Anyone who has dealt with an artisan or handyman in Nigeria, can testify to how unpleasant the experience is. From broken promises or purchasing substandard parts, to causing further damage, the list goes on. The story goes something like this: A while ago, the air conditioning (AC) unit in my bedroom went bad, and I didn’t bother fixing it because I couldn’t picture having to deal with another repairman.

But a few weeks after braving the heat, I finally decided that I was ready to give repairmen yet another shot. I reached out to the man who originally installed the AC unit, who we will refer to as Mr. T, and after hours of false diagnoses, he declared that the AC was without gas but refilling the gas wasn’t the solution as there was a deeper problem. Mr. T gave me the price list for the required materials; armaflex, gas refill, half a roll of 1/2 copper pipe, half a roll of 1/4 copper pipe and everything came to about N16,000 including his service charge. After getting the required materials, he made the necessary repairs, then we tested the AC with the generator and everything worked fine.

When power was restored that evening, the cooling I celebrated hours ago was non-existent. Eventually, I called Mr. T immediately but he wasn’t taking any of my calls. When I finally got through to him, he promised to come before I left for work, but he didn’t show up.

When Mr. T finally arrived for yet another round of examinations, he fiddled with a thing or two and said the air conditioner transistor was the problem this time. In his words, “Oga, light no dey pass reach the outdoor unit na ‘im make e no dey cool.” I asked him, “why would a transistor go bad, hours after we tested the air conditioner? There was no power surge neither did I use the air conditioner. So why would this happen?”

Mr. T left my house that evening with the intention of going to get the transistor, but he returned later with yet another repairman. He claimed he needed someone who had the expertise in “panel” to check the air conditioner. Eventually, they discovered that the newly replaced pipes had cracked again while trying to install them. Bear in mind that this was the same crack that made us replace the pipes in the first place. I told “T” I wasn’t paying for another pipe.

We need to “disrupt” these repairmen, artisans and handymen. Ain’t nobody got time for stress.

What happened to taxis with the advent of Uber needs to happen to repairmen, artisans and handymen.

Like artisans, before, a person would have a seemingly reliable taxi driver that he/she could call whenever they needed to move around. While these taxis would arrive in most cases, the experience wasn’t always the best and this is the situation many people had to put up with for years until Uber swooped in to save the day.

This same thing needs to happen to the repairmen, artisans and handymen market. This sector is ripe for disruption and we need a service that will agitate this industry effectively, as soon as possible. We need to Uberize these guys.

The concept of a marketplace for handymen isn’t exactly new, the likes of Homejoy, Task Rabbit and Helpful have been doing this in many countries abroad for a while now. We have had a couple of them in the Nigerian market with some, now defunct, and no clear market leader.

“Ideas don’t rule the world again, execution does and it’s everything.”

 My idea for an ideal marketplace will be to have a platform, where repairmen, handymen and artisans can be registered under categories, based on the services they offer such as: home and kitchen, electronics, carpentry, electricians, automobiles, etc. Every registered service provider (repairman, artisan and handyman) is verified via a thorough background check. A prospective customer goes to the marketplace, selects a category and chooses a service he wants help with, for example, AC servicing and repairs. A list of handymen and artisans are presented, each service provider with their individual star ratings and reviews from past clients, including their availability — Monday through Friday, between 9 AM to 6 PM — and rates.

On the platform, the user selects a service provider of their choice, books an appointment, then the service provider gets an SMS with an accompanying email — for those that have emails — notifying them of an appointment. They can either reply the SMS with “YES” to accept the appointment or “NO” to decline it. When a service provider accepts an appointment, an SMS is sent to the client informing them that they have a confirmed appointment for a certain day at a fixed time.

After the service has been rendered, the client can go back and rate the service provider based on their experience. These ratings will either make or break them and serve as a means to sift the chaff from the wheat.

The client isn’t expected to pay the service provider directly, instead, payment is made to an escrow operated either by the marketplace or a third party. The only money that is paid before commencement of work is a non-refundable fee to help cover the logistics of the service provider from their location to the place of service. When the service provider arrives, he accesses the issue and gives a cost analysis. The client then pays to the escrow and the service provider commences his job.Insurance, for an additional fee, will be optional.

The money paid by the client for the job is kept by the third party for a fixed number of days. This will allow the client time to evaluate the service rendered and he or she can either file for arbitration or the money is automatically remitted to the service provider, while the marketplace takes a small commission. In the case of damages, an assessment is done and the insurance company covers the damage.

This way, the client is assured that he or she is dealing with competent people and, if things go south, they are covered. Through this method, repairmen, artisans and handymen are forced to become better at their jobs or risk being put out of business.

The question now is, who will bell this cat?

This article was originally published here.


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