Outsourcing life's tough or mundane tasks

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 4:40 PM | 0 comments »

One woman outsourced the breaking off a relationship.

A man sought bidders to clean his ears, and found someone highly qualified.

Both turned to a new breed of company that harnesses the worldwide web to get someone else to take on the difficult and tedious tasks in life or the little things that never seem to get done during a packed working day.

"One woman called and had us break up with someone for her. I assume it was a break-up because we canceled a date on her behalf and sent the guy her regards. I would hope he wouldn't want to see her again after that," Steve Ludmer of AskSunday.com, one of the new life-facilitator service companies.

AskSunday was founded around one year ago by Ludmer and a partner, both of whom were "time-starved professionals" with a fantasy.

"We thought: wouldn't it be great if we had a personal assistant ... but not the one at work, who you're often reluctant to ask to do personal tasks for you," Ludmer said.

Friends also liked the idea, but pulled back because they anticipated the cost of hiring an assistant would be in the thousands of US dollars, Ludmer said. "So we came up with the idea of offering a pool of assistants in India who people could call or email to ask for help. With that model we can offer a very affordable rate," Ludmer said.

When you call an AskSunday number that appears to be in Washington, New York, London or Sydney, you get patched through to Hyderabad, India, where personal assistants are on hand, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help.

A competitor company to AskSunday - oddly called Get Friday - operates out of Bangalore, India.

"Over there, we attract college graduates who are interested and motivated by having a job at an international call centre. Here, at the wage levels that we would need to make it work, it's harder to attract motivated, dedicated people," Ludmer said.

Another company, Do My Stuff, operates differently: users wishing to outsource an onerous or unpalatable task post it on the site and invite bids for it.

"Someone asked for someone to clean his ears. We thought it was a joke but we left it on there and he got some bids. The winning bid was from a doctor who said, 'I know how to professionally clean ears and I can show you how to do it properly,'" David Davin of Do My Stuff told AFP.

Do My Stuff is free of charge and after one-and-a-half years of existence has 50,000 users.

"Looking to the future we foresee something where you can go onto the site and say: 'I'm going to run an errand in this part of town today.'

"You would input that in Do My Stuff and it looks for anything you could do along the way - pick up someone's dry cleaning - and make some money while you're out running an errand because you're already going that way. That's where we want to take the site," Davin said.

AskSunday would not say how many members it has or how many people work for it out of Hyderabad.

The service, which will turn one next month, charges an affordable $US19 a month for 10 "requests," rising to $US135a month for 90 requests.

Requests include making an appointment with the doctor, a reservation at a restaurant, travel arrangements - tasks that generally can be accomplished in around 20 minutes, over the phone or by email.

Tasks like breaking up with someone, but not cleaning ears.

AskSunday currently only operates in English, which, Ludmer said, limited the company's European penetration.

But, he added, it is always open to new ideas, and could branch out into other European languages such as French by opening a call center in French-speaking Africa.