Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Can Urban Company enter the loo?

The home services marketplace unicorn is trying to enter the bathroom with professional cleaners. Can it find takers?

Rajiv Singh
Published: Jul 9, 2021 07:58:03 PM IST
Updated: Jul 9, 2021 08:08:13 PM IST

Can Urban Company enter the loo?

Last year, Urban Company entered the bedroom. When the lockdown forced beauty parlours to shut shutters across the country, the home services marketplace unicorn started sending trained beauty professionals home. Dreary faces got their shine back, and the lady, as well as luck, smiled on the company, which was adding ‘cosmetic’ value to the lives of its women users.

Now, Urban Company wants to enter the bathroom. And this time the idea is to make it sparkling clean. The company has rolled out a campaign highlighting how professional cleaning is superior to regular methods of cleaning. The consumer insight is simple. Though people want clean bathrooms, they tend to make do with basic minimum regular cleaning, which, according to them, is nothing less than compromising.

The unicorn now wants homemakers to substitute the maids who clean bathrooms with professional cleaners. The bait, and the promise, aims to again woo women: Cleaning that gives 10X superior stain removal and two-month long-lasting shine versus regular bathroom cleaning. “Our trained fleet of cleaning partners with their expert equipment ensures that consumers get squeaky clean and shiny bathrooms always,” says Smit Shukla, director (marketing) at Urban Company.

The creative agency reckons that there would be takers for the service. “It was a fun idea to use the maid as the advocate of Urban Company’s professional cleaning service,” says Ayesha Ghosh, chief executive officer of Taproot Dentsu. Ghosh alludes to the commercial where instead of defending her cleaning abilities, the maid lauds the superiority of Urban Company’s cleaners. The creative head, though, is quick to point out the reality, at least in the immediate context. While a professional bathroom cleaning service will never entirely replace the housemaid, the campaign will lead to more frequent usage of Urban Company’s solutions, the CEO adds.

The question, though, to ask is: Can Urban Company replace the maid? Branding experts reckon it’s possible, though not permanently. “There is room for professional cleaners,” says Harish Bijoor, who runs an eponymous brand consulting firm. The pandemic has made people look at every corner of the house with a sanitised lens, and approach. “You need thorough cleaning,” he adds.

But some larger issues remain. Why do all home and hygiene brands only talk to women when it comes to cleaning the toilet? Do men only use toilets and not clean them? Take, for instance, Harpic, which has actor Akshay Kumar as brand ambassador. In all the commercials, Kumar is seen surrounded by women and claiming that the product is better than detergents. It took ages for brands to show men inside the kitchen, and men washing clothes. Is the toilet waiting to be disrupted? Why is there no advertisement where men are shown cleaning the loo?

Besides, though Urban Company found it a ‘fun idea’ to depict a maid as the advocate of its cleaning services, the professional cleaner in the commercial shown happens to be a man. This brings us to another million-dollar question: During the pandemic, when families were paranoid about letting any outsiders into their homes, who was cleaning the bathrooms? Was it men or women?