The professional technicians

The professional technicians

By becoming a one-stop solution for all your household electronics services needs, Jeeves Consumer Services is banking on its professional and efficient service to achieve its revenue target of Rs. 100 crore in the next five years 

MAHATHI R. ARJUN

Every average household now has a number of electronic products, each a different brand, which mounts to calling different service companies if they need to be serviced. This is where Jeeves Consumer Services Pvt. Ltd. (Jeeves) steps in – to be a one-point service provider to all your electronic needs. While the Bengaluru-based company was founded in 2007 by R. N. Balasubramanya, Alok Sen and S.L. Padmanabhan, it is in this August that it has come out with its first initiative to target B2C (business-to-consumer) segment through its ‘Jeeves Home Care’, an annual maintenance contract (AMC) for its individual consumers to service their out-of-warranty consumer durables. Up until then, its focus was more on the B2B (business-to-business) market acting as third party service provider for retailers and brands for any installations and services.

“We realised there was an opportunity here. Today, a consumer is not loyal to one particular brand. He/she may have a LG washing machine, a Samsung TV and a Philips toaster. If any of these products had to be serviced after its warranty period, they would’ve to call each of these brands to have it repaired. And some companies respond while some don’t. Jeeves is meant to be their one-stop solution for all their product services,” says Balasubramanya. Their trial run in Bengaluru has received good response and Balasubramanya hopes to reach out to other metropolitans by this year-end and take it to Tier II cities by January 2013. But for the time being, its B2B segment constitutes a major part of its revenues. Some of the retailers and brands the company has partnered with include Future Group, Croma, Vishal Mega Mart, Aditya Birla-More Hyper Market, Toshiba, Electrolux, Sanyo, Blue Star etc. and is currently in talks with Bharti Walmart. Every month, Jeeves adds two to three new clients for pan India service.

In June this year, Jeeves raised its Series A funding from Seedfund for a minority stake in the company. The investment is being utilised for strengthening its backend processes, upgrading technology and launching its B2C business. Jeeves has its own offices in 23 locations, where 75 per cent of its business is handled, and has franchise operations in 225. This fiscal, it is targeting revenues of Rs. 17 crore from Rs. 9.5 crore last financial year.

SnapShot

Jeeves Consumer Services
Founders: R. N. Balasubramanya, Alok Sen and S.L. Padmanabhan
Year: 2007
City: Bengaluru
Investor: Series A funding from Seedfund
Target: Rs. 17 crore for FY 2013

A Man Friday

Operating in a highly fragmented market, the founders are working to bring in professional service to the doorstep. “It is a challenge to handle servicemen. To help us do that, we’ve invested in a CRM (customer relationship management) solution that will help us track calls. Hence, it is important to invest in technology and processes to monitor the huge manpower. We’re also bringing in systems to track technicians to improve their productivity,” says Balasubramanya. The technicians are trained on two accounts – each brand representative trains them on their products and when there is a new product launch. But, according to Balasubramanya, the more crucial part for Jeeves is to train them on soft skills, as he has noticed that most servicemen are technically sound. An area manager, who oversees 20 franchises, trains them on all fronts to ensure quality standardisation. And since most of its customers are double income families, who expect service in the evenings, the technicians’ timings are also rotated in shifts.

Jeeves has been servicing 35,000 customers per month across India. This huge database will help it gain ground as it increases its B2C operations. “These people are already aware of Jeeves service since the technicians sport our uniform. So, it is not a huge challenge to convince them about us,” shares Balasubramanya. The team had also done a study to understand the lifecycle of products. “Products like fridges, TVs and washing machines are replaced once in four to eight years. And these are also products where they expect quick turnaround on servicing,” he adds. Depending on the number of products, the AMC can be availed at Rs. 300 – 3000 and Jeeves shares its revenue with franchises on per call basis. It has a call centre in Bengaluru to handle calls from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and plans to launch its seven-day call facility from next month.

The journey

Balasubramanya initially worked in the banking segment since 1974 and then moved onto the consumer durable industry in 1994 when he worked with BPL as general manager – commercial and for another two and half years after its joint venture with Sanyo. In 2007, a strong urge to do something on his own saw him partner with his ex-BPL colleague Alok Sen to tap the opportunity the service industry had. In 2007, they started Jeeves, a pan-India third party service organisation. The initial focus was on B2B by partnering with marketing and manufacturing companies and retail organisations.

The first client to come on board was Future Group to handle service for its in house private brand of electronics, Koryo. Back then, Jeeves had only eight employees and relied heavily on franchises. But soon the team was unhappy with the kind of service franchises offered. In 2008, they decided to set up their own offices, first in metros since about 70 per cent of its business is concentrated in these cities.

The team put in an initial investment of Rs. 18 – 20 lakh and were able to manage the cash flow as they scaled up the operations. And with BPL going through a down swing then, it wasn’t hard to bring in some of its former employees and service providers, who were looking for alternative sources of livelihood. Jeeves now has 380 employees on its rolls, of which 230 are technicians.

The roadmap

Jeeves now has two aspects to its business – installing and servicing of products for retailers and brands, and servicing for its end consumers. In its first year, Balasubramanya is hopeful that B2C will constitute 10 per cent of its revenues and will graduate to 30 per cent in the next three years. At the moment, he plans to tap into their huge database of customers than take to mass media for marketing. The company has also done up its website for customers to login and place service requests. He also wants to take up the number of own offices to 30 by this year-end.

Balasubramanya is confident of Jeeves’ growth as he says it is currently the largest third party service provider. He wants to achieve revenues of Rs. 100 crore in the coming five years and take a wait-and-watch approach before entering more places. “In the next three to four years, we will be seeing a major move to flat panel screen by more people so we can expect a major share from this flat panel TV business from retailers and manufactures. With more gadgets in our homes, people desire good, prompt service and are willing to pay for it,” he says on a parting note.


Concept in brief

Every average household now has a number of electronic products, each a different brand, which mounts to calling different service companies if they need to be serviced. This is where Jeeves steps in – to be a one-point service provider to all your electronic needs. Founded in 2007, Jeeves mainly caters to the B2B segment by being an outsourced service provider for retailers and manufacturers. But this August, it has come out with its first B2C initiative by launching ‘Jeeves Home Care’, an annual maintenance contract for its end consumers to service out-of-warranty products. Operating in a highly fragmented segment, Jeeves’ growth depends on sustaining its professional service and quick turnaround time.