Every week, the Soukie Speaks’ Club Courage series celebrates a brave entrepreneur in the Arab startup ecosystem, by sharing their story and the impact that their startup is having on the community.
When most people think about entrepreneurs, they think that they just wake up one day with a burning desire to start a company. But that wasn’t the case for Ibrahim Colak, who is the co-founder of MrUsta.
Ibrahim was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, the home of the beautiful Bosporus strait. After completing a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and an MBA in Istanbul, Ibrahim accepted a job in Nokia’s Istanbul office, which eventually led him to move to Nokia’s Dubai office 8 years ago, where he started working as a product marketer for the Middle East, Africa and India regions.
When Ibrahim moved to Dubai, he struggled to find quality service providers. This was particularly problematic when one day in May (a time of the year when the average temperature in Dubai is around 37 degrees centigrade and the city becomes increasingly humid) his air conditioner broke down and no AC repair service would pick up his calls. However, even those who did pick up his call, offered him incredibly high quotes or promised to call back but never did.
Ibrahim knew that he couldn’t be the only person in the UAE who was suffering from this problem and in the “heat of that moment” MrUsta – and Ibrahim’s entrepreneurial journey -was born. In this interview, Ibrahim will share how the MrUsta platform is transforming the service industry in the UAE and much much more!
1) What is MrUsta and what can customers expect from the MrUsta experience?
‘Usta’ is a word with regional origins that means ‘master’ or ‘guru’. We use this word in Turkish and it’s the same in Farsi. Even some Arab and South Asian countries use it- pronouncing it as ‘ustaz’ in Arabic or ‘ustad’ in Urdu. We chose this name, because we believed that it would resonate very well with the multi-cultured audience of the UAE.
As for the platform, MrUsta is an open, online marketplace that allows customers to find quality service providers (‘Ustas’). Not only can customers deal directly with Ustas with no middlemen involved, they can also receive offers from multiple Ustas based on their requirements. The best of all of this is that customers can use the MrUsta platform free of charge.
Customers simply choose the preferred offer to complete their job and rate the Ustas on the platform based on their performance. The service is web-based, but for a more immersive experience, we recommend that customers download our app, which is available for both Android and iOS phones.
Customers expect – and get – a seamless and convenient experience. Posting a job takes less than three minutes and customers can expect offers to start coming in within 20-30 minutes of their jobs being verified.
2) What are the three biggest problems that customers encounter when they’re looking for Ustas in the UAE and why?
There is no shortage of service providers in the UAE. However, although regulated by the authorities, it is a rather chaotic sector. Customers face three main challenges when they try to find a service provider in the UAE:
i) It’s hard for customers to find services providers, because most service providers aren’t listed.
ii) There’s no way for customers to verify if service providers are reliable and if they do what they claim they do.
iii) Its hard for customers to find a service provider that will carry out the job within a fair or their budget.
All these challenges stem from one core issue – there is (or was) no single platform that not only allowed these service providers to be found, but also to compete. With MrUsta, we tackled this issue head on. Thus, resulting in higher quality services at more competitive rates.
3) What are the biggest problems that Ustas face when it comes to maintaining or growing their customer base in the UAE?
From the service providers’ side there are primarily two problems.
Firstly, Ustas are limited in reach when it comes to the territory they are willing or able to cover. Usually, they will do jobs in their immediate neighborhood, but not much further. Most Ustas are experts in their field, but marketing comes as a challenge. So, even if they are top quality Ustas, people have not heard of them.
Secondly, Ustas struggle to manage their customers’ expectations. Customers, in many cases, have a set budget that they’re willing to spend when it comes to their service, which is usually unrealistic. Again, MrUsta resolves these issues by actively marketing Ustas, their services and educating customers about what they should expect in terms of service and finances.
4) What measures does MrUsta take to ensure that it’s building a quality marketplace of service providers for customers?
Before a new Usta joins us, we put them through a vetting process, where we verify their trade licenses, check any past reviews and talk to their previous customers.
Once they join MrUsta, we have a very low tolerance for bad reviews. If a service provider receives three bad ratings in a row their account is deactivated. In some cases, even one horrible review can get Ustas dismissed from our platform.
5) How does MrUsta help customers and service providers mediate and resolve disputes when they arise?
We take great pride in the quality of our customer service, as this is one of the foundations that our success is based on. In fact, every single person that works at MrUsta is a customer service representative to a certain extent – no matter what department they work in or what professional background they have.
On the very rare occasion when a dispute does take place, our CRM (customer relationship management) team immediately talks to both parties to verify the details and understand the situation.
Although we do have a set of guidelines on how to resolve conflicts between customers and Ustas, they’re just a guide and we regularly have to go ‘off script’ to resolve a problems, as each problem is unique in its own right.
We are proud to say that in the cases where MrUsta’s CRM team has had to mediate a conflict, that we practically have a 100% success rate that leaves both parties more than satisfied with the outcome.
6) In what ways has MrUsta changed since the launch of the MrUsta app in 2016?
Customer and Usta feedback is very important for us. In addition to our own development plan, user feedback also plays an important role in shaping our product when we introduce new versions of our app.
Since we first launched the app in 2016, we’ve made the interface more intuitive and even easier to use. We’ve also introduced Arabic and more privacy features- among others. Soon, the app will become even ‘smarter’ and will require even less effort for customers to post their jobs and Ustas to send offers.
7) How does MrUsta aspire to change the service provider market in the region?
People will always require the service of Ustas. As the UAE’s population grows, so will the demand for quality service providers. The key is being able to connect both sides conveniently and efficiently.
This how MrUsta is currently – and will continue to – change the service provider market altogether. Bringing a traditionally offline sector online is the way forward in this sector and we’re confident that our platform will evolve to bring even greater benefit to all of our stakeholders.
8) What can we expect to see from MrUsta in the future- inshallah?
Continued growth and of course, continuous innovation.
We see MrUsta becoming a regional powerhouse in the online marketing sector, by moving 80% of the offline service market online. We also see MrUsta being a top-rated online marketplace with a service quality that is unprecedented in the service provider industry.
9) How can people learn more about you?
I’m very happy to connect with anyone who wants to learn more about me, the brand, and the MrUsta family via Linkedin. I always take time every day to respond to non-business inquiries, so you can be sure that they will hear back from me. Otherwise, you can learn more about MrUsta on our website and follow our latest updates on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
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