This IIT alum’s startup wants to fight workplace sexual harassment with technology
The ‘Me Too’ movement managed to bring about the discussion around sexual harassment at the workplace in India out in the open. What would earlier have been restricted to mostly rumours and hushed whispers became mainstream conversation and workplaces turning POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) compliant. And to help organisations stay compliant, several startups emerged in the last couple of years.
One such example is Lawcubator, a Bengaluru, Toronto, and Calgary-based legal tech startup set up in 2016. Its customisable software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based product is called POSHsecure.
Founder Neeraj Gupta explains, “POSHsecure is made for our Indian clientele and is India’s first digital assistant for POSH compliance. It is uniquely designed to help organisations manage all issues related to sexual harassment at the workplace in compliance with the POSH Act.”
Lawcubator Founder Neeraj Gupta
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 states that every organisation that has more than 10 employees needs to have an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), which has to be reconstituted every three years.
The ICC must have external members, and needs to report to the city's local complaints committee, and provide updates on the number of sexual harassment cases reported, along with the number of training sessions conducted during the year.
According to Neeraj, who is an IIT Roorkee alumnus, the Me Too movement has played a crucial role in shaping the startup’s first product.
“It has given us the confidence that the times are changing and that there is an urgent social need for the kind of product we are developing. We realised that in order to combat social-legal issues present across the globe, we need the help of technology,” he says.
So, what’s under the hood?
Lawcubator uses online animated content in English as well as local Indian languages in a story-based format across different themes, tailor-made for training at corporates, academic institutions, hotels, etc.
Neeraj says the online format is more economical, compared to face-to-face sessions conducted by experts and enables employees to go through it whenever they have time. It also provides specialised training to ICCs.
“The ICC of every company comprises employees who do not necessarily have a legal background. Hence, our specialised training module acts as a guide for the members. Our portal has templates of POSH policy drafts, awareness posters and other related legal templates to assist them,” says Neeraj.
The startup’s Complaint Management System (CMS) promises faster redressal of complaints with the portal sending regular reminders and notifications. Neeraj says the CMS ensures a process that is transparent, confidential and without any bias. The portal helps all the stakeholders remain up-to-date with the progress.
Submission of an annual report to the local complaints committee is mandatory for every company. To help organisations with this, Lawcubator’s CMS auto-generates annual reports by collating data already available on the portal.
“By incorporating technology in the redressal mechanism of workplace sexual harassment, the process has been made exponentially faster, easier, and more discrete. Moreover, through our C-T-N methodology, which stands for ‘Content-Technology-Network’, our tool is a one-stop-shop for all the needs and requirements of a company,” says Neeraj.
The startup also helps identify and appoint the mandatory external member of the ICC through its pan-India network of consultants that includes lawyers and NGOs. “Based on our client’s place of operation, we can recommend external members who have already been verified by us,” says Neeraj.
The Canadian entry with global expansion in sight
Lawcubator’s second offering ‘EQsense’ is aimed at the international market, and is currently being beta-tested in Canada. The startup plans to release the product in 20 countries, including the US, the UK, Sweden, and Mexico by 2021.
EQsense, also a SaaS product, delves into every legal compliance issue related to the workplace, such as health and safety, equality, disability, and diversity and inclusion.
“It is designed to create a happy and safe workplace free from harassment, discrimination, and violence. It is developed in accordance with various national and provincial legislations to ensure holistic and efficient management of the workplace,” says Neeraj.
At present, the startup is working on an artificial intelligence-powered (AI) chatbot to interact with employees for harassment and equality-related issues.
Lawcubator also plans to launch legal tech platforms for immigration, corporate law, and contract law by next year. “We follow a platform approach, wherein the same product can be launched in different countries by customising it according to that country’s law,” Neeraj adds.
Competition and clients
While there are several companies, such as Ungender and Sexual Harassment Law Compliance (SHLC) working in the POSH compliance space, Neeraj believes the market is big enough for everyone to grow in it. The founder claims that the legal tech market is estimated to be worth around $100 billion and expected to grow to $1 trillion by 2025.
Commenting on Lawcubator’s USP, Neeraj says, “Our deep understanding about law and technology differentiates us from several startups. Our approach is more global and we plan to make it a truly global legal tech firm.”
The startup’s client list is fairly long, considering it launched POSHsecure just six months back in India and EQsense last month in Canada. Some of its clients include Urban Ladder, Vijay Karnataka, Puravankara, Clarks Exotica, and Firstsource.
Lawcubator has over 100 clients and 40,000 users on its POSHsecure platform in India. The startup aims to onboard 10,000 clients and 20 lakh users by the end of 2020 in India, and 5,000 clients and 10 lakh users in Canada.
Its revenue model is subscription-based, where it charges a fixed amount based on the number of users with a client. Lawcubator charges separately for providing external member services, face-to-face sessions, customised posters, etc.
Although he is reticent about giving out exact topline and bottomline numbers, Neeraj says that the startup has been witnessing a 200-percent growth on a month-on-month basis. He hopes that the company’s first product - POSHsecure - will break even by the end of March 2020.
The team and funds
Neeraj is primarily involved in business strategies, global expansion, and fundraising. He has a BTech degree for IIT Roorkee and an MS from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweden. He has also completed a postgraduate diploma programme in Management for Executives in General Management from UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Ashish Lohiya, an IIT Kanpur alumnus, is the CEO of Lawcubator. “He lays down the technical foundation and creates the backbone of our products,” says Neeraj.
Sreemoyee Malakar is the COO and “the legal mind of Lawcubator”. She has a Bachelor’s in Law from the National Law University, Lucknow. Sreemoyee is primarily responsible for simplifying the law and merging it with technology, and conducting legal research to identify new markets.
The Lawcubator "technoLAWgists"
The startup has a total of 25 “technoLAWgists”, who work across the departments of legal and content, design, tech, sales and marketing, and strategy and growth.
At present, Lawcubator is bootstrapped with $750,000 raised from the founder, his friends and family. The startup is in the process of raising $6 million in its Series A round from Canada, India, and US-based VC funds.
The money raised will be used to expand its domain and create new international products in the legal tech space.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)