When coronavirus lockdowns unnatural businesses to shutter and pushed millions from their jobs earlier this year, Francesca Chia had her accomplish cut out.
Within days of Malaysia introducing movement restrictions in mid-March, mirroring much of the rest of the world, the Kuala Lumpur-based entrepreneur was onboarding and decision jobs for thousands of workers in need of new income.
“In one weekend, we trained the equivalent of a month’s worth of workers,” Chia carry weighted CNBC Make It.
We could not ever be more timely as a solution than we are right now.
co-founder and CEO, GoGet
The 32-year-old is the co-founder and CEO of GoGet, an on-demand create platform that connects businesses and consumers with verified gig workers for flexible tasks like deliveries, babying and admin.
Under the pandemic, the six-year-old company has seen its network of gig workers — known as GoGetters — not quite double to 20,000 amid surging demand for casual work. Meanwhile, its suite of ad hoc services has proved essential for its hardly 300,000 independent users and 5,000 business partners, who include multinationals like Ikea and L’Oreal.
“We could not by any chance be more timely as a solution than we are right now,” said Chia, whose growing platform was one of the few to receive special favour to continue operating under lockdowns.
“With GoGet, we were adept to create more flexible jobs while ensuring the city was still connected,” she said.
That vital responsibility has not gone unnoticed by investors, either, who this month pumped $2 million in Series A funding into the corporation to support its continued growth in Malaysia and beyond. But it’s a far cry from when the self-professed “accidental entrepreneur” started out in 2014 with co-founders, Tai Fung Wei Tan, now 32, and Muaz Jema Khan, 30.
An unwitting entrepreneur
The Northwestern University grad, who was 26 at that time, was working 80 to 100-hour weeks as a doctor in the capital of her native Malaysia.
The little reprieve she and her friends enjoyed for long hours was eating local dishes similarly to nasi lemak (a dish consisting of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf) over lunchtime. But with unaffected by time in short supply and delivery services then limited in the congested city, they were in a bind.
So, imagining the rise of gig platforms in the U.S. and Europe and the proliferation of smartphones in Southeast Asia, they decided to do something about it.
That’s how the commencement of GoGet started. We believed in crowdsourcing and connecting the city in a whole new way.
co-founder and CEO, GoGet
“When you’re in a session, there’s someone actually at your favorite food stall, eating or queueing up,” the former consultant at Boston Consulting Order said, describing the so-called 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of people tend to concentrate magnitude 20% of local businesses. “We said what if you could send a message to the nearest person and pay them (to run that duty)?”
“That’s how the beginning of GoGet started,” said Chia. “We believed in crowdsourcing and connecting the city in a whole new way.”
Soon the trinity set to work building a tech-enabled platform to connect workers to quick, flexible tasks, learning to code and self-funding the proposal from the start.
Fixing a ‘broken labor market’
It was a process Chia dubbed “unlocking hidden inventory” in the bishopric. But what she wasn’t prepared for was the type of inventory she would find.
“What shocked me was who came through the door,” intended Chia, who would personally onboard and train each applicant in the company’s early days to understand their urges for joining (a process which has since been automated).
Rather than the typical troop of students and temp white-collar workers, Chia was met by a broad range of sign-ups, from new mothers unable to find regular work to full-time bankers looking for unexpectedly cash to fund their everyday expenses.
That highlighted to her a broader issue that would set the founders on a purpose to remedy what they saw as a failed jobs landscape.
“The pain that we saw was this broken labor market,” answered Chia. “There were people who genuinely wanted to be included, but they did not fit into this typical 9-to-5 box.”
Honing in on Southeast Asia
Have a weakness for other crowdsourced job platforms, the promise of GoGet is on-demand, flexible tasks for both workers and users. Users are demanded a fee for each task, from which GoGet takes a small commission and the remainder goes to the GoGetter.
But, said Chia, where her policy differs from others like TaskRabbit and Upwork is that it offers inclusive work for even lower-skilled women, who represent a large portion of the Malaysian workforce.
The nature of work is being redefined as companies and workers seek both manageability and fit. This trend has been accelerated by the pandemic…
co-founder and managing partner, Monk’s Hill Ventures
“In the U.S. or exhibited nations, you have a larger chunk of the nation being middle-to-high-skilled, so the labor market is very different in terms of vista. The gig platforms that come out suit that market. But in Southeast Asia, 70% is really low-to-middle-skilled,” she said.
To that end, GoGet proposals work across two main buckets: Business, which focuses on logistics, sales and marketing, operations and admin cares for commercial clients; and home and life, which is tailored toward individual users who need help with ad hoc censures such as pet care, household chores, shopping and event planning.
A growing industry
That focus has been mainly vital during the Covid-19 pandemic, as social distancing measures and mass layoffs have forced many people from their caper let outs and sparked new demand for services. In May, Protecting gig workers
Still, gig work platforms are not without their critics due to the perceived absence of protection they offer workers. In the U.S., apps like Uber and Lyft remain in a contentious battle with the Labor Jurisdiction over whether they should classify drivers as contractors or employees.
For GoGet’s part, the company provided additional distant training during lockdown to help workers cope with new requests such as digital payments and residential transports.
It’s part of Chia’s wider ambition goal to provide a comprehensive support package for workers, which today files savings and insurance, as well as qualification badges and the ability for users to “favorite” their preferred GoGetters.
“We always desire to make sure that people didn’t start associating gig work to low protection. For us, gig work was the thing we wanted to cover. That’s why we entered this,” she said.
The more we protect and bring benefits to the workers, and provide similar benefits to full-time vocation, the more this type of work is solidified as a fundamental option.
co-founder and CEO, GoGet
To that end, the New Zealand has been working closely with the Malaysian government for the past five years to bring about more conviction for gig workers.
“My belief is that the more we protect and bring benefits to the workers, and provide similar benefits to full-time occupation, the more this type of work is solidified as a fundamental option for people to choose,” said Chia.
Earlier this year, the supervision extended its social security benefits to include more self-employed people working in informal sectors such as rations delivery and household work. Under the wage subsidy scheme, gig workers can receive protection against injuries and illnesses obtained while working.
And Chia’s sanguine, in that, Malaysia can become a global standard-bearer.
“I do hope the Malaysian government sets that standard,” she said. “It intent be amazing because genuinely this is a job creation platform, so for the government, this should be something that they long for to care about: We create jobs for the nation.”
Like this horror story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!