411Staff: Organising the unorganised labour in our country
If there is a sector which has seen the baby boomer effect most after e-commerce, it is the recruitment space. With likes of Monster and Naukri used for hiring niche and highly skilled workers, the sector has lately witnessed startups plunging into the unorganized job sector as well. Kat Ganeshan, the founder of 411staff, says he has similar offerings with a bit of spice and variety.
Kat’s an old hand at recruitment
Kat who grew up in Chennai, moved to East Coast post his engineering. He had a variety of corporate stints as software programmer, consultant and angel investor. Later in 2007, he founded NXG Group, an IT services company, but his his inspiration for 411staff came from his previous venture HireSquare. “After interviewing several IT consultants and HR managers for my project HireSquare, I found that progress in their career was stymied after they joined Fortune 500 companies. HireSquare was a project to help these young IT professionals,” shares Kat who also won a winner at the Microsoft TechCrunch Hackathon 2012 in New York.
Kat joined hands with Saritha Thudi to launch 411staff. Saritha has been a software engineer for more than 10+ years and has worked at AT&T, Qualcomm et al. At 411staff, she leads the development of all products as well as the supply chain, demand planning and business intelligence domain.She has designed and developed mid and large scale multi-tier distributed enterprise applications, PHP and Internet applications in her previous stints
Spotting the opportunity
Kat’s visit to India in Nov-Dec 2012 was an eye opener. During his junket to Kerala and other places in South India, he came across several low-income workers, who struggled a lot to find a decent job near their home. “Most of the casual workers either blame government, or the lack of education, internet knowledge and computer for their penury. And have given in to their situation,” says Kat. Kat decided to make a difference in this space and do his bit to change things. He registered the domain 411Staff.com earlier this year on 21-Feb-2013 to start his new venture.
411Staff connects casual labourers and helps them be more productive and successful. When you join 411Staff, you get access to casual labourers and informal sector workers (drivers, technicians, cashiers, beautician, nanny, nurse, accountant, cooks, maids, security guards, office helpers, etc.) “However, registering through internet for these folks was like a book on how to read! So we leveraged mobile and SMS technology to offer our services. We started our operations in Chennai and Hyderabad. Anyone can call our numbers, register and seek job to move up in their career,” shares Saritha on the operations part. The numbers for registration are as follows for Chennai are 044 66 949 411 & 044 66 949 412 and in Hyderabad it is 040 66 588 401 & 040 66 588 402.
However, the difficult part was to get on board such workers to be part of 411staff. The duo was aware of this problem and deployed field agents for marketing their services. The field agents would scout for low income workers and help them register with 411Staff. On the other side, middle and higher middle income class is the service seeker. They are in search of reliable labour which 411staff provides. There are couple of other players in the space like CVBhejo, Babajob et al. However, that doesn’t worry Kat. Instead he says, “The market is huge and opportunities in abundance. Also, we provide additional services besides bridging the gap. We train the labours with some basic skills like operating electrical appliances, a bit of language skill so they can perform menial tasks etc.”
Hitherto, they have consulted 4000+ individuals and helped around 200+ people find a good job. With an investment of about two crores, it will take some time for 411Staff before they actually start making profits. “We are in no hurry either. We do not charge the labourers on commission basis as other firms do. We only charge the service seekers and that is our prime source of income,” explains Saritha about the revenue model. Based out of Hyderabad, the team consists of around 10 – 15 people including business development managers, field agents and data entry operators.
Dealing with an uneducated class brings a handful of challenges, says Kat. Payment system, getting trainers to train these blue collar workers to help put them back in the workforce, rating these skilled workers and scaling up the business model are some of challenged that the firm faces at present. A lot of firms have requested partnerships, but the duo has politely denied any affiliations, claims Kat. The firm wants to concentrate on the major cities and rollout the services in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore by 2014.