In this exclusive interview with Adgully, Nitesh Agarwal, Regional Head of Urban Company in the Middle East, sheds light on the company's journey in the region. Since their entry into the Middle East market in 2018, Urban Company has prioritized delivering premium services. Starting in Dubai, they've expanded their offerings across the UAE and KSA, offering services in approximately 20 categories. With a partner network of 32,000 professionals, Urban Company is now Asia's largest tech-enabled home services marketplace. According to him, Urban Company's success in the UAE can be attributed to a multifaceted approach. They prioritize customer-centricity, utilize technology to enhance service quality and affordability, invest in training, and consistently innovate. Excerpts:Can you share with us the journey of Urban Company in the Middle East?Urban Company entered the Middle East market in the UAE in 2018. Over the past five years, our commitment to providing a premium service experience has been our guiding principle. We started with Dubai in the UAE because of the potential that we saw in this market. We started with launching part-time cleaners, one of the popular categories here, slowly expanding our services to Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in the UAE and Riyadh and Jeddah in KSA. We now offer services in around 20 categories across UAE's home, beauty & wellness verticals.We are currently Asia’s largest and highest-rated tech-enabled home services marketplace with a partner network of 32,000 hand-picked service professionals.What, according to you, are the factors that have made Urban Company successful in the UAE?Urban Company's success in the UAE can be attributed to a multifaceted approach. Firstly, we prioritize customer-centricity above all. By harnessing the UAE's impressive 99% internet penetration rate, we've cultivated a deep understanding of the local consumer landscape, allowing us to fine-tune our services for maximum appeal.The UAE's service industry landscape, teeming with both organized and unorganized providers, presented a unique challenge. Traditional brick-and-mortar salons, technicians, and cleaning providers often offer services at competitive prices. However, the growth projection of the on-demand home services sector, anticipated to expand by 9.7% by 2026, indicates a promising trajectory, especially for digital platforms like ours.Our strategic utilization of technology has been a game-changer. It's allowed us to continually enhance our service quality while ensuring affordability—a key to customer retention in this market. Moreover, we place immense emphasis on training, considering the World Economic Forum suggests re-skilling half of the global workforce may be inevitable by 2025.Lastly, innovation has been a cornerstone of our strategy. Introducing tools like steam mops in our cleaning category, for instance, has empowered us to surpass customer expectations, solidifying our reputation as industry pioneers. In short, our success in the UAE stems from a blend of customer focus, affordability, rigorous training, and consistent innovation.What services do you offer, and which ones are the most popular?We offer a bouquet of high-quality services, such as salon, nails and spa at home, cleaning, plumbing, handymen, appliance repair etc., through our mobile app and websites.While cleaning was initially 85% of our offering, by 2023, services like beauty have grown in demand, with a significant portion of women preferring at-home beauty treatments, reflecting a shift from traditional salon visits.What is the procedure for joining Urban Company as a professional in any field?In the UAE, we focus on delivering hyper-localised services, and vendor onboarding is an ongoing process. Urban Company has a structured approach towards partner development and well-being centred around four key pillars: improved earnings, safety net, training and wealth creation.In the UAE, we work with vendors to improve the living standards of the workforce, upskilling, increase salaries and give incentives to them, as employee engagement is essential for great customer satisfaction.There is a thorough and objective selection process for every single service professional. Joining Urban Company involves a rigorous four-stage process. Candidates undergo screening, review of documentation such as Visa and licenses, detailed technical and soft-skill training given by on-payroll industry experts in real-life simulated set-ups, and final evaluation.This meticulous process ensures that all our professionals deliver services aligned with our high standards. We also incentivise service professionals on the basis of customers’ experiences.Urban Company believes in delivering a remarkable customer experience and we are constantly on the lookout for innovative measures to give the best to our customers. The global online on-demand home services market is estimated to reach $4.1 trillion by 2027, with more service providers and vendors introducing and enhancing sustainable, scalable and convenient services for modern customers.Are primarily women your clients for salon services, or do men also avail of your services?While women represent a major segment of our beauty services, the changing dynamics show that 30% of beauty services are consumed by men.What obstacles hindered your growth, and how did you overcome them?Our journey in the UAE, while rewarding, has not been without its set of challenges. When we entered the market, we faced a fragmented competitive environment, intensified by the presence of organized competitors, quite unlike the scenario in our home base, India. Many competitors lured customers with low prices, often compromising on quality. The pandemic further reshaped consumer behaviour, prioritizing health, hygiene, and high-quality services. Amidst this, consistently evolving consumer behaviour and rising expectations meant that we had to be agile and responsive.To navigate these obstacles, Urban Company took a multi-pronged approach:• Diversification and Quality: We expanded our service range to cater to the varied demands emerging from the pandemic, including increased demand for part-time cleaners, salon services, and wellness provisions.• Innovation and Technology: Introducing steam cleaners and scrubbing machines allowed us to redefine cleaning standards in the UAE. Furthermore, our tech-driven checks ensure our partners always utilize genuine products and adhere to our rigorous standard operating procedures. By investing in ongoing innovation, tools, and products, like our disruptive hourly cleaning service and signature pedicure, we've consistently raised the bar.• Training and Partnerships: Our emphasis on continual training ensures our partners are equipped to offer top-tier personalized services. Regular retraining, based on dynamic user feedback, keeps our services aligned with consumer expectations.• Digital Engagement: Recognizing that modern consumers are digital-driven, we've optimized our user interface, payment gateways, and overall digital experience to be hassle-free and intuitive. This has been pivotal, as even a single negative feedback in today's digital age can shift the trajectory of our business.In essence, while challenges like the pandemic, competition, and evolving consumer behaviour posed hurdles, our unwavering commitment to quality, innovation, and consumer-centricity has been the cornerstone of our resilience and growth in the UAE market.What is your vision for the company? Where do you see it in five years?Our vision is to establish ourselves as the largest on-demand home services marketplace by focusing on delivering an unparalleled experience to our users. With the UAE market projected to grow by 9.7% annually until 2026, we foresee a 10x growth in this region alone. Hence, with a focus on experience, we have invested heavily in the selection of service professionals with extensive training in real-life simulated set-ups and deep investments in bringing the most cutting-edge tools and products to our users.