SweepSouth, the innovative and most customer convenient domestic cleaning service provider on the African continent, renovates the mundane in-house cleaning industry with its artistic web and app-based platforms which provide prompt domestic cleaning services for customers. With superior customer service being their hallmark, SweepSouth literally allows customers to take charge of the services they provide. “We provide customers with a photo of the person assigned to their job and a little information on her background, interests, and family. Inviting someone into your home requires trust, so when connecting customers to a stranger, we think it’s important that they are introduced,” says Pandor Co-founder and CEO of SweepSouth. Isn’t that amazing? With just a click, a customer is not only guaranteed impeccable cleaning services but also safety. SweepSouth unburdens homes, offices, restaurants, guesthouses, hotels etc with its inventive and expedient domestic cleaning services. I was so excited and privileged to have interviewed Aisha Pandor the CEO and Co-founder of SweepSouth and an inspirational figure empowering women across the continent:
What’s your professional history? Where have you worked in the past?
I have a Ph.D. degree in human molecular genetics where I worked on gene therapy for inherited blindness. During the final year of my Ph.D., I also completed a business management qualification. Following my graduation, I worked as a management consultant working on projects in HR management, and operations and supply chain management at listed multinational companies. My co-founder Alen’s background is in software engineering and specifically in architecting and developing scalable software, he had led teams of developers both at start-ups and at large multinational companies.
What is SweepSouth? What do you do and who are the brains behind this ingenuity?
SweepSouth is South Africa’s (and Africa’s) first ever online home cleaning services platform and is an easy and extremely convenient way to connect domestic cleaners (SweepStars) to homeowners. Using our website and app, you can book, manage and pay for cleaning services within a few minutes.
Alen and I started SweepSouth after we weren’t able to find someone to assist us with domestic help over the December holidays. We tried via online and print classifieds, asking friends for referrals, and even going via a domestic cleaning agency. The experience revealed that the domestic services industry in South Africa (and other emerging markets) hadn’t been improved by technology and innovation and people still had very old-school mindsets about this relationship. We saw an opportunity to change that. My role is as CEO and Alen is the CTO, and our skills are a great complementary match for solving the issues we’ve observed.
How long has SweepSouth been in existence and how did you manage to overcome the challenges that surfaced during the introductory stage?
We launched in June 2014 and have therefore been operating for almost two and a half years. A big challenge was creating a market for this service. When the first few bookings were made on SweepSouth, it represented the first time in Africa that someone had booked, scheduled and paid for a home service, end-to-end, online. This didn’t previously exist, so we had to put a lot of work initially into creating a market and helping potential customers become comfortable with the idea of paying for a service online. We overcame this by building trust into every step in the booking process, having direct contact with customers early on, monitoring site usage very closely and picking up at what steps people may have been hesitant to book and also having a dual rating system to encourage reviews and build up our trust factor. It’s also been tough to work with public transport in South Africa, with taxi and bus strikes, train stoppages and delays and traffic issues being regular occurrences, making it challenging to deliver our service on time as much as we’d like to. We’ve therefore built a lot of this into our tech, communicating often with SweepStars (cleaners) if we know of any major incidents or delays, making recommendations on routes to use and ensuring SweepStars have clear directions and in-office help with directions or transport if needed.
Why was SweepSouth formed?
SweepSouth was formed to provide a convenient way to connect homeowners with domestic cleaners. This benefits both sides of the market. Homeowners have a trusted, reliable and convenient way to get their homes cleaned by vetted and rated professionals, and SweepStars have access to flexible work opportunities at decent rates, are protected by insurance and are working with a reputable company, meaning clients are generally a lot more respectful of the work and the value they provide.
Tell us more about SweepSouth services?
We charge per hour rate to clean your home and the cleaning time required is flexible, based on what you need to be done. You can choose general cleaning, and supplement this with additional cleaning tasks like laundry and ironing, or fridge cleaning. We are able to either connect you with a SweepStar based on our algorithms or allow you to select a SweepStar yourself. Once you’ve used the service, you can also request a SweepStar you’ve had before. We offer both an ad-hoc and regular subscription service, with bookings being allowed up until the day before. We listen keenly to what clients and SweepStars want and believe this approach is behind our exponential growth and consistently high average ratings on both the client and SweepStar side.
How do clients get access to SweepSouth service and how many clients does SweepSouth have as at now?
You can book a cleaning either via our website or Android or iOS app, and we’re currently doing over 10,000 bookings per month and over 100,000 in total bookings on the platform.
Why should a customer choose SweepSouth?
We offer a flexible, convenient, trusted and reliable service and are using technology to make something like getting home cleaning, which so many South Africans and Africans need help with, really accessible. Our model is disruptive and game-changing and we’re constantly looking for ways to improve the offering and features for our clients. We’re the pioneers in this space and will continue to offer exciting new developments for our clients.
How many countries are SweepSouth operational in and which other markets do you intend to expand into?
We currently operate in four cities in South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban) and will expand into Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria in the next 12 to 18 months.
What is SweepSouth’s major challenge and how do you overcome it?
Like most marketplace platforms in the sharing economy, we need to balance the supply of SweepStars with demand from potential and existing clients, and this can be really tough, as we are strict about the quality of SweepStars who join the platform, so we don’t just bring anyone on. We are overcoming this challenge by having a highly responsive operations team that listens closely to data to predict required volumes well ahead of time, and also by streamlining our SweepStar onboarding processes as much as is possible so we can bring great SweepStars on board within a day or two after interviewing them.
Where does SweepSouth hope to be in the next 5 years?
In 5 years SweepSouth will become a household name in emerging markets, trusted to conveniently provide a range of home services to homes in scores of countries. We will also continue our work of modernizing domestic work and being able to use technology to provide work opportunities for thousands of more service providers.
A short word of advice to young African entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship is so rewarding and a great way to solve problems, contribute positively towards our economies and create employment. Increasing access to technology and connectivity mean there has never been a better time than now to start an innovative business. If you’re ready to take the leap, make sure you have a great business partner, good personal and professional support network, and go into a field you are really passionate about!