Innovative sales model for building an online marketplace
Pallav Sinha Co-Founded MeraJob with Raman Thiagarajan and Girish Phansalkar. Pallav finished his MBA and joined a Unilever company as a Management Trainee. In the early part of 90’s he moved into the Financial Services working for over a decade with Citibank and most recently setting-up one of Fullerton’s businesses in India (subsidiary of Temasek Holdings).
During his corporate career, Pallav also ran a few JVs viz. JM Morgan Stanley’s retail business since 2000 and later headed Tata’s JV with TD Bank.. His expertise, as he puts it is on the consumer side of the business. Seeing financial services from a consumer needs perspective, rather than a a ready product to be sold was a key learning. In Citibank he learnt how to create a product and marketing mix for a compelling value proposition.
He set up a subsidiary for Fullerton in India when he retunred to India from UAE in 2008. In the course of setting up Fullerton Securities from scratch, it became quite apparent to him that while there was lots of talk about a majority of graduates in India being unemployable,. The problem extended beyond simply skill deficit. The challenge was also posed by an inefficient marketplace to connect job seekers and employers. That’s when he joined hands with his co-founders from McKinsey to set up MeraJob (hyperlink). Apart from solving a large problem for India the team of Founders of MeraJob was also excited about the social impact of their venture in creating “better lives” for the under-served job seekers.
The problem of an inefficient marketplace was especially relevant for front-end and low-end jobs such as Sales Executives, Customer Service, Telesales, Back Office, Logistics etc. The underserved job seeker (living in a remote place) with the employer(a few cities away) where the candidates and the employers often do not even know of the others existence. This leads to disproportionate focus on a few job seekers who may be active on portals and have the ability to create CVs, while others are unable to signal their presence to employers. Hence the candidate may not even be interviewed and misses a good job opportunity.
Pallav says that addressing this friction in the market offers a unique opportunity. The idea it not just to have a listing portal (there are so many of them) where Job Seekers can come together and register but the model here would be that the MeraJob would pre-screen them and in the process play the role of a match maker for mass recruitment jobs . About two years ago MeraJob was set-up and embarked and is now it is already reaching reasonable size and scale.
Pallav says that what enables the idea of MeraJob today is the emegence of an ecosystem addressing skill deficit (vocational training) as well as other endevours in the form of assessment, verification etc. Apart from this ecosystem the other enabler for such a business model is the proliferation of mobile phones and even smart phones at lower income levels and remote markets..
There has been strong validation of the business cocept and opportunity in the last few years.In fact, as a venture operating for only a year and a half, the external demand is quite good and the Company is now embarking on significant addition to its already extensive and innovative technology, operations and marketing solutions to solve the problem at a much large scale which is something any startup would love to be in but can rarely be. Interestingly, Pallav says that they are yet to meet an employer who does not feel that mass recruitment is not a challenge and is not willing to try innovative solutions for the problem.
They anticipated the skill deficiency is more in sales, delivery boys, customer support, back office people, admin which is in the low-wage, high-volume bucket is where there is a huge market demand. The existing portals also don’t focus on this segment. All CVs look the same and hence do not enable employers to select candidates based on variables that matter. Employers are inundated with profiles where they hire one or two people out of 100s of resumes they get and this pre-screening by MeraJob allows employers to review 20 short-listed profiles and thereby accelerates the talent acquisition process.
At the beginning the MeraJob founders conducted a quantitative research with job seekers and a qualitative in-depth interviews with employers to assess if there was a problem in the market and the challenge that both ends of the market faced. Pallav talks about a few learnings that came out of the market research. They learnt that they will not initially be able to address the very low-end job segment which is often outsources(security guards or drivers which were contract work or being off roles ), because the involvement of the employer is not significant but decided to do low end White Collar and Blue Collar where the low end White Collar is large enough a market to sink in their teeth in and the skilled Blue Collar is also a partial problem of the skill deficit as courses like ITI are not churning enough of people . This is how Pallav and team changed some of their assumptions sharpened their sales and product proposition. “Deciding not to do something is equally important as the decisions about what to do”, says Pallav.
MeraJob relies on very innovative outreach mechanisms both to the Job Seekers as well as to the Employers. From a Job Seeker side, they realized that it was not scalable to reach them through a feet-on-street model but decided the outreach mechanism to be on Mobile and Social Media. They figured out that mobile proliferated the mass and they pioneered the concept of a missed call first in Recruitment Sector. When the Job Seekers will give them a missed call, the recruiters will call back and will create a custom profile. They also found out that even people in the 10k to 20k per month salary range had smart phones and they began connecting with the Job Seekers on Facebook and other social media channels
On the Employers side, they used a number of networks by tapping into their known circles and set up a team to meet employers and got a good set of early employers to sign up. But the cost and time of onboarding such customers was enormous. Hence today they are basically focussed on online sales to the employer side. They focussed on large employers to begin but realized that they will get embroiled on a long sales cycle. Hence they went after the early adoptors where people lacked a talent acquisition team that can give pre-screened profiles and accelerate their hiring cycle. This change in focus began to work well and the centre of gravity shifted from selling face to face to selling online which cut down the cost of sales and sales cycle very well.
On customer acquisition, Pallav says every closure and repeat purchase provides valuable learning. According to him in this business repeat sales to the existing customer – second sale, is the best measure of success.
The concept of helping someone to hire at half the cost and time for a large segment of their employers was so compelling making the first sale relatively easy. However making sure that the whole process of pre-screening and institutionalizing the process of offering better pre-screened profiles is where the magic lies.
To scale recruitment you need a cmbination of and art. So MeraJob uses data analytics, online pre-screening tools and behavioural data to do the matching, but it is at times combined very effectively with the judgement of its tele-recruiters. This combination of data and judgement is what gives them powerful results.
Pallav’s advice to early stage founders – “Internet is changing things completely”. If you are scaling and reaching early adoptors using low cost internet, that is a great way to sell, understand how you can differentiate your proposition using the Internet. You can test and validate your hypothesis and the business can scale up very fast. The time and cost to meet people and close business is very huge and this can be reduced by using the internet for sourcing enterprise clients.. Also testing Minimum Viable Products (MVP) is the key in today’s world. This is what helped MeraJob.
MeraJob(http://www.merajobindia.com/) now have 70 people with operations in eight cities in india. They started in NCR and they have a IT team in Pune. They have around 70 employers and several of them are regular employers . They have around 450,000 pre-screened smart profiles and are establishing contacts with around 6000 Job Seekers every day through various channels. They have raised funds from private investors about a year ago. MeraJob has also been featured in multiple magazines and newspapers.