“I had just moved to a new suburb and it was difficult getting a proper artisan to come fix things in my place.”
Nigerian startup Wesabi was born from a personal problem encountered by project manager Sanni Murtala.
“I had resorted to calling friends and friends of friends who sent me various numbers to call that didn’t work. Most of the replies I got from these artisans was “I dey road”, but they never showed up,” he said.
“In the end I needed to walk round the entire neighborhood looking out for numbers pasted on walls, poles and uncompleted houses. Eventually I got my plumber.”
No such problem with Wesabi, the service launched by Murtala and co-founders Lord-Mallam Nugwan, Zainab Oyewo and Japheth Omojuwa in July of last year. A marketplace where people can outsource tasks and find local service providers, the startup aims to provide an all-in-one service connecting customers to artisans.
Though there are a number of categories on the platform, for now Wesabi is focusing on the artisans and handyman category.
“We believe if we focus on a single category to scale out, it will be much easier to follow suit with other categories afterwards,” Murtala said.
So how does it work? Wesabi recruits service providers offline, as most do not have internet access, and puts them on the platform. Clients request a service, such as plumbing or carpentry, on the site, after which the nearest available artisan in the client’s locality is sent to complete the job. Users can then pay for the work via the platform.
Murtala said Wesabi is aimed at busy professionals, but had also noted a gap in the market with corporate organisations.
“While we were doing our beta test, we noticed most of these firms would rather not deal directly with artisans,” he said. “As long as they can have access to quality, it would be a great relief for them if they could find just that one source who could provide them with these logistics.”
Ensuring this quality is a challenge Wesabi has overcome by partnering the Builders and Construction Skilled Artisans Association of Nigeria (BACSAAN).
“In the beginning, we tried recruiting artisans individually,” Murtala said. “It really didn’t work out. There is no amount of vetting we do on these artisans, we can’t know them like their fellow colleagues.”
BACSAAN now provides the startup with artisans it can vouch for, guaranteeing quality. Meanwhile, artisans on Wesabi are required to provide two guarantors and list three people they have done major jobs for, with Murtala and his team then verifying these.
Self-funded thus far and operating only in Abuja, Wesabi is in the process of expanding after being accepted onto the Growth Academy accelerator programme run by the Lagos-based Co-Creation Hub (CcHub). The team is also seeking funding.
Uptake has been strong, with around 10 jobs having been posted on the platform, and 74 completed. Wesabi has signed a contract with Jaiz Bank in Abuja to be the banks artisan provider.
“In one year, we want to start looking at the possibilities of scaling other categories of jobs on the platform,” Murtala said.
“In three years we want to be in major capital cities in Nigeria, and we will probably start looking at a possibility of expansion to other African countries. Our primary goal is to be the household name for people who need any kind of service. As long as its services, people should think Wesabi.”
Murtala said there is a huge opportunity for startups in the on-demand space, especially in countries such as Nigeria where unemployment is nearing 40 per cent. The opportunities offered to young unemployed people by services like Wesabi, he hopes, will encourage people to take up blue collar professions.
“Asides encouraging more people to embrace vocational skills, the platform will also encourage the already skilled personnel to hone their skills better, once they know that the better you are, the more you are able to get jobs,” he said.