3BHK with Spacious Servant Quarters: Domestic Help, a unique market opportunity in India

Every time I visit India, I have been fascinated with the growing emphasis being placed by ads for apartments/homes on the increased comforts for domestic help in India. The joke always goes around that a typical housewife does not bat an eyelid when her husband is going to be on travel for a month, but will surely have a panic attack if her domestic help goes to village for 3-4 weeks.

India, for ages has employed domestic help in way of part-time helpers like cooks, dhobis (washer men) who were a part of the traditional system. Some of these traditional helpers were an integral part of family household (having worked for decades). They actively participated in the family welfare and their good will was accepted and rewarded in most cases.  For people not familiar with the concept of domestic help, it is the help that is part of a household for cleaning, cooking, childcare and other activities. It is not surprising for most rich and middle class Indians to think of employing a domestic help at home. The Chotus and Ramu-kakas are a well-accepted part of Indian households.

As per ILO statistics published in 2010-11, the media and non-governmental organizations frequently cite a figure of 90 million domestic workers for India, though micro-data suggests a figure of more than 4.6 million domestic workers that include female domestic workers employed as “housemaids/servants”, while men dominate in areas like gardening, security and occupations such as butlers and chauffeurs etc.

The growth of the Indian economy since 1991, the various programs run by the Government on education and employment has rightly given domestic help many other opportunities. Thus the battle has begun to attract and retain this sector of employees like companies are doing for IT employees etc. I would propose potential entrepreneurs to come up with packages that could be offered to this vastly under-served sector. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Medical insurance plan geared towards them and their families back in their home states or villages
  2.  Mobile phone family package that connects them and their families at a very low cost
  3. Money transfer facility for them to transmit money easily to their family (especially via mobile phone and ATMs)
  4. A simple way for them to open up a bank account since most of them do not have one.
  5. Part time or online education package for the illiterate workforce to help them obtain basic high school/language skills etc.
  6. Easy crash diploma programs for matriculate domestic workers for specialized training skills like handicraft, tailoring, nursing, driving, mechanical courses like car repair, painting etc. for improving employment prospects.
  7. Due to the unpredictability of their employment status, a reasonable savings policy for rough times.

I am sure there are many other things that can be thought through to address this segment that not only gets them some basic comforts of life but also offers them and their families an opportunity through education to avail of different career options.

Your thoughts are welcome. Keep me posted.

Sanjay Puri

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