Maintaining faith in their product saw the founders of the Rada services app eventually stake out a presence.
By Hoang Thu
After returning home from a hard day at the office recently, 35-year-old Ms. Nguyen Hoai An in Hanoi’s Cau Giay district was in a rush to cook dinner and bathe her young son. The water heater, however, was playing up. As her husband was on a business trip, she decided to Google some help.
After just a few minutes she chose a water heater repair company from a long list and felt reassured when they said they would send someone over soon. “He arrived on time, which was good,” she said. “But he charged VND900,000 ($40) for repairs that took about ten minutes.” Though happy to have hot water, she found the price a little unreasonable.
Ms. An is one of numerous people feeling dissatisfied with the home appliance repair services offered by online providers. High costs have, sadly, long been common among such providers in Vietnam. Many users have complained in online forums about paying two or three times more than the actual cost to have home appliances repaired. Only a few were successful in getting some money back while most simply decided to never use that provider again.
To put an end to this overcharging, a group of software developers in Hanoi decided to build Rada, an app that helps people connect with trusted local service providers via an Online to Offline (O2O) platform based on mobile, artificial intelligence (AI), and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. It maintains a network that facilitates and revolutionizes the way service bookings and communications between users and suppliers take place.
The app helps users instantly connect with local professional service providers without fear of being cheated and they can still interact with them after the service is completed. Rada also helps providers find work close by from jobs acquired minus the cost of online advertising and enables them to standardize their services with state-of-the-art technology.
Mr. Ta Quang Thai, Co-founder and Marketing Manager at Rada, said that many high-quality service providers face fierce competition from low-quality providers in reaching users. Advertising costs can add up very quickly and are often passed on to customers. With the Rada app, he explained, service providers can conduct promotional campaigns and take better care of their customers.
As all processes in Rada are transparent, users can follow up with providers if service quality is found lacking, which contributes to changing the behavior and attitude of providers. Those that wish to join the Rada network must commit to providing quality services and will face fines or expulsion from the system if commitments are not fulfilled.
Rada was established in early 2016 by a group of founders with an ambition of building an app to connect service providers to users via a system similar to Uber and Grab’s platforms. Their ambition, however, seemed unrealistic early on, as many of its target providers were plumbers and electricians who rarely used smartphones let alone apps.
But according to Mr. Ma Hoang Hai, Co-founder and CEO of Rada, ideas like Uber and Grab seemed unrealistic just five or six years ago. “This is the eternal challenge faced by any new app or idea when coming to life,” he said. New ideas and apps always face the same question: will the market accept them or not. “When the market accepts them, successful models like Uber and Grab appear. If the market doesn’t accept them, their founders must recognize their idea is unsuitable.” He believes there will be a wave of apps based on Uber and Grab appearing in other sectors as Vietnam continues to develop its IT infrastructure and as more of the population uses a smartphone.
Staying faithful to the app’s potential despite the initial disappointments, Mr. Hai and Mr. Thai began to promote it via any means possible. The 40-year-olds wandered down small lane ways in Hanoi posting leaflets on walls offering to install the app for plumbers and electricians. “We did this night after night, almost furtively advertising the app,” Mr. Thai recalled. “And we must still do it if we wish to see results.”
Their faith seems to have paid off. The Rada team received good news at the end of 2016, when Facebook’s FbStart granted their startup $40,000 to expand the business and its network. It has now had more than 200,000 downloads, with about 1,000 corporate service providers, 3,500 individual providers, and 56,000 users coming on board nationwide. The app also sends 2,500-3,000 orders from users to service providers each month in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and Da Nang. It also received the top prize for a startup at the recent Vietnam IT Talent 2017 contest.
Rada expects to expand to ten or more cities and provinces around the country this year, including Nghe An, Can Tho, and Thanh Hoa. The startup has also been negotiating with a number of successful businesses, including Austdoor, Viettel Post, and AAL Express, etc., to work together and expand its service categories.