This morning I started my first India-based business/ contribution to the community.

It’s a personal help service called Help Me Wallah. Its intent is to make life easier for people living in India. Just Bombay at first though. (Nothing is up on the website yet, but we are already in operation.)

24 hours/ day, customers can reach someone who fluently speaks conversational English and knows Bombay via phone, email, and sms.

Why would someone sign up?

First: There’s no such emergency phone number like “911” in Bombay. Currently, if you are in an emergency, there are different numbers you are supposed to call (police vs fire vs medical), and the person on the other end may not speak English. And there’s no number for non-life-threatening emergencies like your cab driver seems lost and you need someone to give him directions. Or you’ve found yourself in a strange neighborhood and you’re not sure if it’s safe to walk around there. Through Help Me Wallah, you would reach an English speaking person for any emergency via a dedicated phone line for immediately life threatening emergencies and a different number for more trivial emergencies at 500 rupees per month.

Second: While it’s easy to hire household help, it’s difficult to get miscellaneous needs met. Some things are trivial, like where to buy decent bedding that isn’t overpriced. Other things are daily annoyances, like if you want to call a cab to pick you up there’s at least a 10 minute wait to speak with someone, and once you finally get through, the call often gets dropped. Help Me Wallah would act as a personal concierge service for day-to-day personal tasks at a sliding scale starting at 1000 rupees per month. Calls would be routed through a different number than the emergency line.

Third: People here to do business need help with various things like finding help, getting business cards printed, knowing which internet provider they should use, etc in a timely manner. Help Me Wallah could act as a shared assistant for individuals who need help with business related tasks at a sliding scale starting at 1500 rupees per month.

My first worker is a fellow expat whose pay is pegged to how many customers we support.

My longer-term vision for this service is to be able to offer true emergency service triage for free, but since I don’t have enough money to offer that yet, I’ll start out charging for emergency service triage and once we have enough capacity we can offer emergency service calling for free, we will offer that.

Initially, the customers would be expats and English speakers who are living in Bombay. It would be cool to have an infrastructure to support Spanish, German, French, Korean, and Mandarin speakers soon as well. And perhaps eventually this could grow into a full-fledged emergency call system for all people who are in Bombay that is subsidized by people who are wealthy enough to pay for other services provided by the company.

Systems-wise, we’ll start out with one person using four cell phones.

  • Cellphone number 1 is to take incoming emergency calls.
  • Cellphone number 2 is to take incoming emergency calls.
  • Cellphone number 3 is to make outgoing emergency calls so people can be kept on the line while HelpMeWallah is making calls to the relevant numbers.
  • Cellphone number 4 is for household and business tasks.

We will also have a digital camera to use for sending pictures from stores as part of the personal assistant service.

Once we have customers signed up for enough services, we would like to pay two staff members to be on call at 15,000 rupees each.

Then next on the agenda would be getting a more professional phone system which would allow for things like routing calls differently based on who is calling.

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