Ashok Shastry, ConsultGenie: Find qualified & verified independent consultants for short-term assignments

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We at YourStory.in caught up with entrepreneur Ashok Shastry to know more about the business idea behind his venture ConsultGenie, an online market place for businesses to find consultants for short-term projects. Given below are excerpts from the interview:

Ashok, introduce us to the business idea behind ConsultGenie.

ConsultGenie is an online market space where business find qualified and verified independent consultants for short term assignments swiftly and cost efficiently. Here, independent professionals find premium assignments with leading businesses in a flexible and reliable way, and at market led rates. ConsultGenie also offers pre-selection service, which entails candidate screening and technical interviewing in a highly process-driven manner, with guarantees on turnaround time and selection rates.

How is ConsultGenie different from other recruitment firms? What are your flagship differentiators?

ConsultGenie is not a recruitment firm, in the first place. We offer unique services such as independent consulting in an online model, pre-selection and advanced employability services, which are designed to bridge behavioural and skill gaps of experienced professionals and enhances their employability.

How did the business idea for ConsultGenie come about?

After coming back fromCanadawith an MBA degree in 2005, I realized that the independent consulting industry inIndiawas totally unorganized and millions of professionals didn’t know how to find opportunities. After doing a bit of research, I concluded that there was a potential market for independent consulting, except that people didn’t know. In the West, especially US, 70% of the workforce is independent and I believe their professionalism had something to do with the accountability that comes with being independent.

The numbers, as per my research, suggested that there were more than 2 lakh senior professionals inIndia who could become independent consultants. That is 5% of the organized workforce inIndia. Thus, I decided to build an online market space for independent consultants inIndia.

 

 

Tell us about your background.

To become an entrepreneur was something which was in me since the very beginning. I tried 3 businesses while in college and failed. I enjoyed mixing with technical people and forming business plans around their technical ideas. I started making inverters in 1995 and sold about 500 units before I ran out of money. An MBA degree from Queen'sSchool of Business,Ontario,Canadaand an engineering degree fromMysoreUniversitystrengthened my fundamentals and analytical abilities. I founded a software consulting firm, Lateral Systems, in 2006 and ran it for a year before starting ConsultGenie.

Is there acceptance for your concept?

The concept started with the idea of building an online market for independent professionals. By the second year of the business, a new trend emerged – large and medium companies didn’t have the bandwidth or skills for large scale candidate selections. Assume a company hiring 30,000 people. It requires more than 5 lakh candidates to be sourced, screened and interviewed up to 3 times before hiring. Recruitment teams are struggling to get time from technical folks for interviews and this leads to battles between recruitment and delivery teams. Add to it other problems such as lack of transparency and conflicts of interest on the part of interviewers. With 3,000+ technical consultants, ConsultGenie spotted an opportunity to convert its consultants into certified professional interviewers and offer pre selection as a service. It worked and pre selection today contributes a significant chunk to our revenues.

We have 700+ certified interviewers across the country and deliver more than 6,000 interviews per month. We also offer SLAs around turnaround time and selection rates.

What is the size of the market that you’re addressing?

At a very high level, we can confidently peg the pre selection market to about 25% of the recruitment market and roughly 1% of the staffing market. These numbers are based on our revenues and our share of revenue when we work with these partners. The pre selection market, in our opinion, today is Rs. 250 crores with a potential of more than Rs. 1,000 crores in the next few years.

Where do you see the independent consulting space and ConsultGenie five years from now? Who are your potential customers?

Our vision and aim is to be the most innovative and respected player in the Indian manpower and consulting industries. The motive to organize the unorganized independent consulting industry inIndiaand create a new market is being executed at its pace. As for pre selection, we want the top 200 companies in the country to outsource all their selection process to us. If you look at our services – online market space for independent consulting, pre selection and advanced employability services – they’re all unique and we’re the first to offer them. Our potential customers are mid to large IT, banking and staffing companies.

What is ConsultGenie’s revenue model? Also, have you been funded?

ConsultGenie has multiple revenue models for different types of customers. We offer fixed price, subscription and outcome-based models. ConsultGenie’s 2010 revenue was Rs. 2.5 crores and we’re expecting to close this year at Rs. 6 crores and do Rs. 20+ crores by next year. We hope to exceed Rs. 50 crores by March 2014. We’re planning a massive expansion by next year. We were funded by individual investors in the first year.

What are the challenges that you faced while developing your solution? How did you overcome those challenges?

ConsultGenie’s USP lies in guarantees around domain expertise, consultant quality, availability and process excellence. Scaling something like this is not easy as we face the risk of tarnishing our value proposition. A large chunk of our leads come via references and it’s important to keep customers happy, which means investing significant amounts of time on each customer. A second challenge is also that our services are new and unique and sales cycles are lengthy. We manage these risks by going for sustained growth and keeping customers excited.

How big is the team behind ConsultGenie?

ConsultGenie has 3,000 consultants, 700+ certified professional interviewers, 150 trainers and 38 full time employees. We intend to cross 100 by next year and also, hire some senior talent.

Let us know about your expansion plans.

We aim to be present in all major cities inIndiaby next year and work with the top 50 customers. We also plan to build new services such as advanced employability services for senior professionals by bridging their skill and behavioral gaps and helping them obtain their target jobs. The market is concentrated in all big cities inIndia. However, when we move into non IT industries, the geographical spread may vary slightly, with Mumbai and Chennai emerging at the top. Sometime next year, we may start working with US based customers.

To know more about this venture in the recruitment consulting space, check out www.consultgenie.com. Also, do let us know what you think of this story by writing to us at feedback@yourstory.in.

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