Yandex, the ‘Google of Russia’ that has made inroads into areas like mapping, mobile, cloud storage and a variety of apps (like its U.S. counterpart), is today launching its newest effort to build out a service based on its core search business: it is launching Yandex.Master, a platform for individuals to find and hire contractors for home jobs and small errands. (“Master” is the Russian term for a tradesperson.)
Right now there are some 70 contractors and small businesses listed on the platform, and to encourage more tradespeople to sign up, Yandex.Master will be commission-free until 2015, at which point Yandex will start to collect a percentage on each job booked through the platform. Yandex will offer the service on the web first, with an iPhone app coming soon.
With Yandex.Master the search company is tapping into a few wider trends.
First, many U.S. startups focused on international expansion do not include Russia as part of the early phase of that growth — if at all. So, while U.S. startups like Handy, Homejoy and TaskRabbit have made some inroads into Europe, Russia remains an untouched market.
Second, there is a need for these kinds of services in Russia. Today the country is Europe’s largest internet market, with a rapidly growing middle class. At the same time, there are surprisingly few companies that have bridged the gap between these two to provide apps for those with disposable income and keen to offload chores or small jobs to others — Yandex says that people in country’s two largest cities, Moscow and St Petersburg, where the service will be live first, already make more than 800,000 searches each month on Yandex for small errand or domestic help: this will be a way to put some vetting and organisation into those searches, Yandex says.
Third, Yandex has something of a track record in building online marketplaces for offline services. One of the most notable of these is Yandex.Taxi. Tapping into its own mapping strength, and the desperate lack of organised car services in urban centers, Yandex’s taxi app has become a very popular way for drivers to pick up passengers and passengers to find a way to get from A to B, now driving over 700,000 taxi bookings each month.
The idea is that Yandex.Master will start to do the same for the odd-job economy. “Just like Yandex.Taxi, Yandex.Master also has a strict quality control system, which makes sure each service provider is vetted before their offer appears on the website,” the company notes in a blog post. “Yandex.Master’s quality control team make trial service requests and manage negative feedback. Provider’s ranking, their client feedback history and pricing also play a part in how service quality is maintained.”
The emergence of Yandex.Master also interesting in light of how the bigger company is evolving.
Last month, Yandex split the operations in the company, with CEO Arkady Volozh continuing to oversee the bigger international company Yandex NV but with Alexander Shulgin, who had been the group’s CFO, taking the newly create role of COO for Yandex’s Russian business.
Whether that will, in the long term, see Yandex either make more aggressive moves to expand abroad, or potentially rethink how different parts of its business work together (or may even eventually separate) remains to be seen. Regardless, Yandex.Master is an indication of is how the company continues to strengthen its vertical business in its home market.