Last Wednesday, I was at the Zone Tech Park launch at The Workforce Group, Gbagada, Lagos. The event was like most launches: there were speeches, a tour (since it was a space that was being launched), a Q & A segment and of course, food. What interested me the most however, were the startups – created at Workforce and incubated at Zone Tech Park – that demoed on the day. Specifically, Outwork which launched in June 2018.

I’ve heard of TaskRabbit and various Nigerian versions of it like Taskit and Glorby. I’d never really thought of the segment but watching the product owner, Vincent Mayaki demo the service, the app design caught my attention. So I decided to investigate further.

According to a statement from Outwork, “In a world where organisations have no effective and success assuring way of executing projects on a large scale, Outwork is your go-to workforce management solution. Outwork manages the success of organisations’ projects by monitoring the activities of their workforce, the speed of project execution and the quality of reports.”

By utilising the basic shared economy business model, they crowdsource work opportunities. When there is a need to double check the inventory at a store, mystery shopping, verify a marketing campaign, or check on product placements, they engage an Outworker to do it.

How It Works

The process is pretty simple. A client (company or individual) creates a task on the Outwork website (I didn’t find an app for outsourcers), sets detailed preferences and criteria (including price) for executing the task and pushes the task to the Outwork app. Vincent said at the demo (during the Zone Tech Park launch) that the tasks have to be as detailed and specific as possible to avoid stories that touch.

Outworkers open the app, use the map to find available tasks, and apply for the task they can complete. The Outworker completes the task, generates a report and submits photos or audio recordings through the app.

The data is dated, time-stamped and GPS verified for accuracy. The client then evaluates the report and if they approve, payment is made to the Outworker. Outwork handles all of the financial transactions, supplies the infrastructure and offers support to all parties involved.

“To become an Outworker, download the Outwork app, register your account, link your bank account to your registered account, and off you go,” said Vincent. The folks at Outwork also tell me that the more tasks you complete, the better your chance of unlocking higher paying tasks.

Opportunity

The informal economy makes up the largest part of Nigeria’s economy but the country is yet to figure out a way to maximise the benefits/opportunities that this offers. Nigeria also recently overtook India as the country with the highest number of poor people and unemployment rates are sky high.

All of this means there is an unemployed/underemployed population with a diverse skill set whose skills and expertise can be leveraged to generate wealth, upskilling and value chain optimization. Outwork’s model, in theory, makes sense and The Workforce Group’s pedigree in outsourcing even lends it more credence. However, whether it will be able to navigate the perilous Nigerian market is another thing entirely. It doesn’t have an iOS app, Outsourcers can only access the service through the web, and the entire operation is Internet dependent – which means Outwork’s audience/market is quite small and limited to people with Internet access (even though the company claims 7K users).

Outwork also serves as a workforce management solution for managing large distributed work forces. Companies that rely on decentralised work forces but with limited capability to manage them can use the service to capture on-the-ground intelligence in real-time. 

With Outwork, there is an opportunity for people to make extra income and learn new skills. For outsourcers, it offers a way to get tasks done much more efficiently, and with better access to a pool of talent too.

Still, Outwork will still have to surmount challenges unique to the solution it’s providing. For example, Internet penetration is something it will have to seriously consider (especially if it wants to bring on as many outworkers as possible); as well as the many cultural and societal nuances spread across the vast area that is Nigeria.

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