Flat6Labs graduate Ahmed Galal and his team have made international news with their innovative online venture Taskty.com - a platform that connects service providers with those needing jobs done. We sit Galal down in our Geek Corner...
Egypt has become a hotbed for online innovation and with incubators like Flat6Labs seeking out the freshest ideas and giving them a helping hand, the best is yet to come. One such Flat6Labs graduate is Ahmed Galal, the brains behind Taskty.com – an online platform that connects service providers from freelance copywriters and graphic designers to window cleaners and mechanics to those who need a one-off job done. Attracting plenty of attention from local and international press, the online service works on the principles of trust and ratings, and not only are they helping consumers get the work they need done, but is giving a stable workflow to Cairo’s skilled labourers and slowly, but surely, making a dent in Egypt’s unemployment problem. We talk to Galal about his ingenious idea and what’s next for Taskty.
Where did the idea for Taskty come from?
Before I started Taskty I had a few other online ventures and I found it was a real challenge to find talent like designers and copywriters. It’s a very hard process to find someone committed enough for a freelance job. Many times people would take my money and run away! That’s where I got the idea of starting a platform to organise the process of service sourcing. For example, when you need somebody to help you with maintenance, nobody is committed and nobody shows up on time. So we need a middleman between the customer and the service provider, whether it’s a freelancer or a small company. They don’t need to build a website, finish a deal with a bank or manage the logistics of their online presence.
What was the biggest problem you faced when starting Taskty?
The biggest problem was to gain the customer’s trust in the service provider and us. People were hesitant to pay in advance for the tasks they requests, but we had to demand that so we could be sure our service providers would actually carryout the tasks. And, of course if they are not satisfied, they will receive a full refund. In order to have the best service providers, we had to have serious customers. We need quality not only from our providers, but also from our customers. And of course, the provider is only paid if the customer is pleased with the task performed.
How do you know that the companies or freelancers that offer their services on Taskty are trustworthy?
It’s something that comes with time. Through the interviews that I conduct with them, I am able to judge if they’re good people. For issues that need a real trustworthy person, like for example, house cleaning, we sometimes anonymously order the service to evaluate their performance and see if they’re good. And the tasks we ask of them are usually tough. Not everyone can just apply as a service provider at Taskty and start working for me. They need to be activated, or evaluated by our team. If, for example, we have a designer applying, they’re required to send us their previous work and their portfolios for us to evaluate.
Did you ever have a case where the customer was being difficult while you felt the service provider did a good job?
This was one of our biggest fears when we started Taskty, but it hasn’t happened often and it isn’t something that can kill our company. The situation has only occurred once or twice since we’ve started. And because of the amount of people that aren’t qualified for their jobs in Egypt, customers are always pleased when the job is done right.
How many service providers do you have on your site now?
For now, we have about 40 to 50 and we plan to add about 20 to 25 more. Our policy is not to add too many service providers unless we have orders where they are all needed because our employees receive a steady income from Taskty. So let’s say they have four to five tasks a day, they will get their jobs done right and put the customer satisfaction above everything. We don’t want a thousand service providers who only get one or two tasks per month.
Do you see this platform evolving into a genuine service exchange where people can post what they need and receive it right away?
We have three ways people can order the service they need. They can either go on the platform, order the task they need and then the service providers will start applying for it. After that you can choose the provider you want based on their reviews and previous work. Another way is, our service providers send us packages of the services they’re offering and we market it on our platform and our customers order it. And, of course, because of the cultural gap we have here in Egypt, we have a lot of customers who can’t or don’t like using the Internet, so our third way of providing our services is through our call centers. The customers can call with their requests and the call center dispatches the requests to the system. Egyptians prefer human contact, which is why we offer that service for them.
What’s the strangest service request you’ve received?
Someone once requested an exorcism because they thought ghosts were haunted their house!
And did you find a service provider for them?
No, we don’t offer those kinds of services! We sometimes also receive very strange and funny CVs with people offering to work as translators, mechanics and drivers all at once!
Do you feel like you’re actively helping reduce the country’s unemployment rates?
Of course. This is our main goal for Taskty. We help the people who, due the current state of the country, are unemployed. We have many bright Egyptians who are very skilled but cannot find a job and we try and offer them a steady income so they are able to support themselves and their families. We’re also working on expanding to the Gulf area so people are able to receive income from more wealthy countries without having to travel and leave their families behind.
Will someone abroad be able to post about a task to be done in Egypt and pay with foreign currency?
Yes, of course. Customers can also pay using credit cards. We are already getting orders from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. We will start to expand there. We now have a partner and investor from Saudi Arabia and soon we will have an office and call centre there. But the services offered are mainly logistic, like housecleaning and car maintenance. As for the digital and online services, they can be offered from Egypt.
What if we posted that we want a hug and we are willing to pay 100LE?
The main problem with a platform like Taskty is being taken seriously. If we start accepting requests like that we will find that all our requests are people posting things just for fun. That is why Taskty is not a platform for just general requests.
How do you make your money?
Through commission, which depends on the service. The commission we take is roughly 10-15%.
What is the most someone has offered to pay for a task?
We mostly work on small projects so the highest request we’ve gotten was around 1000 LE. It was cleaning for a very big house.
What pushed you to apply to Flat6Labs’ programme and what came out of it?
Actually, I was trying to apply for incubators abroad. I wasn’t aware that there was a good incubator here in Egypt. I found Flat6Labs’ website, realised it’s a very good opportunity and applied there. They benefitted my business and me personally. In order to have a start-up company, you need technical, marketing and business backgrounds. But no one has them all. Flat6Labs boost the parts you’re missing through courses and mentorships. I am a developer so I was missing the business and marketing backgrounds I needed to launch Taskty and they really helped me with that.
Where did you get your funding?
Mainly the funding is coming in from investors. Flat6Labs invested and we have two other investors from Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
What is the future of Taskty?
This year we are trying to add more services and growing our customer base. After Saudi Arabia, we’re also looking to expand to the UAE.
If you could give one piece of advice to somebody looking to start a start-up, what would it be?
Well, I can give them two pieces of advice, actually. First: Understand and communicate with your customer and know that the customer is always right. Secondly, launch quickly. Don’t be a perfectionist. Don’t spend too long working on your website. Learn from trial and error. That’s is what we did with Taskty.
Check out Taskty.com
Find out more about Flat6Labs on their website here.