Buying or building your own house is something that everyone aspires to invest their lifelong earning in, at least in Nepal. But, a house is also a frequent ‘troublemaker’. It requires regular checkups and repairing, which costs a lot; as much as you care for your health, the house also requires a lot of attention.
Now, at least for Kathmandu, there is a company that assures you that your house gets regular prevention and protection against seepage, leakage, plumbing issues, electrical defects and structural vulnerability, collectively under the title ‘home inspection’.
The concept of the home inspection is completely new for Nepal and even South Asia. However, this idea is widely practised in western countries. In an attempt to give the idea of home inspection a firm shape in Nepal, three young civil engineers started a civil engineering-based startup company, called Skill Sewa Pvt. Ltd.
“As its name suggests, we inspect houses thoroughly listing all the existing problems in it and maintain it in a skilled engineering procedure,” says Ram Sharan Bikram Thapa, 24, a co-founder of the company.
Since its establishment in October last year, this company has already served more than 30 clients before the lockdown began in March. Until then, it made a transaction of about Rs five million. The co-founders say the amount of transactions is a bit more than their target.
The company, however, halted its services in the lockdown, but utilised in other ways, according to Ramesh Timalsina, 26, the CEO and a co-founder of the company. “We prepared internal documents, reports, designed further strategies, studied and analysed various startups worldwide and pitched our ideas in various international platforms.”
However, recently, the company has resumed its services, focusing on seepage inspection. “Post lockdown, buying and selling of buildings has been ceased and also the season is rainy. Now, nearly 10 to 11 inspections are scheduled per week. In the last 30 days of operation, we are able to have the same number of clients as before in normal working months,” informs Mahesh Timalsina, 24, another co-founder of the company.
How did it all begin?
“Our solid idea of ‘home inspection’ evolved from the series of backstories,” says Thapa. “Ramesh and I were classmates during our BE Civil Engineering course at Khwopa Engineering College. Academically, we were average students, but we used to participate in multiple intercollege functions and win the first place many times,” he informs, adding, “We along with three other mates worked on a pump storage hydropower project during our final years. Our teamwork during such projects helped us know each other’s ability and being rewarded with the awards in such competitions strengthened our teamwork.” For him, such experiences of student life helped them grow as startup entrepreneurs.
Interrupting Thapa, Ramesh Timilsina speaks, “Earlier, while we were working on the pump hydropower project, we thought of establishing a business regarding hydropower that follows a different model than regular hydropower projects for generating electricity in Nepal. As this project was very big and required a huge investment, we dropped this idea.” Then, the mates thought of starting a company regarding ‘handyman’ services. “However, eventually, we started a startup prioritising home inspection. We also do similar services of handyman like renovation, plumbing or light or electric jobs, but as a secondary service. We have a separate department of freelance technicians to handle this.”
Immediately after the 2015 mega earthquake struck the country, these young men joined a BE course. They soon saw many engineers conducting a structural inspection of residential houses to find out whether the house was safe to stay. They, then, thought of doing it regularly as a business later.
The young engineers remember that once the lock of their classroom was damaged due to wear and tear. It would leave the lecturers and students disturbed. As their college administration never paid attention to such minor issues, they themselves checked the lock and found that the minor disposition of a rubber pad had caused the problem.
After this incident, they say, they realised such problems could be found in almost every house, ignored but waiting to be solved. For a proper solution of such problems, a proper inspection of the houses is required; just like while curing patients, doctors need to diagnose the case first.
Ramesh Timilsina recalls the time after their graduation when they were all scattered, he and his brother Mahesh pitched this idea among their friends and multiple startup platforms through social media. Then, they started this company informally.
Convincing their parents and raising the initial funds for the company was the biggest challenge they ever faced, says Thapa. They started the company with an initial capital of Rs 300,000. They started lobbying about their services through their family, friends, relatives and social media platforms.
Through their relatives, they say, they got their first client, Vajra Academy in Lalitpur. Bhupendra Bikram Thapa, the school’s managing director, shares, “As the building of our school was quite old and having similar problems and defects like seepage, I contacted them and asked them to come and inspect the building.”
“With their explanation, I came to know that through the home inspection, one gets to know the root cause of any defects in the building. Just an x-ray shows what is wrong inside your body, the home inspection gives you the details of what is wrong inside a building,” Bhupendra says, “The idea impressed me a lot.”
He says that he found their services very satisfying and worthy. As young entrepreneurs, he also stresses that they also have to learn and improve a lot.
After receiving a paycheque from Vajra Academy in the company’s name, the trio registered the company and ran it officially. Since then, they have not looked back. “As a startup, we have been very fortunate to have a very tight schedule since the beginning,” speak all of the three together.
Besides the prior focus on home inspection services designed for home buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants, Skill Sewa also intends to establish home inspection as a secured profession in Nepal. With this, they say the professionalism of blue-collar technicians will be enhanced.
Mahesh Timilsina says the company, hence, has started providing services at a cheaper price to attract more service recipients. “We have a premium package for house buyers and sellers at Rs 15 per square foot and a rent package for landlords. We charge Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 per visit. After an inspection of each and every possible fault zone, the house owners or buyers or sellers feel so good that they never find the cost irrelevant,” he claims.
It is also because most of the clients are upper-middle and upper-class people, many engineers themselves, according to them.
Currently, they are working with more than 25 freelance supervisors and skilled technicians.
Thapa says, “We are constantly working for enhancing the quality of service that we promise to provide.”