The UK Country Director for the US handyman brand on how the UK is becoming an innovation hub for the company as the Sharing Economy grows
US company TaskRabbit has been steadily rolling out in the UK since 2013. After first finding its feet in London, it expanded into Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester earlier this year and it plans to continue its growth.
The online marketplace connects customers with “Taskers” – or self-employed contractors – to help with handyman services.
“People are getting busier and busier,” says Cornelia Raportaru, UK Country Director at TaskRabbit. “In the past there was an expectation that you would fix things or assemble furniture yourself. But the reality now is that people work more hours, their commutes take longer, and they just want to spend more time with family and make the most of that free time.”
TaskRabbit is now learning that the needs of customers in its new locations are very similar to those of its customers in London. “It makes sense for us to tap into that,” she explains, stating her intention for the roll-out to “go further nationally”.
Innovating in the UK
Like many businesses in the Sharing Economy, Raportaru puts success down to the focus TaskRabbit places on its users – both clients and Taskers – and it has adapted how the two interact with each other as the platform has grown.
And far from simply replicating the US model, she refers to the UK as an “innovation hub” that has changed things for the business.
When TaskRabbit first launched in the US, it was a bidding system where customers would post the task they needed help with, and Taskers would compete against each other until the customer picked the price they liked.
“When we launched in London, we changed the model to what it is today in which the Tasker decides how much they want to charge per hour. Once we proved the success in London it was rolled out in the US as well.”
This progress is an example of how much the Sharing Economy has grown and matured over the last decade since the company started. The community of Taskers is now at 60,000 on the global stage, with London-based Taskers being paid £19.60 an hour on average. It’s something the company is very proud of.
“TaskRabbit is one of the pioneering Sharing Economy companies. What has been really important, is for us to have our own voice in allowing TaskRabbit values to surface in the way we manage the marketplace,” she says. “We’ve been able to raise the standard in the way we manage our platform.”
Partnering with Ikea
Success has brought investment, with Ikea acquiring the company in October of last year – a partnership which again grew out of the London business.
“It was really driven by shared values,” Raportaru explains. “Ikea's mission is to create a better everyday life for the many people, and at TaskRabbit we want to make life easier for people every day. The partnership is initially focusing on furniture assembly. So, if you go into an Ikea store in London or Bristol and buy a piece of furniture, you can hire a Tasker there and then to help you assemble it.
“It’s helped to raise awareness in what we provide, but in terms of day-to-day business it hasn’t changed anything. We’re just growing faster.”
That growth is reflected in the diverse community of Taskers. And although that community is relatively small nationwide, it is expanding very quickly.
“Operating in the UK has been great. It’s been very fulfilling and relatively easy to build a Tasker community, and then find the customer group that trusts our brand and trusts the platform to use it on a regular basis.
“Until this year we’ve only been in London, but one of the special things about the community we have grown there is that everyone is very close. People know each other. Many of our Taskers have been on the platform for a good few years. We’re proud of that community spirit.”
And just as TaskRabbit’s marketplace is diverse, so is its leadership. Cornelia Raportaru is part of a leadership team where the founder and CEO are also both women.
“Diversity and inclusiveness is part of our values. And it has been from day one. Our CEO, Stacy Brown-Philpot, has been a role model within the tech industry. That attitude has come down to the recruitment process and in our strategy of attracting talent.
“The whole thing with diversity is that you want balance. We’re very proud that we’re achieving it. And it’s beyond gender for us. It’s about different backgrounds; it’s about ethnicities; it’s even about attitudes you have towards life and embracing this sort of diversity.”
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