – but instead I’m focused on stories of long-term, economic successes.

I’m fascinated by founders who have remained at the helm for years or decades, delivering consistent growth and showing their ability to evolve with their business. Some of my favourite entrepreneurial stories include those of Sir Tom Farmer of Kwik Fit, John Timpson at Timpsons and John Roberts from ao.com.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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