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Ex-Googler, Paul V. Rivera, aiming to transform the Philippines BPO industry with Kalibrr

Ex-Googler, Paul V. Rivera, aiming to transform the Philippines BPO industry with Kalibrr

Thursday August 15, 2013 , 6 min Read

Paul Kalibrr

Entrepreneur Paul V. Rivera was born in the Philippines. At age 5, he shifted to the US along with his parents. He studied Economics at University of California, Berkeley. At 22 he joined a venture backed e-commerce startup in the US, his first assignment was to set up the offshore operations in Bangalore. Paul spent the next 2 years in India and set up a 100-people team in Bangalore. Post which he returned to the US, and joined Google. After a stint there, he returned to the Philippines in 2007 to catch on the outsourcing wave that was just going to hit the Philippines.After starting and running a successful 300-people BPO company, he has now started a product tech startup, Kalibrr. We spoke to Paul to know more about his journey. Below are the edited excerpts:

Rediscovering the roots

I had always wanted to become an entrepreneur. While I was at Google, I was roped in by a friend who used to run call centers for AOL and Citibank. He propositioned me to be a co-founder with him to start a call center in the Philippines. I left Google in 2007, to start my own BPO, called the Open Access BPO, focussed on working with Silicon Valley startups. Some of our first and earliest customers were the likes of etc. I built that company to over a 300-people company, and through my experience of building Open Access and my experience setting up offshore operations in Bangalore, I realized a bigger problem that needs to be solved - which is to help people find jobs, and help companies find, train and hire the best talent. That was the genesis of Kalibrr.

At 24 years, when I had the opportunity to become an entrepreneur, and that too in my home country, I could not say no to the possibilities!

In the hindsight

What brought me back to the Philippines was the opportunity to set up a call center here. Also, drawing from my experiences, I understood the outsourcing wave. It started in India. Bangalore was one of the major hubs. I saw how that wave was very transformative for India. And at that time, the wave was just touching the Philippines. Now, looking back, in 2007 the Philippines was not even there on the outsourcing map, but now the Philippines is the no.1 call center destination in the world. In hindsight, I knew the wave was going to hit the Philippines, but I did not know it was going to hit this big and this fast. So I was riding a global wave of outsourcing.

BPO to product tech

I ran Open Access for 5 years, and I always wanted to do a product company. Three years ago I started brainstorming what Kalibrr could become. I had all these people who were applying at Open Access, who were all educated but lacked specific skills. That is when, in 2012, I decided that I would give up my executive position at Open Access and focus all my energy on building Kalibrr.

What is Kalibrr 

We help transform recruiting at companies, and we help people get jobs. We do online assessments and trainings for candidates that help hone their skills and get jobs. On the other hand, we help companies identify, assess and hire the best talent possible.

Go to market

We are starting our pilot next month with the largest company in the Philippines. We will start working with a large BPO as our second pilot. We will first focus on working with these two companies. The first company last interviewed 44,000 people and they hired 3,000 people - that is the volume we are talking about in Philippines. If you look at the industry, there are a million people working in it, with 60% yearly attrition, you can see the challenge when it comes to hiring people. We want to be able to help hundreds of thousands of people in the next one year and the way to do that is to work with the largest companies in the Philippines

Gaps in talent market

We are going to focus on three core skills that are relevant for customer service and technical support, viz. English communication, technology fluency, and soft skills to work in the global markets.

Market size

The Philippines BPO is a 25 billion dollar industry per year. In India, it is 120 billion dollars. Globally, it is about 275 billion dollars. Conservatively if you assume a company spends 5% of their total revenue on recruiting and training - that would be our global TAM.

Initial challenges

Building and recruiting a technical team was a big challenge. We always wanted to create a Silicon Valley standard company in the Philippines; so, hiring was a big challenge. We are one of the very few startups here trying to do something innovative and challenging; so, getting people to buy into that vision was a big challenge as well.

Revenue model

It is a SaaS model. You can buy credits on our platform which can be used for online assessments.

The Philippines startup ecosystem

It is very nascent and still emerging. When I started in January 2012, there was no seed funding network. Now there are two prominent seed funders and incubators in the Philippines. Now startups are becoming a topic of discussion among the new college graduates because of the economic development in the last 3 years, and the Philippines is seen as a healthy place to do business. Most people talk about replicating Silicon Valley, but I don’t think we can. What we can replicate however is a mind-set of innovation and entrepreneurship that needs to be supported by funding from friends and family, and funding at all stages. There is a lot of creativity in the Philippines, what we need is more entrepreneurs with bold ideas.

Technology entrepreneurs that I look upto

In the Philippines I look up to Dado Banatao; he was the creator of integrated graphics chip, sold that company to Intel for 200 million dollars, and sold two other companies. 30% of chips in all our computers are his inventions. He is called the Philippines’ Bill Gates - probably the most successful Filipino entrepreneur - extremely humble man, and someone we all look up to.

Ultimate Vision

My vision is to create a LinkedIn for emerging markets and help people get their first jobs. We want to grow fast in the Philippines, then set up base in India, and then going into other fast emerging markets where there is an acute need for freshers. We want to become a two-sided platform where job seekers come to train themselves, and companies come to hire the best talent.

Word to YourStory readers

I had an amazing experience in Bangalore. People I worked with were amazing. And people in India are extremely enterprising. I plan to bring Kalibrr to India soon. I can’t wait to come to India soon!