Former Hotelier Shagun Singh Baruah credits her maid for being able to come up with the idea of Homework, a full house deep cleaning service provider for residences in Delhi-NCR region. Shagun speaks to us about her entrepreneurial journey, the challenges she faced and how her family has been a great source of support all along the way.
1. Tell us a bit about your background.
My mother is a self driven and self made hotelier and a woman with great grit and determination. I draw tremendous inspiration from her. My father is a decorated Army officer from the 71 war and no matter how down the chips maybe he is always looking at the positive side of things.
Drawing inspiration from my mom and step Grandfather I got myself a Hotel Management degree and got my first job at ITC Hotels. In 2008, inspite of loving my job I had to let it go because it was just way to hard to be a Hotelier and a Mom. Both are full time jobs and my priorities were pretty clear when I made that decision. My father who had taken premature retirement from the army had started our parent company AM Services 24×7 Pvt. Ltd – A Facility Management company providing manpower solutions to corporate houses and commercial establishments, in 2006… This worked really well for me as I could work from home once my son was back from school.
I give credit to the idea of HomeWork to my cleaning maid who 5 years ago didn’t quite understand how to clean a bathroom without completely wetting the floor.
The hard water of Gurgaon started staining my floors and looked really bad. I knew the only way to get rid of permanent stains would be to polish them. I realised then that my pain was probably the pain of a lot of others in the city who had bought these really expensive homes and maintaining them was not easy.
I started HomeWork in 2012 as a full house deep cleaning service provider for residences. My personal involvement and continuous customer feedback and interaction made us soon realise that customers wanted more specific services during the year instead of always having to buy a full house deep cleaning. And so we introduced more specific services like bathroom deep cleaning, kitchen cleaning, Sofa and carpet shampoo, marble floor polishing & pest control. This enabled customers to use us more often and not just during the mad rush of Diwali. 18 months ago we then decided to make HomeWork a one stop home solutions provider and added maintenance services to the vertical as well.
HomeWork has grown almost 95% on referral and word of mouth. In 2015 a lot of new companies came in including aggregators who were all hugely funded. We have stayed away from funding so far and have grown this vertical on sheer merit and quality of service we provide to our customers.
3. What were the challenges faced by you while launching the venture and how have you overcome them?
Manpower is always the biggest challenge in a job like this. Keeping staff engaged, motivated and committed is difficult. It requires a delicate balance of giving them the carrot and stick at the right time.
Also staff tend to have their own sensibilities of how they want to do a job- they believe their way is the right way. So sometimes in spite of the quantum of training one imparts one finds that they will do the job their way. Also finding skilled people is not easy and moreover with peoples’ aspirations changing fewer people want to do a housekeeping job.
One of the other challenges was also educating customers on what our service delivery promise would be. But I think we have figured out how to work around these challenges now and are sailing a much smoother boat.
One of the greatest things about being an entrepreneur is that you are your own boss.
All decisions are in your hands as it is totally your baby- the business. You can steer the wheel as you like and drive it as fast or as slow as you like.
I am not much of a planner… I aim to have a 100% satisfaction rating from my customers and my employees. If both parties are happy troopers we will continue to grow and good things will come our way. So I don’t know where I will be five years from here but I know we should all aim to be in a happy and good place all the time.