What does it really take to disrupt the status quo?
Instinctively, the answer would be to build something that no one’s ever thought of before. After all, novelty brings excitement, and it does make quite an impression in a world that’s probably seen it all. This way of thinking drives Dubai–one of the world’s biggest business capitals and a mold-breaker itself–while it attracts individuals equally seeking a breakthrough.
UK-born businessman Siddarth Dalamal, founder of the online domestic service booking portal HelperSquad, knows the power of disruption. He counts Elon Musk as a personal icon, and is still powered by enthusiasm to affect positive change.
Armed with a degree in economics, and experience in multinational finance and hospitality gleaned from his time in the UK, New York, Finland, and Portugal, Siddarth moved to Dubai in 2008 without so much of a plan but with burning curiosity and the desire to do something different. The kind of entrepreneurial spirit that Dubai espouses won him over; its potential to evolve into something greater than it already is made him stay.
Sowing seeds of disruptive innovation
For Siddarth, disruptive innovation is not always as drastic as demolishing what is and replacing it with what will be. Ever the strategist, he realized that the smartest way to kickstart a paradigm shift and reach the top of the ladder is to take a step back, spot the missing rungs, and replace them with something more sustainable to facilitate the climb.
Looking back when he first landed at DXB, the emirate was at the verge of an economic crisis, and any other man would take this as a cue to exit the stage. Siddarth could’ve easily gone back to Europe to escape the fallout, but he was no regular, run-of-the-mill entrepreneur. Instead of fleeing, he went on to do what he set out to do in the first place: challenge his own limits and do something different. After all, if you want to change the system, start small and start with yourself. This is why when he first started his company and he was asking simple questions such as “what is my company number?” that he received when he registered, he wanted to do it all himself to see how big he could grow, and see what obstacles he could overcome. So this way, he was a little more confident he’d succeed by himself.
And that’s exactly what he did.
He founded his own business a domestic service agency offering professional housekeeping services. As if gifted with foresight, he soldiered through and watched Dubai get back on its feet. In just a few years, a lightbulb would go on again and this time, would spell the difference between a conventional book-a-service gig to a more scalable tech-based system that’s keeping up with the times.
This is a job for HelperSquad
According to Siddarth, HelperSquad’s inception in 2015 was brought about by a couple of questions: “How can we do domestic services differently?” and more importantly, “Does it have a positive impact?” To have a thriving business, profitability isn’t the only goal. To answer them, it entailed looking for inefficiencies in the current structure, and true enough there were gaps waiting to be addressed on both agency and client sides. One of them was how to maximize an agency’s schedule filled to the brim on weekends and not so on weekdays. Another is how to get first-time users to offer repeat business.
To a market that’s so used to picking up the phone to book services, a change it didn’t even know it needed would be welcome. Enter HelperSquad. With the help of his business partner and current CTO, Fatih Ozturk, whom Siddarth says is the “techie one” and rightfully so, an online booking system with an integrated online payment portal was created not just to accept bookings, but also to aggregate data for future use. Through HelperSquad, clients are able to book and pay online, give ratings to their service providers, and in return, this enables agencies to provide better services. By aggregating demand, HelperSquad also enables agencies to offer excellent pricing.
Sounds simple, right? Not quite.
The real challenge in creating HelperSquad, Siddarth relates, is to be able to see through the user’s eyes. These days, end users are fed with solutions to problems that don’t really exist. Here is where HelperSquad succeeds.
To become a game changer, you must listen to the beat and then perform your riff along with it.
Creating business for partner agencies? Check. Smoothing demand curve with the aid of technology? Check. All this with Dubai and its smart initiatives in the background, HelperSquad is dominating the scene, and shall continue to do so with plans for expansion in the UAE and subsequently, the GCC.
Celebrating the squad behind HelperSquad
Establishing HelperSquad wasn’t just about the technology, though. Siddarth believes that while technology does make things a whole lot easier, the human factor in business must not be trifled with.
He surrounded himself with a team that understood his vision and shared the enthusiasm he has. After all, the word “squad” is part of the startup’s moniker. Taking after Richard Branson’s philosophy, Siddarth recognizes the importance of a happy team. There are some things, like accounting for startups, that it is easier to outsource. But keeping a happy team means that everything done in house is done to the best standard possible. The company’s success is indicative of the premium they’ve put on employee welfare and development. He also stresses the human capacity for growth, as the mentoring culture within the company has brought many potential leaders out of their shell.
A Word to the Wise
HelperSquad didn’t become what it is today without a few detours here and there, but how does he keep HelperSquad on top? Siddarth answers with a practical, “Test. Test. Test.” Any enterprising businessman would take risks and embrace change to find out which line would eventually catch. And what if it fails? “Do it differently next time. If you’ve never failed, then you’re not pushing yourself enough.”
Siddarth says he continues to learn every day as is apparent with his predilection for garnering knowledge through online courses and admittedly, one of his favorite apps is Quora. He remains inspired by Dubai’s open-armed approach to change embodied by one of his favorite quotes by Peter Drucker: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.“
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