India’s home services space has seen frantic activity over the last few years. Firms have mushroomed and raised large amounts of funding on the promise of bringing plumbers, electricians and other household services to urban Indians. These firms have met with some success, though they have struggled with unit economics and profitability amidst the competition. Now a new entrant threatens to turn the industry on its head. It’s Facebook.
Facebook has just made a huge play in the Indian home services space by launching Facebook services. It’s created a separate section, Facebook Services, where it promises to “find local businesses with the best Facebook reviews and ratings.” And it seems to provide the exact same services that Indian home services startups do – there are sections on plumbing, spas, electricians, event planning and even doctors.
We gave it a spin and it looks quite impressive. The services seem to be available in all major Indian cities, and the listings are comprehensive. There is a nifty map that shows the locations on the right, and each firm has a contact us button. These vary between listings – the buttons seem to either redirect to the site of the service provider, provide a phone number, or most usefully, allow you to send a facebook message to the company.
Facebook is uniquely positioned to make a dent in this space. With over 100 million Indian users, it already has a userbase that homegrown hyperlocal firms can only dream of. And with most major business already on its platform through Facebook pages, it also has a ready supply of reviews and ratings that allow it to show the best businesses to consumers.
Impact on Indian Home Service firms
Indian hyperlocal firms such as UrbanPro, House Joy and Taskbob are likely to be hit if Facebook takes this initiative seriously. Where Indian hyperlocal firms can possibly score over Facebook is getting your neighbourhood plumber online, who might not necessarily list his business on Facebook. But given Facebook’s near ubiquitous penetration in India, if Facebook can get local merchants to set up their business accounts, Indian hyperlocal firms might be in big trouble.
The move will also affect firms like Lookup who aim to connect consumers directly to merchants – with its message merchant option, Facebook could effectively take over that role.
And Indian home service firms aren’t flourishing in the first place. LocalOye, one of the biggest players, recently laid off employees in large numbers, and there have been reports that it might shut down. With Facebook entering this sector, things could get very hard indeed for homegrown firms.