Disrupting Help: Can Eden Make Life Easier For Us All?
Work-life balance is one of the most popular terms discussed today on the career circuit. Young professionals who work in cities have almost zero balance. They hop from one task to the next, until the day is over and they retire to bed. They have to endure hours of traffic each day and still maintain productivity at work. Lagosians spend an average of 30 hours per week commuting to and from work, meetings, events and markets. In addition to all this, people still need to cook, clean, and take care of their children.
A popular Nigerian saying goes: 'No time to make time'.
Nigerian city workers try to buy time by hiring help. Historically, people have hired caretakers - popularly referred to as ‘house helps’ - in their homes. These caretakers work as nannies, cooks, laundry help or cleaners. They could be poorer members of the extended family or people referred by family and friends. This referral system is typically by word of mouth, so it’s hard to know if the workers are really capable before hiring them.
There are also several other problems - many families hire children and teenagers, trafficked from the Benin Republic and Togo. A short film released this year explores what life is like for children who get fed into this ‘house help’ system. They sometimes experience physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of their employers. Children should be in school, learning with their peers and growing. The new generation of young Nigerians is aware of this illegal, inhuman pipeline of labour and would rather eschew such structures for more humane and quality-assured arrangements. They could hire workers who are actually old enough to work, who they can interact with as peers, and who are intelligent, proactive individuals who can provide quality service. This is where Eden comes in.
What is Eden?
Eden is room service for your house. It’s a service that connects homeowners with excellent service providers who supply meals, laundry and house cleaning services.
The team at Eden is tackling the opportunity to transform the house-help from a manage-it-like-that system plagued by the issues highlighted above to a verified, controlled and scheduled concierge service. All of this comes with a subscription plan and an app allowing users to monitor the status of chores in real-time.
Eden is founded by veteran software service providers - Nadayar Enegesi, Momoh Silm and Prosper Otemuyiwa. Nadayar co-founded Andela - the software development provider, while Silm and Prosper are ex-employees of Andela. Prosper is a foremost developer advocate in Nigeria and founder of forLoop - one of the tech ecosystem’s most vocal developer communities. He has spent a huge chunk of his career preaching Nigerian excellence to anyone who will listen. Silm was a product designer at Andela. The founding team's vision is born out of its passion for making life easier. This passion makes life easier for Eden’s users as well as its employees.
A new story
In 2016, Nigerian recruitment site, jobberman.com conducted a survey and a total of 41,032 (45.72 per cent) of the 89,755 people who responded to the survey said they were unemployed graduates. According to the Nigerian Bureau of statistics, the graduate unemployment rate in the 3rd quarter of 2018 was 29.75%.
It's no news that Nigeria has an unemployment problem and graduates are largely unemployable. Eden is fixing this. The company hires home managers called ‘Gardeners’ and enrols them into its upward mobility programme so their skills, responsibilities and compensation can grow.
Interested applicants go through an interview stage as well as a two-day field trial where they shadow a more experienced Gardener to get a feel for the job. Whether they're hired or not, Eden compensates them for the trial.
During this prospecting phase, the company looks out for Gardener’s punctuality, organization, intuitiveness, pleasantness and general commitment to doing good work. This way, the 'Gardeners' learn to prioritize customer service and satisfaction and acquire soft skills that can be applied in any profession.
The startup typically hires corps members from the National Youth Service Corps - a mandatory, one-year national service programme in Nigeria. Aside from their basic monthly salary and the upward mobility programme, Gardeners also get healthcare benefits and pensions. They are full-time employees of Eden.
Eden also works with partner service companies that are registered with the Nigerian government. These companies must be compliant with Nigeria’s occupational health and safety act, meet strict requirements and go through a trial run by Eden staff.
Eden has built two software platforms that help it maintain quality assurance. The first is Garden and the other is Lighthouse.
Garden is Eden’s apps for users. It allows users to stay up-to-date with home management - sending notifications when services are completed. For example, a home is cleaned or food is delivered. Users can also rate services and send requests to their Gardeners. The rating system is a core part of Eden's software. It helps the company receive feedback on Gardeners and further optimise its quality of service.
Lighthouse, on the other hand, is Eden’s internal central intelligence platform. It helps Eden learn a user’s preferences, requirements and schedule and matches users to the appropriate service partner.
What is the Future of Eden?
Nigeria exists in a low-trust economy. Many startups struggle to gain trust from the customers they seek to serve. The stories in open marketplace startups range from calm to completely wild. In 2016, a Lagos resident hired a nanny off classified site OLX only to have her child kidnapped. In another story, a man purchased the latest iPhone, only to open the box and find a morsel of food inside it.
African marketplace startups that intend to be successful, must verify products or services they intend to provide and manage the customer journey from acquisition to success. In all of this chaos, one business model that proves successful is the managed marketplace model. Uber and Taxify are 2 successful marketplaces in Nigeria. After conquering the Lagos ride-hailing transportation space, both companies have expanded to other cities in the country. Their services are trustworthy (for the most part) because they utilise a controlled platform that punishes the supply and demand-side for errant behaviour and rewards for positive behaviour.
Eden's success will be determined by two factors: its quality of service and the size of the market. Surveys show that out of Nigeria's 33 million economically active population, about 2.5 million Nigerians earn above N5 million annually. This is the market Eden is trying to capture.
How young professionals respond to Eden's pricing and how fast we can move jobs from under 1m category to the 1-5m category will determine how far and how fast it can scale. It currently has 8 pricing plans. The minimum plan is at N23,000 monthly and the most expensive plan at N86,000 monthly.
Just like this team did for software development work at Andela, Eden is professionalizing the role of ‘help’. Ensuring it is work that educated young people can do with dignity while being well paid for it. Maybe one day Gardeners will replace house helps sleeping on kitchen floors, as the new stamp of Nigeria’s nouveau rich.
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