Reengineering the ’employment’ wheel
Ambrish Bajaj, Founder & CEO, Pragati Jobs discusses how his young startup, which has been set up to resolve blue-collar hiring challenges for HR teams, successfully acted on a business opportunity that suddenly came up in the midst of the pandemic.
Rise of technology adoption by businesses and individuals, expansion in internet adaption, massification of digital payments and an enabling policy environment have led to the spectacular rise of aggregator-based marketplace businesses, which have acted as a disruptive force across sectors. Companies like Amazon, Big Basket, Zomato, 1mg, Ola Cabs, Urban Clap, etc have literally revolutionized the way we consume products and services.
Over the years, we have also seen these startups expand at an impressive pace into tier 2/3/4 cities and towns. This brings new opportunities for sure at one end, but on the other, it is also fraught with a number of operational challenges.
One of the key challenges is hiring. For HR departments of these companies, it is not practically possible to maintain physical presence in these markets to ensure their hiring processes are up to their standards. This becomes particularly challenging when it comes to hiring of blue collar workforce, which does not get adequately mapped by current job portals. This blue collar workforce is actually at the heart of the operations of these companies – comprising people like delivery executives, drivers, back office executives, etc.
When we started Pragati, our primary focus was to provide blue collar hiring solutions for industries like hospitality. But when the pandemic came to the fore, we quickly spotted a much greater need among these tech aggregator companies, since, they were the only ones who could serve customers within the constraints of the lockdown.
But given the evident surge in business, they needed to hire across locations; something that their HR departments were not equipped to do – while maintaining the metrics of scale, time and quality. At times, we have seen that in small cities and towns, their sales head doubles up as an HR manager. Therefore, he/she is not ideally equipped to handle the hiring function.
On the other hand, we also saw painful scenes last year, when labourers were compelled to defy lockdown norms and travel to their hometowns when their source of earning was suddenly taken away from them. The blue collar workforce is highly fragmented across numerous local, few large and some online players.
Even large companies struggle with highly inadequate hiring rates. Candidates have to wait for long periods before they get their desired opportunities, leading to a major lack of distrust in these job avenues. Essentially, we found the system to be substantially broken at both ends. And as has been the case with many sectors, the pandemic perhaps only served to exacerbate inefficiencies that already existed previously.
Source, screen, interview
At Pragati Jobs we felt that this is as an opportunity to tackle this problem by using technology at scale. The company offers employers a ‘sourcing, screening and interview’ solution at one place. Prospective job seekers can scan the opportunities, select their preferred job, fill in the application, screen for their skillsets and have walk-in interviews reserved through the app. Therefore, Pragati provides a direct and seamless interface for both companies and jobseekers.
Screening tests for candidates are based on standardized formats as governed by industry best practices. For instance, for a pharma company like 1mg, the skillsets required for a delivery person may be quite different from those required by a foodtech firm like Zomato. The delivery guy at 1mg may also be required to read and ensure the exact medicines are being collected at the chemist as ordered by the customer. Pragati ensures that the candidates are screened for the required skillsets before they come in for an interview, to ensure minimum hassles and loss of time for both.
A flexible solution for clients
Pragati works with most top online players including Flipkart, Swiggy, Zomato, Pharmeasy etc to solve their blue collar workforce problems in 11 cities in India. At large companies, our main promise is we can help them hire at scale and quality. We also reduce their operational hassles by automatic filtering of candidates and scheduling walk-ins through the product itself. We have improved their hiring rate by a margin of 2-4X in trials that we have been running. Furthermore, we are among their highest converting channels, when it comes to online hiring (as they have offline channels too).
Furthermore, we also work with numerous smaller companies, who hardly have HR teams. Our solutions almost acts as their virtual recruitment team. The heavy lifting of going through so many CVs, calling 100s of candidates and then arranging walk-ins is almost eliminated. Our solution lets the small teams talk to interested and screened candidates, so that they can only focus on quality of hiring, while leaving the operational part to the tech.
COVID 2.0, Deja vu and beyond!
Just like we saw last year, the ongoing lockdowns, albeit regional in nature, have led to a surge in deliveries yet again. Thankfully, most companies are better prepared, but the workforce problem has a long way to go before it gets resolved. This is yet again an opportunity for us to serve the industry and candidates. This year, there is in fact a bigger surge in groceries and medicine deliveries, and we are working with top players in both categories.
The market opportunity we are addressing is valued at around Rs 50,000 crore with an annual growth rate of around 15% . With the integration of technology solutions, there is a huge potential to ensure outcomes for all stakeholders. We plan to build strength in recruitment as that’s a first and difficult problem to solve. In medium term (12-18 months) we plan to build forward integrated solutions into training, onboarding and later into payrolling.
Ambrish Bajaj is Founder & CEO, Pragati Jobs, a young startup set up with the vision to resolve key challenges in India’s job market. With 18 years of total experience and 10+ years in product and marketing with companies like Paytm, Jabong and Hindustan Times, Ambrish drives product, technology and marketing.