Last year, Chaya Gaikwad was living three hours away from her Nashik family, struggling to earn a living as a domestic help in Mumbai. She would walk from house to house to work, and earn just enough to send some back to her family of five. At night, she would return to her sister's house in Mumbai's Santosh Nagar. That's where she heard of 'MyDidi', a mobile app that employs women domestic workers full-time.
"Earlier, when I was on my own, work was not good for me," she said in Hindi over the phone from Mumbai. "I would go from one home to another and earn about ₹5,000 every month."
She rarely went back to Nashik to stay with her family because the commute took too long for her to keep up with her daily work.
Now, in less than a year after she joined MyDidi, she has been able to move her family to Mumbai, where she now rents her own house. She earns a monthly salary that does not depend on how many jobs she does per day, and even gets bonuses for good ratings from customers. An autorickshaw or taxi hired by the company ferries her from home to work and back.
The brainchild of two IIT-Bombay grads, Jhonny Jha and Sagar Sen, MyDidi is a sort of an aggregator for home cleaning services, but instead of rewarding the "didis" it employs for the number of jobs performed each day, it gives bonuses for quality of each cleaning job done.
To use MyDidi, you can go on their website or use the app which is available on Android phones. They also have a customer care centre, where people can call and book appointments. Depending on the time and location of the customer, one of the 200-odd trained didis part of the company are sent in an auto or taxi.
All didis are provided with a smartphone which alerts them when they get a job—their phone informs them, "Aapko naya kaam mila hai. Jaldi Jaayie"—and they have to press a button on their phone when they begin cleaning. They are given a uniform—either a sari or a salwar kameez depending on their preference—and armed with all kinds of cleaning paraphernalia like mops, cleaning solution for different areas of the house, etc.
Once they finish the job, they press another button on their phone and the customer is billed depending on the time taken to clean the place. They have to hand over the cash to the didi, who gives it to their auto driver to deposit at the office at the end of the day. The average rate for an hour's worth of work is ₹149.
Customers can also give ratings to the cleaning didis, which sometimes helps them get bonuses at the end of the month. If they get too many negative ratings, the women are re-trained before given jobs again. They aren't penalised for bad reviews, unless it is an extreme case.
While most of the didis get two or three days off each month, they can choose to work every day. Their monthly salary remains fixed, but they can earn extra money if they get good ratings for their work, or refer others to join the company. Chaya's eldest son now works at the customer call centre for MyDidi, and she is trying to get more of her friends to join the company.
"It's been very humbling," said Jha.
When Jha and Sen were doing their market research last January, they had planned to be just providers of domestic help. However, they quickly realised that they would need to train the workers before launching such an aggregator. Now their team comprises of engineers, MBA grads, call centre workers, trainers, and domestic workers.
"We wanted to engage with a service that is highly frequent unlike plumbers, etc," Jha explained. "We interviewed different domestic workers and tried persuading them."
However that first month, no one joined because they were apprehensive of opening a bank account, and suspicious if it would actually give them higher salaries. It was only at the end of August that four didis joined them. It was word-of-mouth that helped them get more women to join the company.
The duo have had a steep learning curve from then. "It's been very humbling," said Jha." We had very little idea of how impactful it would become."
Earlier, they planned only to make the process transparent for the didis and customers, but they ended up learning about micro-finance, insurances, children's education and many other things that are important to the didis which they did not consider earlier. By the end of the year, they hope to expand to 1,000 didis and start offering their services in Delhi and Bengaluru.