Snob warning: DIY is passe. It's time to hire your own Jeeves
The first time I used the services of Findable, late last year, I had a eureka moment.
I had outsourced the fulfillment of a craving to someone without having to blackmail them. Or being pregnant.
I wanted dark chocolate. I wanted it in the middle of a manic workday. No store that stocked my favourite Lindt 85% dark was close enough to deliver it to me.
And then I remembered meeting Anirudh Suri, founder of a service called Findable, at a Delhi dinner earlier that week - and his promise that they would deliver anything I wanted, from anywhere in the city, to me in a couple of hours.
So I called them. And in about two hours, I had chocolate. And a new addiction.
Concierge services are not new; if you have the money, there have long been services designed to satisfy every whim, meet every craving, serve every need. Hard-to-procure tickets; waitlisted restaurant bookings; numbered bottles of wine. Chartered planes, chartered elephants, chartered you-name-it.
But what about those without hefty bank balances - or, for that matter, particularly outlandish needs.
Part butler, part concierge, part private assistant, if you've got pretty much any legal request, they'll handle it
What of those who would be willing to pay just a little higher for everyday conveniences if it saved them time? What of those errands that are thankless - or worse, always overdue. What of the hostess gift you forgot to buy, the shampoo you've run out of, the car charger that died but you haven't had a chance to replace.
That's where the clever young entrepreneur comes in.
They know there are any number of functional tasks in our lives we'd love to outsource if there was someone to outsource it to.
And now there is.
They're part concierge, part butler, part private assistant. And as long as it's legal, they'll do anything you want.
Here's five names you need to know if you want to make your own life easier.
Till recently called GetMyPeon, this Mumbai-only service calls itself everyone's personal assistant. And as these ideas often are, it was born out of a frustrated day the founder Bharat Ahirwar had paying his bills back in 2012.
Today Russsh will do all that for you - and more. They'll pick up your drycleaning, courier your rakhi, pay your electricity bill, and even escort your grandmom to a funeral you don't have time to go to.
And they'll do it quickly and cheaply. If you pre-book your task the previous day, they'll charge you Rs 150; Rs 200 for same day errands, and Rs 300 for express needs - that's tasks tackled within 90 minutes, though travel time will necessarily be higher.
One of their most-used services, though, is quite simply picking and dropping things off at people's homes: a client who was leaving for a road trip and needed an icebox picked up from a friend across town; an elderly gentleman who needed his favourite watch repaired but had no-one to drop it off at his trusty repair shop.
Russsh already fulfills dozens of needs every day, from delivering cake to plants, documents to drycleaning, and picking up and dropping cars off at a service centre.
Delhi-based Findable, on the other hand, pride themselves on being 'your local shopping assistant'.
Whatsapp them or place an order on their site and within about three hours whatever you want will be delivered to you - as long as it costs above Rs 200 and is legal. Nothing is too trivial or too niche - your favourite Russian Red lipstick from MAC; a replacement iPhone 5 charger; a cake from your favourite bakery that doesn't deliver.
Here's the kicker: it's free. You don't pay them anything to do this. They deliver products at MRP. They work with vendors and retailers to get better rates and presumably have decent margins built in there. You, on the other hand, laugh all the way to the bank.
The service has also recently launched in Mumbai and looks all set to cast its net even wider.
They're in five cities. And they claim you can use them to 'get anything done'.
That means hiring a plumber, sending your laptop for repair, getting quotes from a banquet hall for a wedding, booking you tennis lessons or getting your business cards printed. They'll deliver invitations, help file your taxes, get your phone battery changed, and even help find a new apartment for rent.
Imagine being able to outsource the task of escorting your grandmom to a funeral. There's an app for that
Android users can download their app; others can log on to their site and talk to them on chat to book a task basis your need, budget, location and timing. What they guarantee: good service, a concept that every harried urbanite knows has become strictly optional in city life.
Operational in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, their team includes Stanford, IIM and IIT grads, and a massive web of onground people on call to serve your every need.
Bangalore-based Mr Sevak has a roster of tasks listed on their website - from bill payment to parcel delivery, express birthday deliveries to even standing in queue - along with the fee they'll charge for each.
They typically don't handle same day requests unless scheduling allows but booking 24 hours ahead buys you the freedom to outsource pretty much any functional task.
A separate set of senior citizen and NRI services target two important but typically underserved segments.
A La Concierge
Unlike the others, A La Concierge follows a subscription model - but with a regular monthly membership starting at Rs 1,000, this concierge network is all about the affordable.
With a strong corporate client base - they set up hubs at offices of companies and take on a host of tasks for employees - ALC has found a way to reach busy professionals right where they need them.
But they're as committed to the individual - they'll help with taxes, with planning and booking vacations, with planning a party, buying gifts, doing your banking, booking tickets to a show or just about anything you'd typically expect a concierge to do.
Pick a higher membership level - Gold members pay Rs 5,600 a month and get not just a host of exclusive extras but a personal relationship manager who begins to understand your tastes and preferences for much more personalised service.
You can call or email them, or log in with your membership number to register a task.
And yes, that includes finding you an elephant if that's the need of the hour.