Just recently, Sweep South - an online platform for booking home cleaning services - recorded its 1 millionth booking. This is a major milestone for the business, especially because they were able to achieve this in one of the most turbulent years in history.
Award-winning scientist, entrepreneur, and co-founder & CEO of Sweep South South, Dr Aisha Pandor says that they’re thrilled to have reached so many bookings and customers and to have provided this many opportunities to work for domestic workers.
“When we started, we could hardly have imagined what it would feel like reaching this level of scale,” she tells us. “We’re looking forward to hitting our next 1 million jobs in record time.”
We had a chat with her to find out what she thinks this milestone means for domestic workers in the gig economy, what she’d like to see changing for domestic workers soon, the platform’s expansion into Africa, and what we can expect from Sweep South in the near future.
The company has on-boarded over 20 000 SweepStars (domestic workers) since its inception, how would you say that this has revolutionised the way in which domestic workers are able to participate - with fair conditions - in the gig economy?
Domestic workers can now use a phone as a way to find sustainable work. We are viewed publicly as a gig economy company, but the majority of our customers are in fact booking on a repeat/subscription basis. Domestic workers (or SweepStars as we call the service providers on our platform) can accept or refuse work without penalty and also have complete transparency into what each booking is priced at, so can easily track earnings. Seamless electronic payments also get around the need for cash or any other payments issues. With the platform's support on hand, we also closely monitor working conditions and intervene if necessary, ensuring fair and decent treatment of domestic workers.
What do you think the recording of SweepSouth's 1-millionth booking means for domestic workers - one of the most vulnerable groups in the country?
We're gaining the required traction to be more and more active in lobbying for change - like better treatment and pay, adherence to legal requirements and better employment rates - in the industry. We are also introducing better transparency for the industry as we scale, collecting more data about domestic workers' earnings and living and working conditions around the country, and making this available to the public via annual reports that are widely cited. Lastly, our scale means we can work with partners to provide free or reduced cost services to SweepStars, including financial services, legal support, education and bursaries and healthcare.
Do you think that there’s been a shift in the way that the middle class engages with domestic labour since SweepSouth was founded?
We've allowed many young middle class professionals to use these services without needing to commit full time (which many can't afford). In doing so we have on the one hand done as Uber has done and made a service accessible widely via an app, and on the other hand made work opportunities accessible for unemployed and underemployed domestic workers. We are also professionalising domestic work as a vetted service one can order via an app, with vetting, support and rating on both sides, discouraging some of the abuse and exploitation that could easily occur beforehand due to this industry being part of the grey market.
What would you say is the one thing that needs to change in the way that South Africa's middle class engages with domestic labour?
We'd like to see domestic workers being paid more for their work and this work valued much more highly than it currently is. Domestic workers in many cases are the people who care for the homes and families of middle class South Africans, allowing them to pursue careers and enjoy more free time. In this vein, I also wish more people would seek to create upliftment and upskilling opportunities for domestic workers.
Can you please tell us about your recent expansion into Kenya? Why Kenya, and how did that come about?
Kenya is an attractive market in that it has a growing middle class, a good tech ecosystem, and an established culture around home services, meaning there is opportunity to use our tech to improve the domestic work industry there as we have done in South Africa.
Is expanding to Africa a part of your long-term vision?
Yes it is. Many countries currently experience the issues with this industry (treatment, access and payments etc.) that existed in South Africa when we launched SweepSouth. We believe we can scale our impact and reach and be part of positive change across more of the continent. We will expand further into East Africa and will look to a West African launch in 2021.
What can we expect to see from Sweep South in the future?
We're super excited about the growth of SweepSouth Connect, our app for general home services like plumbers, electricians, handymen and carpet cleaners. We have also launched outdoor cleaning and home maintenance services, which are gaining a lot of traction. We have some cool home product collaborations coming up in 2021 and in the next few years will be a truly international home services and products platform serving millions of homes each month.
What would you say has been the formula for the success of SweepSouth so far, and what advice would you offer to anyone that’s looking to start a venture but feels uncertain (or not confident in themselves)?
I think it's been having a good understanding of our product and market, having a strong tech background, being agile and failing fast, having a great and dedicated team and stakeholders, and perhaps most of all, having a lot of grit and never giving up despite many tough challenges.
My advice would therefore be to surround yourself with excellent partners, team members, advisors and mentors who will provide the support you'll need as you get started and grow, expect to fail but to get up again, and work on something you're passionate about that makes the hard times worth it.