Rakesh, if someone asked you tell them about Crederity in about 3 sentences, what would you say?
I’d tell them that Crederity is a rapidly growing, award-winning information technology & risk mitigation company that enables individuals and businesses of integrity to stand apart while safeguarding them against fraud through an online verification and certification program. We do employee screening (pre & post-hire checks), vendor screening (enhanced due diligence) and customer screening (compliance database checks).
Tell us about your background.
Well, I’m a Gujarati who was born and brought up in Gujarat. I hold a Bachelor of Sciences degree from Gujarat University. I worked as a project engineer with IPCL, which has since been taken over by Reliance. I did this for more than a year and then I moved to the US to do my Masters in Information Systems. This was in 1999. Soon, I was hired by Lucent (now Alcatel Lucent) as an intern. So, I was pursuing my Masters and interning at the same time. Eventually, they hired me full-time and I ended up spending 7 years at Lucent.
During my time there, I had the opportunity to head some in-house projects. This was like running a bunch of small companies within the company. I worked on projects pertaining to portfolio management, intranet tools, etc. I had the opportunity to build teams and products from ground up. This gave me great exposure to new product launch, sales and the various aspects of running a business. At this point, I was also involved with another startup called Intivia, a medical processes outsourcing company serving 200+ organizations across USA.
So, how did Crederity come into the picture?
At around the same time, I managed to get admission into Wharton’s Executive Masters program in Technology Management. This is where I found my partner, Alex Mittal. He was a young scientist and had started two companies before the age of 22. He was a complete genius and together, we wanted to introduce a new product. I had had a few bad experiences outsourcing work to people who overstated their credentials and eventually, couldn’t deliver. Traditionally, the person who hires does the verification. So, we struck upon the idea of flipping the model. The question we asked was, why can’t people who want to get hired come with certification? We noticed that credential verification took the longest amount of time in the hiring cycle and we wanted to shorten it.
The idea was fashioned on the lines of the PayPal model. Like digital currency, we wanted to create digital certificates that people append to their résumés, websites, etc. We submitted this for the Wharton Business Plan Competition and we were a semi-finalist. This was 2005. A couple of angel investors also expressed their interest in the idea. But we managed to get incubated at the Wharton School of Business itself. Apart from the infrastructure, the school also provided us with mentorship and most importantly, a sense of validation. We even received initial funding from Ventureast, a stage-agnostic India-based VC fund backed by Google amongst others.
Post-incubation, what was Crederity’s story?
We were doing a considerable amount of concept testing and market testing. With my IT background, I put the alpha product together. Meanwhile, we finished the course and the company took off properly by around 2007. We analysed market conditions and realised that the Indian market for credential verification was at a very nascent stage. The US already had a lot of data sources. Under such circumstances, we realised that we could create more value in India and accordingly, the focus shifted.
Simultaneously, we also realised that the individual certification was a long-tail strategy and that we needed to build Crederity’s credibility. We also had to be operationally capable to carry out verifications. So, we decided to get into the enterprise market for operational sustenance. In 2008, we had our first customer in Intec. And they’re still with us. We started building enterprise cells while strengthening the product for individual certification. At the same time, we also started building massive databases to ensure that we had a long-term competitive advantage.
So, how does the verification process work?
Usually, checks happen after an offer has been rolled out. But that’s pretty late in the cycle. A considerable time investment is already made and in some cases, the candidates also get exposed to some amount of intellectual property. At Crederity, we make it possible to do checks before hiring. And we involve the candidate in the process of verification.
We have a proprietary platform called the Employee Life Management (ELM) Suite and we allow HR managers at companies, access to this platform. Typically, an HR person can roll out offers from the ELMSuite. They can also state what they’d like verified and the system gets in touch with the prospective employee and asks for the details. We have a robust backend with specialists to deal with the actual verification. This is in addition to the huge databases of colleges, degrees and institutions. For instance, if the HR wants to verify the veracity of the degree and last three years of employment, we get it done through a combination of manual, automated and process-based verification. This takes anywhere between 7 to 18 business days, depending on the depth of verification required.
Can you tell us about your clientele?
Some of the largest employers in the country and Fortune 50 companies are our clients. We have long-term contracts with most of them. The fact that we have international capability is a big boost. If you’d like me to offer names, I can think of IBM, Accenture, Convergys, etc. In the last 6-8 months, we’ve seen a lot of interest from the hospitality sector and the BFSI category as well.
From your experience, can you share with us the most common areas of misrepresentation?
People usually misrepresent designation, duration of employment and compensation. Degree verification is also a popular service. Increasingly, we also find a number of institutions and companies that issue fake certificates. So, we’ve built a database for that as well. Today, we have compliance databases that can be used to detect incidents or charges of white collar crime, money laundering, terrorist links, credit defaults, sex offenses, etc. We work closely with the police and other governmental organizations. In fact, we’re working with the UIDAI on downstream applications for authenticating identities.
What are the charges for verification?
For a company that wants to verify a prospective employee, the charges start at about Rs.1100/- per candidate and can go up to Rs.5000/-, depending on the extent of verification required. We even offer companies the option of verifying another firm that it intends to appoint as a franchisee or a vendor. If individuals seek to certify themselves, the fee starts at Rs.750/- and we offer discounts if they pick more than three credentials to be verified. The fee also varies according to location. For instance, if you’re in India and you want a foreign education stint certified, it’d typically cost you more. The benefit is that once you’re certified, you get the Crederity Verified seal and this can be passed on to your future employer/prospective business partner as certification.
Tell us about the team at Crederity.
We’ve grown five-fold in the last six months, in terms of number of employees. We now have more than 120 employees, with offices in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. We’re coming up with offices in Chennai and Hyderabad. We’re looking to hire more people.
As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are your challenges?
The joy is in value-creation. We’re the first company to standardize risk mitigation. Our individual certification module is completely unique and is doing rather well without much marketing. And our challenge is in getting the best to work for us. We have much lower attrition rates as compared to our counterparts. But we’d like to drive it down even more.
We at YourStory wish this entrepreneur and his venture all the very best. To know more about this startup, check outhttp://www.crederity.com/. Also, do let us know your thoughts about this story. You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 11th February 2011 | Bangalore