By Sandhya D'Mello Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Bookanyservice" is an online booking platform for services, much like bookings.com is for hotels. Founders Magdalena Gatzinska and Zeina Khoury have onboarded over 3,000 homecare services including cleaners, plumbers, technicians and more.
What do you expect when two mothers brainstorm to ease lives for the masses?
Bookanyservice.com, a newly-launched aggregated services marketplace that offers convenient instant service bookings with vetted local service providers -- from house cleaning, painting, and pest control to moving, and soon beauty, pets, experiences, classes, among others. The co-founders are Magdalena Gatzinska and Zeina Khoury.
Gatzinska is an investment banker with 20 years of experience in capital markets and investment management working in Wall Street and London. She is half-Bulgarian and half-Polish, has lived in various cities in Europe, North America and the Middle East and is a mother of two.
Khoury is the founder and CEO of High Mark Real Estate Brokers, a multi-purpose real estate brokerage best known as the exclusive agent of Palazzo Versace Dubai and D1 Tower. She is Lebanese and a mother of one and has lived in Dubai for over a decade. They are both working mothers who are passionate about entrepreneurship and female empowerment.
Gatzinska said: "My co-founder, Zeina, and I were often reminded that there was an opportunity to disrupt the services space after experiencing difficulties in finding, comparing and booking service providers. In a country like the UAE, the service sector is highly fragmented; we are spoilt for choice with thousands of home maintenance companies, beauty salons, experiences providers, kids entertainers and more. At present, people either get recommendations from a friend or run a Google search. Doing a price or availability comparison is difficult, as it requires calling up different providers and asking questions. It is time-consuming, especially if you are a working professional with a busy schedule."
"The market needed an efficient online platform that bridges the gap between service providers and customers for all kinds of services -- not just a single service type. Online instant booking apps for restaurant food, plane tickets, hotel rooms or drivers have been around for a while, but the complexity of mapping out different services with different attributes was not properly addressed yet. With Bookanyservice, users can enjoy the convenience of comparing and booking online pre-vetted, tried and tested service providers with a click and in real-time. We are building the 'Amazon for services'."
Endorsing the similar view, Khoury said: "We observed that the services sector in the Middle East is highly competitive. A lot of small- to medium-sized service providers do not have a digital presence and struggle with marketing and sales. For a marketplace to be successful, we knew we would have to build a loyal customer base by empowering the suppliers."
"For service vendors, we created a free proprietary business management app to help them organize, manage and create promotions, discounts and even price boosts for their services -- for example, discounts for services during off-peak times. The tool particularly benefits SMEs, who gain online exposure and can tap into previously inaccessible customer segments."
"In the past two years, Magdalena and I mapped out the issues that service providers face across different sectors. We talked to more than 100 businesses and defined the problems that affect their profitability. Our platform and the proprietary business management tools we created address these issues," adds Khoury.
"We have onboarded over 3,000 homecare services, with trusted vendors including cleaners, plumbers, technicians, electricians, painters, movers and many more. We will continue opening new services every few weeks -- from beauty, pet care, fitness, to experiences, lessons, kids, fashion and photography."
Since its foundation of bookanyservice.com, two years ago, the founders have put in over $1 millon of their own money as seed funding. Gatzinska left a lucrative career in investment banking to exclusively focus on the business. With regards to future investments, the business is currently in advanced discussions with strategic partners in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman for expansion into these markets. The company will soon be looking to raise up to $5 million to fund the expansion by the end of 2018.
Khoury said: "Now that we have a sophisticated and robust Web and mobile apps and understanding of the market, we can focus on rapid yet disciplined rollout. We are also keen to expand across the Mena region and are already in discussions with partners in three GCC countries. The Arab world is part of a young demographic: 60 percent of the population is under 25 years. We view this as an ideal environment for online booking to catch on. Our business model and technology are viable and transferable across geographies."
Konstantin Chritoff, CTO of bookanyservice.com said: "I am a serial entrepreneur and the founder of a highly successful data intelligence company. I joined the founders as a shareholder and a CTO of bookanyservice for two reasons: firstly, I always wanted to tackle the problem of the services industry -- addressing market inefficiencies has transformative effects on the industry itself. Secondly, managing a company with someone is like marriage -- you need to hold the same values, have the same goals and be compatible; most importantly you need to trust and communicate. Although all three of us are in their own field accomplished professionals with very different backgrounds and characters, our trust and communication worked well.
We focus on getting things done; our skills are additive, not repetitive. I knew my efforts and knowledge would be multiplied when combined with the Founders' knowledge of the market. We had a fit and a common goal to build a company that makes a difference."
"Bookanyservice is a booking platform for services, much like bookings.com is for hotels. We help supply meet demand. Bookanyservice solves a problem for busy consumers looking to make an intelligent choice of service provider, book instantly (with no time wasted on researching, requesting and comparing quotes or talking to providers) and level the playing field for service vendors who often do not have the knowledge and skills to reach a wider audience and scale their business.
bookanyservice's simple business management tools help businesses to identify their downtimes and take their business online -- allowing them to reach new audiences and take advantage of flexible pricing to increase bookings," Chritoff added.
So why did the company prefer to launch its operations in the UAE? Gatzinska responded: "My ambition was always to build a company that transforms a global industry. To maximize the probability of success, the concept needed to address a large enough market and be executed in a relevant environment -- hence the UAE."