The founders of Urban Company—Abhiraj Singh Bhal, Raghav Chandra and Varun Khaitan —were able to significantly grow a high-touch services business amid a raging pandemic, even as most offline counterparts were severely impacted.
The ET Startup Awards 2021 jury, which picked Urban Company as the eventual winner in the newly introduced Covid-led Business Transformation category, highlighted this aspect as the key takeaway for the Gurugram-based firm, which was formerly known as UrbanClap.
One of the contenders for the top spot, Hubilo, which transformed from being a platform that managed in-person events to a software-as-a-service-based virtual and hybrid business model, also found special mention.
“We are honoured to receive the award. The pandemic has been a defining period for us. As opposed to slowing down and cutting costs, we took the decision early on to double down, and stand by our customers, partners and employees,” Bhal said. “This award is a testament that tough times don’t last, it is what we make of them that matters.”
The fact that customers were confident enough to let a stranger (service partner) enter their homes for various services was extremely significant, the jury members said.
“They completely transformed their business during Covid-19, using various safety protocols and staff vaccinations to turn a terrible pandemic into a business opportunity. They launched and scaled new categories such as Men’s Salon. Eventually, Urban Company personnel were one of the few “outside” people entering our homes before anybody else,” Zomato cofounder Deepinder Goyal, one of the jury members, said.
Goyal, however, recused himself from voting as he is an angel investor in Urban Company, though he was part of the discussions to select a winner.
Bhal said in the past 18 months, Urban Company had onboarded thousands of new service partners, hired hundreds of employees and expanded its geographic footprint to 20 new cities in India and three other countries.
“Our safety protocols, and new service offerings were well received by customers, who relied on us to avail hygienic services at home,” he added.
In June, the company mopped up $225 million in fresh capital on a valuation of $2.1 billion, which was more than double its previous round.
Cuemath | Manan Khurma
Rapido is the pioneer in the bike taxi segment, launching the service in 2015. The business was severely affected by the pandemic, but it quickly pivoted to partnering with companies delivering food and essential items. It also launched Rapido Auto, and now almost 40% of its revenue comes from the new initiatives.