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Week after women-led protests, Urban Company slashes commission

Urban Company has responded to the protests a week ago by women professionals engaged with its beauty services by slashing commission rates and increasing prices for certain services in the beauty segment, in an effort to allay some of the issues raised by the women. 

Entrackr was the first to report, from the ground, on the protests that took place against the company at its Gurugram office last Friday. More than 100 women, who work as beauticians on Urban Company’s platform, had demanded a reduction in commissions, safe working conditions and improved dignity at work, among other things. 

In a new twelve-point agenda, which Urban Company’s co-founder and CEO Abhiraj Bhal had initially informed workers about in an internal video message on the company’s partner app on Wednesday evening, the company said it was bringing down the highest commission it charges from 30% to 25%. 

Urban Company also said that it would ease up on the reasons for which it blocks these workers’ accounts and said it was restricting blocking accounts only to rating-related blocks. It estimated that limiting blocks to workers’ rating would end more than 80% blocks on the platform. Other blocks included minimum acceptance rate blocks.

Apart from that, the company said it was increasing prices for certain services it charges from customers in the beauty segment and would allow workers to cancel one job each month without penalising them. However, the company did not reveal what these services would be. 

The company will also launch a helpline dedicated to its women workers and will “sensitise” customers about offering drinking water and washroom facilities to the workers when they’re at their homes. Women workers had pointed out that many customers decline them drinking water or washroom access. 

The company did not clarify how it would ensure that customers treat workers with dignity, which is a larger systemic issue, but did say that if a worker complains against a particular customer, they will never be reassigned to them. 

The company discussed these changes at a meeting with a  number of women at its Gurugram office on Thursday afternoon. Five workers, who were part of the meeting that ended at around six in the evening, told Entrackr that they were largely satisfied with the changes announced by the company. 

Urban Company also unblocked accounts of some of the women present at the meeting, no questions asked, a person present in the meeting told Entrackr. To be sure, these workers’ accounts were not blocked due to their participation in the strikes, but for other work-related reasons. 

While the women who striked against the company seemed content with the latest announcements, they pointed out that some concerns still remain unresolved. 

One woman said that they had asked for multiple ratings parameters to be removed, especially highlighting “behavioural” ratings. 

“Customers are allowed to rate us if we don’t look too happy, or if we look too happy. If we are too chatty, or not chatty enough. This is a demeaning rating parameter,” she said. This issue was not resolved by the company. 

Another woman said they had called for the lowest commission rate to come down from the current 8.5% to 5%, highlighting that new workers on the platform end up taking a lot of low-value jobs and a 5% commission would leave a little more money in their hands. This demand was also not met. 

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