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How our local hero, ServisHero, capitalized Big Data to multiply SME revenue

ServisHero is an on-demand local services marketplace, headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, which saves consumers time and money when looking for reliable local service providers.  The process is simple:  Make a request on our website or mobile application, receive quotes from thousands of trusted local service providers, compare profiles, ratings and reviews, chat to the providers and hire when you are ready.

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We have a clear mission to uplift the income levels of millions of small businesses across South-East Asia. We are a proudly purpose-driven and data focused company using information to both shape our own business and grow into new areas

Challenges

The small-medium size enterprise sector in South East Asia is a major contributor to economic activity, accounting for in the order of 97% of all businesses, 85% of employment and 50% of GDP. Despite this importance to the overall economy, both sides of the market for the local services sector often are faced with a lack of information which hinders efficient market function. This situation has resulted in consumers being uncertain of what a reasonable price is for a service and / or being frustrated by poor quality service experiences, good quality businesses missing out on valuable growth opportunities, and government or industry partners not being able to target support to where it is needed most.

The majority of small-medium sized local service businesses understandably focus on doing what they love, which is selling their services to consumers. However, when it comes to gaining an objective understanding of their performance relative to their competitors, they are often unable to make more than anecdotal comparisons. Even if business owners are to scale the learning curve and make the investment required to install a business intelligence system, they only have information about their own business performance, and still lack the insight into whether that performance is reasonable or not.

Third parties serving the sector, including financial institutions, employment agencies and government bodies, benefit from both aggregated market information for the sector, and also targeted information to allow them to engage with individual businesses within it. However, the disparate or fragmented nature of the market has made collecting primary data an expensive exercise.

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High level information architecture, information sources, BDA solutions providers and analytics tools

Internally, we have a challenge to manage hyper-local service-specific markets which cannot be approached with a ‘one size fits all’ approach. We needed to ensure that our data analysis approach was consistent, avoided expensive re-work, while also being flexible enough to cater for the different stages of development of each micro-market, and the analytical needs of each.

Solution

ServisHero provides a solution to the timeliness and extent of information capture for the local services market. We have to the minute visibility of economic activity from granular, location-based transaction data which addresses many of the information gaps in the market. We undertake targeted primary data collection from businesses, which is made possible by the frequent and ongoing participation of thousands of local service businesses on the marketplace. An example of this is the ServisHero Small Business Sentiment Index, an ongoing quarterly indicator of business activity across the region.

We capture marketplace information using a combination of tools, notably Snowplow and AWS. A cloud based approach enables mass data ingestion and transformation, providing us with the ability to rapidly scale our business without needing to re-architect the IT solution.  We also are able to take advantage of the interoperability between the variety of tools within the AWS cloud to store and transform data as appropriate to the use case, for example, pushing our natural language data into Elastic Search for processing, Kinesis for event streaming, or batch-loading data from S3 into Redshift, before enabling distributed access to data visualisations or ad-hoc analysis with BI tools like Looker and Kibana.

We manage the competing priorities of analysis standardisation and distribution by leveraging Looker’s data modelling approach. We construct standardised building blocks for analysis which define commonly used metrics or analyses, giving us a consistent data dictionary in both theory and practice. Business users are then free to combine these building blocks to tailor analysis to suit their needs, wherever they are. We integrate the business analytics into internal and external applications, enabling real-time queries from Slack and embedding content in consumer- or Hero-facing products.

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Example output from geospatial economic activity data

Benefits

ServisHero is making radical changes to the efficiency and stability of the local service market across South East Asia. We have saved tens of thousands of consumers’ time and money by providing a vastly improved search and discovery process. Data aggregation has allowed us to improve information transfer in the market, providing consumers with visibility into provider ratings and reviews, prices and comparisons against market benchmarks.

We have been empowering local businesses across South East Asia by providing them with the opportunities and information they need to grow their businesses, and enabling access to cutting edge technological solutions which are otherwise unavailable to SMEs due to their technical nature. In one year of operation, we have facilitated the creation of more than 500 NEW jobs across the region and are generating >US$2.5m in economic impact every month. The thousands of Heroes on our platform have grown their businesses significantly, including individuals who have:

  • Expanded into multiple countries
  • Travelled overseas for the first time
  • Employed more staff
  • Grown their business revenue 10 fold

We have initiated the ServisHero Small Business Sentiment and Friendliness survey, providing a ground level view of the economy from small business owners in different parts of Malaysia and Singapore. The inaugural ServisHero Small Business Sentiment Index was released, to provide third parties with greater insight into business conditions for the under-served SME sector across the region.

The technology solutions we have adopted are allowing us to move rapidly, expanding at >30% month-on-month since launch. We are able to distribute analytics to the business users responsible for acting on data-driven decisions without slowing down by channeling analysis through a centralized data team. The BDA solution allows us to do this while also maintaining control and consistency of approach.

The Future

We will continue to scale the ServisHero marketplace to provide the rich transaction information that enables insights which we can use to empower local businesses. Our BDA solution will likely change as we grow so that we can adopt technologies that are best of breed and right for the rapidly evolving business.

The greater scale of the marketplace will allow us to develop and define advanced analytics techniques, including AI and machine learning, to improve the level of insight we are able to generate.  In parallel with developing additional depth of information, we will extend data insights to Heroes through customized digital platforms, and work with third parties to make anonymized data available to a broader community of stakeholders in the South East Asia services sector.

Industry: Services / Internet

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