Beauty on the go: People of the Digital Economy

Introducing Ganela Orsela, a Go-Life stylist.

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Beauty on the go: People of the Digital Economy

Ganela, or Nela as she calls herself, has been working as an “on-demand” skin care therapist for two years.

She responds to customer orders that are made through an app—in her case, Go-Jek’s “Go-Life”. Besides facials, which are Nela’s expertise, customers can also book services like massages, hair styling, and house cleaning. After orders are picked up, service providers like Nela go directly to the customer’s home, bringing all the necessary equipment.

Nela said she took skin care classes for two months before she was eligible to take orders through Go-Life. She trained at a clinic that was already Go-Jek’s official partner. After she passed the test, Go-Jek helped her set up the app on her phone. Now she handles eight to ten customers every week. Gigs that she picks up through Go-Life have become her primary source of income.

The first year was tough, she says, but she has been able to save a little since then. If she hits the minimum number of weekly orders instituted by Go-Jek, which is around “seven or eight” for facials, she gets a bonus. That bonus system incentivises Nela to ask customers to keep booking appointments through the app, and not directly with her. A standard facial treatment that lasts about an hour costs IDR 200,000 (US$14.3). She pays 10% to Go-Jek and 10% to a so-called service partner, a certified beauty salon that acts as an intermediary between Nela and the company.

Nela became interested in “on-demand” work after she opened her own beauty salon, only to shutter the shop soon after. Unable to cover rent and wages, it became clear to her after a year that it would not add up.

But Go-Jek offered her a way to keep working as an entrepreneurial cosmetologist, this time without having to sink in any capital up front. Nela drives her own motorbike and carries her equipment in a small suitcase. It’s onerous, especially when it rains.

Nela enjoys the work, but she has encountered some problems as a “micro entrepreneur”. For example, Nela says, customers tend to want their appointments at the same time, often clustering requests together, like on weekends or after they have left work. Of course, she can only service them one at a time, so many requests go unanswered. Another problem Nela encounters once in a while is that Go-Jek’s partners who recruit and train service providers such as herself will sometimes try to upsell them on specializations that are costly yet don’t have clear benefits, but that hasn’t deterred her from taking advantage of Go-Life and zipping across town from one client to another.

Someday, Nela hopes to open her own salon again, where she can take walk-in customers, but also respond to home calls. For now, she’s saving up—in Indonesia, it isn’t easy for freelancers or small-scale entrepreneurs to persuade a bank to issue a loan, in part because she doesn’t have proof of a stable income. She hopes that someday Go-Jek can help her save or get loans. “The competitor, HouzCall, already offers that,” says Nela. But for now, her clientele reaches out to her through Go-Life, so she isn’t about to jump ship just yet.

This article is an entry of “People of the Digital Economy”, a series by KrASIA that visits individuals in Southeast Asia whose livelihoods and habits have changed because of the advent of commerce facilitated by the internet.

 Editor: Brady Ng