by Soumik Ghosh

How Babajob and Merajob are disrupting the blue-collared hiring space

Feb 24, 2016

With the advent of mobile devices, the competition amongst job portals for blue-collared employees intensifies, but the space still remains an untapped goldmine, believe early birds like Babajob and Merajob.

India’s GDP is pegged to clock a 7.8 percent growth in 2016, but Indian industries face a shortfall of 5.8 million low-skilled jobs each year. By 2022, that number is expected to snowball to 249 million, according to the National Skill Development Corporation.

The white-collared workforce has numerous channels to zero in on that perfect job. Job portals like Naukri, Monster, and LinkedIn cater to our employment needs, but this is where our blue-collared brethren, the wee gears that keep the wheels of your enterprise spinning, is left sorely short changed.

With low-cost phones flooding the Indian market, the scenario has changed. Early birds like Babajob, Merajob, and Nanojobs spotted the opportunity and swooped in for the kill.

Widespread Internet penetration and venture capitalists with deep pockets have fueled their growth and there’s been no looking back since then. Babajob, with 250,000 employers and 5 million job-seekers in tow, enjoys the lion’s share of the blue-collared job search segment.

Babajob was funded by Khosla Impact in 2012 and by Greyghost Ventures in the same year. In May 2015, the company bagged a $10 million funding from Seek, and has been looking toward accelerated growth since then.

“If you look at the last 12 months, almost all our metrics have been hovering around the 6x to 10x mark,” said Bharani Setlur, chief business officer, Babajob.

Being the largest player in the market and the only existing pan-India solution for this category of employers and job-seekers, the company hopes to grow the business at the fastest sustainable business over the next 9-12 months.

Babajob: Job-seeker growth

“The addressable base of people who need jobs of this sort is about 300 million,” added Setlur. Numbers of this sort makes us want to ask why this market segment was untapped until now.

“If you look at most businesses, the network affects how they can operate. Until you had telephony in this country, a bunch of businesses couldn’t exist. A similar scene resulted prior to the existence of the Internet in India,” explained Setlur.

A perfect example of this scenario would be e-commerce. There were quite a few interesting e-commerce companies in the early 2000s, but it wasn’t until the Flipkarts and Amazons entered the Indian market that e-commerce actually made a difference. For instance, the decision to include the option of ‘cash-on-delivery’ broke through beyond credit cards.

Not confined to the lowest rung

Merajob, a fledgling job-portal that caters to the mid-segment (monthly salaries ranging from Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 40,000), has also been creating waves in the recruitment space.

The company currently offers more than 1,500 jobs for its 15 million candidates to choose from. Merajob, however, is not competing for a share in the low-wage segment.

What’s striking is the fact that these companies have actually disrupted the hiring formula in this market segment. “We’ve achieved a 100 percent month-on-month growth, and we’re confident of sustaining it,” said Abhishek Soni, online sales manager, Merajob.

It’s a given that to disrupt a process, a company needs to create value-adds that differentiate it from the traditional players, and that is precisely what companies like Babajob and Merjob have done.

Soni explained this by citing this example: “Hiring one call-center agent requires screening and interviewing 40 candidates, on an average.”

To streamline the hiring process, the company has started hosting Q&As and voice samples of candidates for recruiters to choose from.

Key to the castle – Tech Innovation

What’s clicked for Babajob is introducing the automated response service, where all a job-seeker needs to do is to give a missed call for the system to call back. 

“The system then asks them a bunch of generic questions and creates a profile for them. So, literally anybody in the country with a mobile phone, regardless of the balance on the phone can now have a profile created with Babajob. The IVR is multi-lingual, and we’ll be rolling out a lot more languages as we scale up,” explained Harsha SN, senior VP – engineering, Babajob.

In addition to the IVR, the company has also introduced an application that the job-seeker can use. Babajob has also introduced ‘Rapid Hire’, which speeds up the process by shortlisting a pool of candidates by computerized search.

“The most exciting thing has been that in the last 11 months, we’ve 7x-ed our revenue. And that is testament to the fact that it has been received pretty well by the employers. People do want a solution that gives them speed and specificity,” said Setlur.

Analytics does the trick

A vital aspect job portals needs to crack is the ability to find employers the right pool of candidates whose profiles match the job requirement. And this is where analytics plays a critical part.

“We’re at a state where we are analyzing a lot of data for the next level of growth we’re aiming toward. We’re looking to bring a proximity-based solution in the near future,” explained Harsha.

Also read: How to win the war for IT talent

Babajob has developed its own home-grown analysis and matching mechanism, to cater to specific requirements brought forth by the employer. “This is basically not to address a small group of job-seekers, but to target a larger pool of people in the market. There’s a lot of data crunching involved, and we’ve been using a lot of analytics,” he added.

At this point in time, velocity doesn’t really pose a challenge for Babajob’s tech wizards, because the skills required by employers and the skillset of the job-seekers is not going to change every single day. “However, this will be something we’ll be accounting for as we expand our business over a period of time,” said Harsha.

Challenges faced

At the high level, it’s the same kind of issue one sees when catering to white-collared job-seekers – finding the right match for the right person. There are different ways one might use to identify a match, and that is really the unique piece – the secret sauce in nailing it in this segment.

“The variances in what people are looking for tends to change a lot with certain types of jobs. For example, if you’re looking at a field sales person, you would want to know about a set of things which are quite different from a sales person. You’ll probably have to consider if the person can speak the local language. If it’s a field-sales person, you’ll need to know if they possess a motorcycle,” explained Setlur.

Now, these may sound like very simple things, but when you put them all together, it forms a very complex web of what you actually want in those people.

Another seemingly-simple challenge that companies catering to this sector run into is that, being a price-conscious faction, job-seekers frequently change their mobile numbers. The company doesn’t have a ready answer for it at this point, but they are working on it, and will eventually develop a work-around.

“One thing that data analytics has really helped us out with is to understand the gap in skill of the job-seekers. This gives us a much deeper insight into what skills they need and how to get those skills across to them,” added Setlur.

Eventually, the aim is to enhance the candidate’s job prospects to ensure that down the line, the company will be able to place the candidate in the ideal job.

Will you send me an angel?

There are enough and more venture capitalists willing to dole out money for a prospective company. But the top-hats believe in buddying up with one who thoroughly understands the business. And yes, of course, one with deep pockets!

“The good thing is that whoever we’ve chosen to partner with, be it Khosla Impact, Grey Ghost, or Seek, these are people who understand what goes into building businesses right from the core, and these are people who’ve built very large businesses,” said Setlur. Seek, for instance, has built the largest job sites in China, Brazil and South Africa.

“Even today, we want to go about it in a measured manner, but scale extremely fast. We want to make sure that we get the fundamentals right. We love the fact that we’re solving a very crucial problem, but it’s absolutely crucial to have a very profitable business,” added Setlur.

So what is it that propels companies like these to fire on all cylinders?

“A lot of people keep writing back saying ‘because of you, we were able to find the right job’.” It’s feedback of this sort, and knowing that you’re making an impact on society, that constantly motivates us and fuels our drive,” beamed Setlur.