It began with a U-bend which, for the sake of propriety, we shall assume was attached to my sink. Something was definitely Not Right, and no amount of Floop could remedy the situation. So I called my plumber. Who was on holiday. And then I called another plumber. Who was too busy. And thus – after briefly considering chucking my career as a starving writer and taking up a hand auger with immediacy – I was forced to turn to the internet. Where I discovered the answer not just to my persistent plumbing problems, but the solution to almost every one of life’s little dilemmas: AtYourService.
A Cyprus-wide, free-to-use online platform, AtYourService is a stroke of utter genius. Imagine, if you will, a Yellow Pages of every service you might ever need – handyman, photographer, lawyer, cleaner – but a Yellow Pages that requires nothing more than the posting of a few words (“U-bend calamity. Plumber needed Nicosia now!”). There’s no searching, no calling endless phone numbers only to discover your chosen artisan is in Greece for the weekend. All you have to do is sit back and wait for the offers to pour in – which they do, immediately! – check who’s got a good rep and, hey presto, there’s a man with a wrench/camera/legal pad/mop at your door! It’s simplicity itself. And, should you wish to offer your services to the population at large, it works the other way round too…
“AtYourService has over 10,000 professionals on its books,” explains Argyris Argyrou, the man behind this ingenious platform. “Anyone offering a service can sign up, post a profile, and then tender for jobs. And there are a lot of jobs!” In the three years since its inception, AtYourService has seen over €10 million in services pass through the site, with roughly €600,000 in services brokered each month (payment goes directly from customer to professional, so there’s no commission for the site whatsoever). More than 10 per cent of the island’s population – including large companies looking for one-off contractors and contributors – have turned to the platform to find the right man (or woman) for the job, and the site has seen well over 30,000 jobs pass through its online portals, with an average of 100 new jobs posted each day.
“It’s a very simple concept,” Argyris explains. “You’re not choosing from a list – you’re saying this is what I need done, make me an offer. You describe what you need and the professionals come to you.” And if you’ve a service to offer, he adds, then: “You create a profile, explaining your services and adding any reviews from work you’ve completed, and the platform will notify you – by email or text – of any new jobs in your field. Even someone who’s not internet savvy will find the platform simple to use: you’ll answer a simple set of predetermined questions, add a few words of information and then you’re off… it’s very intuitive.
“What’s unique about AtYourService,” he continues, “is just how well it works. We have professionals from every field, from the mainstream – website design or legal services – to the more obscure – voice overs and dog training. We’ve seen contractors build entire houses; movers relocate entire companies; and 70 per cent of the weddings that took place in Cyprus last year requested at least one service through our platform.” And while most of the work that passes through the portal is smaller, one-off jobs, Argyris explains, the beauty is that you can hire pretty much anyone to do anything.
The original concept was born – as are so many great ideas – from simple need. “It was 2011, and the economy was booming,” says Argyris. “So when I needed a handyman for some home DIY stuff, I didn’t think it would be a problem. I asked friends and family who I should call – but getting hold of anyone was impossible. Everyone was too busy, and everything was based on word of mouth. And I thought ‘there must be a better way than this!’”
Creating a database of clients and companies is an idea that had worked well in other countries (TaskRabbit, AirTasker and Thumbtack have all worked in their respective regions) so why not Cyprus? The island has a small, well-educated, highly-skilled population and, after the haircut, regular employment is scarce. But though the idea was sound, launching the platform wasn’t quite that simple, Argyris reveals.
“It took almost a year to get up and running, but by the end of 2012, the platform had launched and we set off to sell our idea. At first we just got into our cars and stopped at every company we could find. And it was horrible! We got zero sign-ups. So we decided to try targeted advertising in newspapers and on Facebook. Now that worked! We got over 300 calls in the first two days, and by the end of that week we had 700 professionals signed up.” Excited by their first successes, the team projected a round figure of 1,000 professionals by the end of the following year… “But we grew much, much faster than we had anticipated,” Argyris laughs. “By December 2013, we had more than 6,000! It felt great…”
Today, AtYourService numbers five employees in total – Michael Oikonomou, the platform’s co-founder; designer Stella Theodorou; and developers George Hadjivarnava and Athina Pafitou – and the team are all extremely proud of what they’ve achieved. But that’s not going to stop them from pushing ever-forwards.
“We know we’ve created a lot of value with AtYourService,” Argyris concludes, “but we’re always looking forward: improving on client service, growing the team, and reaching more people…”
Well, since my satisfactory U bend experiment (you’ll be pleased to know my, er, sink is now in full working order) the platform has added one more satisfied customer to their ranks.
A free online platform that matches customers and professionals. For more information visit the site at https://atyourservice.com.cy, the Facebook page ‘AtYourService’, or email [email protected]