An Australian-designed app for people after someone to mow their lawns is hoping to carve out a slice of the $3.1 billion garden care sector by taking aim at the high cost franchise model dominated by the likes of Jim’s and VIP Home Services.
Ahmed Ismail was working in the home solar installation industry and was using satellite imagery to quote jobs when he realised the technology could be used in sectors less vulnerable to the vagaries of government policy. He also became frustrated trying to find someone to move his own lawns.
“After contacting a few companies, I was gobsmacked by the huge price variance and the fact no one was able to do the job then and there. Even the leading lawn mowing franchisees gave wildly different prices for exactly the same job,” he said.
So he founded Airmow, an app-based on-demand lawn mowing business that looks down on the world via satellite to figure out how much it will cost to cut grass, providing an instant quote and removing the need for a site visit. It even detects and subtract objects such as pools, driveways and non-mowable areas to calculate a quote so both clients and the mover knows how much the job will cost.
“Airmow’s on-demand technology brings professionals and consumers together in real time with a competitive pricing model that is booked and paid for through the mobile phone,” Ismail said.
The app is set up like an “Uber for…” – job requests come in and contractors within a 50km radius can grab the work, but unlike other online home improvement sites, it’s not about bidding for the work, if the contractor nabs the job at the quote, it’s theirs.
It also uses a ratings system, and contractors with higher user ratings receive a better search ranking on the platform.
But where Ismail thinks he holds appeal for the tradies involved is the lower costs, compared to servicing a franchise.
“It confounds me how these guys turn a profit after all the associated franchise costs are taken from their earnings,” he said.
“There’s the initial $5000 to $50,000 to buy in to the franchise, around $800 a month in fees and then a further $10 per lead.”
Airmow is free to join, but takes a 20% cut of each job, although contractors are paid instantly once the customer approves the completed job, which Ismail says is a big advantage on the current market average payment time of 30 days.
He’s focussed on making the transaction as easy as possible for everyone, and if you’re not around when the job is done, there are before and after photos to check. If the weather turns bad, the app can handle rescheduling.
“There are no messy back and forth phone calls or text messages, and customers only release their money once the job has been completed to their satisfaction,” Ismail said. “You can even request your preferred professional every time.”
The contractors are insured and subject to police checks and there’s even a discounted rate if you want them to use your own mower.
Ismail says it’s not the country’s cheapest service, but the technology ensures prices are fair.
“We believe in paying contractors the going rate. If you want the job done properly, you have to pay accordingly,” he said.
“Airmow is definitely not expensive. Our accurate pricing model based on satellite imagery means you pay for exactly what gets mowed.”
Airmow has launched in Sydney with plans to take it national by the end of 2018 before he hopes to crack the massive US market.
While the app is currently available for contractors to download, it won’t be available to customers until around the end of April. For now, Sydney users can find list their jobs via the Airmow website.