The concept of providing social security to homeowner’s as well as domestic workers is bare minimum in Nepal. On one hand the domestic workers, who are a long way from home, work at minimum wages and on the other hand the home owners have no assurance of how long the domestic help would continue his/her service.
In order to fill this void, Prakash Basnet, Bikash Neupane, Kismat Pandey, and Bhisan Raj KC founded Help2Shine – a platform which focuses on getting rid of this uncertainty in the relationship of the employer and domestic help. Read on to know about this company who is trying to organize the domestic help market.
How did your journey with Help2Shine begin?
Our journey began with an organization named ‘Mr. Help’ in December 2015. This company helped people to renew Bluebooks for their vehicles. The purpose of establishing this organization was to make quick capital to start our dream venture Help2Shine.
We came up with the idea of Help2Shine because we saw the gap between the owners and the domestic workers in Kathmandu Valley. The demand for domestic workers was soaring day by day on one side yet some workers were getting minimum pay while others were victims of domestic violence. After analyzing this problem, I along with my co-founders decided to start Help2Shine.
What social problems are you trying to address through Help2Shine?
The work of the domestic helper does not fall in the formal sector hence it’s not a well-defined job or even acknowledged as a profession. There is no formal training to become a domestic help or a caregiver. This, in turn, creates an issue for fixing standard wages for them. Since they are unskilled workers, they also get exploited. They either do not receive their salary on time or in some cases the salary is different from the initial agreed amount. Many workers make only a nominal amount as a salary. On the other hand, the home owner’s do not get proper trained domestic help even if they are willing to pay well.
What kind of challenges did you face while starting your company?
Our biggest challenge was convincing the domestic worker’s. The domestic workers look at work only from a financial point of view, they do not think much about their security. They disregard our proposal to join our platform because they feel that they are getting the same salary irrespective of Help2Shine.
How are you overcoming this challenge?
We ensure that the domestic workers will find alternative work immediately if they have to leave their previous job. Normally, if a domestic worker quits his/her job at one house, it will take him/her around 1-2 months to get a new job. But, with Help2Shine, a new job is assured even after quitting the previous job. The work certainty is the main factor that convinces these domestic workers to register on Help2Shine.
Through our platform, domestic workers know about the job description and skills required well in advance. If they do not have certain skills, we provide training and counseling. We also provide customized training as per the clients need. For example, one of our clients needs domestic workers who can iron meticulously. So, we provided the workers with a professional training for ironing clothes.
Has your team grown over the period of time?
There were just four of us when we started the venture which soon became 11. Now we have more than 1600 registered domestic workers and over 700 domestic active workers working with us.
How many clients do you work with on monthly basis?
We have 50-60 clients on monthly basis. Since clients are seeking certainty and security when it comes to domestic workers, more and more homeowners are choosing to avail our services.
What kind of services can a homeowner avail from help2shine?
As a company, we first allow a trial period to our homeowner clients. In the trial period, the client can evaluate the work of the domestic help. Post the trial period, the client can hire the services of that worker for a period of 8 months. In this time period, if the domestic worker leaves the job or the client does not feel satisfied with the work, we allow the client to change up to three domestic helps. For this, the client pays a certain service charge to us.
We provide two types of service i.e. prepaid arrangement and postpaid arrangement. In prepaid service, we provide the client with a replacement domestic worker a maximum of 3 times. We do not provide a replacement worker if the domestic worker is on leave for 7 days or less.
The postpaid service is a bit different. In this arrangement, the client pays us at the end of the month. The charge is based on various factors hence it varies on a monthly basis. In this system, we provide a regular domestic worker. When that domestic worker goes on leave, even if it is for a day, we provide an assured substitute domestic worker.
Have you categorized domestic workers based on the kind of work they do?
Yes, we have categorized the domestic worker as per their work such as babysitters, postnatal helpers, and caretakers for the elderly or sick.
What other challenges that you face with the company?
Considering that we have 700 domestic workers and more than 300 households registered with us, it is obvious that we do face certain problems from time to time. One of our biggest issues is the management of domestic workers. Since we cannot miss a single day in the postpaid arrangement, it is very difficult for us to have a backup domestic worker every time a permanent worker goes on leave. Hence, our major challenge is lack of manpower.
Did you personally invest in the company?
Yes, it is our own investment. We have invested over 12 lakhs in the company.
What stage of sustainability is your business currently in? Have you achieved break-even?
We have achieved break-even but are still in process of sustaining the business. We haven’t made any profits yet. Our business is growing; hence our expenses are also increasing with the expansion of a company.
What are your future plans for the company?
I would like to illustrate that with an example. One of our domestic workers used to work in Lazimpat. After 2 months, we did our routine follow up. The owners told us that they did not have any child, and were very happy to get a girl (the domestic helper) who is like a daughter to them. The owner said that the girl takes them to the hospital for check-ups, cooks food and helps them in every way. When asked, the domestic worker cried in happiness and told us that she was treated like a daughter and that she feels right at home.
This is the kind of experience that we want to create with all clients. We want all of our domestic workers to be treated in a humane and decent manner, all while being paid more than just minimum wage. Our future plan is to make a training centre for domestic workers. We also plan to start financial literacy programs for the domestic workers so that we can team them on how to save money. Separately, we have also created a fund for them, wherein they can deposit their savings.
Do you think of yourself as a social entrepreneur?
I haven’t thought about it yet, but what I feel that my work should create some positive impact in the society.
Have you done any social impact measurement?
We haven’t done any impact measurement. I feel that the impact is measured when we receive positive feedback from the domestic workers.
You can reach out to Prakash Basnet at email@example.com and follow their Facebook profile here for more updates.