Umwuga a social network platform for low- and middle-skilled workers has recently launched in South Africa.
The platform operates like LinkedIn but in this case, it serves as a go-to hiring platform for workers such as cleaners, hairstylists, farmworkers, and builders.
The startup assists workers to build a visible reputation they can use to stand out from their competitors.
Founded by Nasi Rwigema in December 2020, the startup has its opening focus on cleaners and handymen/women in Johannesburg.
Umwuga also assists corporate employers to hire their perfect choice worker who has the stamp of approval from people they trust. All this according to the founder is done at no cost.
Umwuga has identified that factors such as trust, character, and attitude are hardly considered by employers of labour as they prioritize job titles and career histories in making their selection.
With this form of overview, finding, for instance, ten gardeners for your garden wont be a difficult task, however, the challenge is in trying to get the one you’d be comfortable having in your home, or which one is qualified to safely operate a chainsaw.
In solving this challenge, Umwuga hired gig platforms and agencies that charged up to 30% of wages and still treat the workers poorly.
So the startup went back to basics, meeting up with their friends via text for referrals and according to the founder and, if we’re lucky, get back one or two recommendations by the weekend.
The founder explained that its freemium marketplace takes this behaviour and puts it on blast.
“When you type “plumber” into our search, we check with everyone you know and surface all their recommendations nearby at the speed of a click.”, Nasi noted
“Last year alone our target customers spent north of $420bn on recruitment agent and job platform fees. To us, being worker-first means that you don’t charge fees for hiring. We prefer to earn revenue through premium subscriptions on advanced features and value-added upsells with things like insurance.”, Nasi explained
“From there we’ll work our way through the leading emerging markets. All in all, our addressable market today is 1.4 billion people with scope to double as internet access continues to skyrocket.”
Our competition is all the ways that people find work today: from gig platforms to agents, to word of mouth on Facebook and WhatsApp, and even the trusty newspaper., the founder noted
Umwuga’s target market
Umwuga represents a LinkedIn platform for cleaners, hairdressers, farmworkers, etc for the people who hire them.
The startup has two distinct target customer groups with separate value propositions.
Its primary customer is the low- and middle-skilled worker who may or may not have finished secondary school but quite likely don’t have a tertiary degree. They do several things for work and use multiple sources to find work.
Umwuga secondary customers are tenants or homeowners looking to hire labour for their home. They want someone that they can trust in their home; good work ethic, trainable, attention to detail, etc.
Challenges identified by Umwuga
- Without impressive job titles or academic accolades, it is difficult to make a good CV or LinkedIn profile.
- It proves more difficult, even when you’re the best cleaner, employers still feel like they are taking a chance on you.
- Since a CV isn’t great, it is difficult to manage your work-life reputation across so many job sources, job websites, and gig platforms.
- Recruitment agents and job platforms charge heavy commissions.
- The best way to find a good worker is to get a referral from someone that you trust. But asking people for recommendations is slow, cumbersome, and has tricky social implications.
- Agents and job websites charge a huge commission that we would much rather pay to a good worker who already earns very little.
The startup help workers build an independent, online reputation that describes all the things they do for work, the skills they have at each job, their character, attitude, and why they can be trusted.
“Our workers build their reputation up with us regardless of where they source their work. They then use this profile as a “CV” wherever they find opportunities. In the background, we use their profiles to connect them with employers who are looking for their services. We don’t charge for any of this.”
Nasi also explained that the platform help employers hire the perfect work by amplifying their word-of-mouth requests across their entire friend network.
“To do this, we combine the reviews collected by workers and match them with the social graph of employers. When an employer types “plumber” into our search, we surface highly rated plumbers near them filtered for those who have reviews from people that the employer knows. In short, we provide word-of-mouth recommendations from all your friends at the speed of click.”, Nasi concluded
Umuuga operates a freemium business model currently, however, in the future the startup will offer power users advanced features within the platform like deeper search filters or scheduling tools.
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