[The Turning Point] Why these McKinsey and EY consultants built a HR product now used by Bisleri, Swiggy, and Paytm

The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. Today, we look at Darwinbox, the Hyderabad-based HRtech startup.

One of the biggest assets for any organisation is its people. And while every organisation has an HR team and function, few are able to effectively use technology to solve many needs and requirements of the employee.

This situation made IIT-IIM alumni Jayant Paleti and Rohit Chennamaneni team up XLRI alumnus Chaitanya Peddi with a mission to make a dent in the HR software product universe.

“We were working for the likes of McKinsey and EY and their clients and those companies themselves did not have the best HR systems. The main asset for these companies is its people and they needed the best of systems for HR. We felt if we can do a good job then there definitely is a market for a strong HRtech platform,” says Rohit.

So, in 2015, the trio started Darwinbox with an investment of less than Rs 30 lakh. Their first breakthrough had come in the form of Delhivery.

But it just wasn’t the founders’ collective experience at previous workplaces that got them started on Darwinbox. Jayant recollects an incident where he was advising a company for a merger. Back in Hyderabad, a large pharma was talking to a global company for a takeover and the founders of the pharma had no data about their HR function while at a meeting with the company.

Darwin founders Rohit, Jayant, Chaitanya

"I was surprised to see that the founders were not able to speak about the HR function at a board meeting. They had no idea about the attrition in their own company and claimed that it was less," says Jayant.

The buying company did not worry much about the attrition rate, but Jayant asked the pharma founder to dig into their HR data. They then found out that the attrition rate was way more than what the founders had claimed it to be. Jayant explains that there were three different HR software in that office, making data capture even more difficult.

With Darwinbox, the founders took a stab at the problem differently. “Our product’s focus is on solving the challenges of people function in large and diverse organisations with complex structures using the best of technologies. We will invest heavily in further strengthening our platform, especially our analytical layer with AI and ML capabilities to aid decision making,” Chaitanya says.

Today, Darwinbox operates in the same space as giants like Oracle, Workday, and SAP. The startup also recently raised a $15-million Series B funding led by Sequoia India and existing investors Endiya Partners, Lightspeed India Partners, and 3one4 Capital.

Some of Darwinbox’s clients include Bisleri, Swiggy, Paytm, Dr Reddy’s, Bharti AXA, Adani, and Mahindra Group. The team has focused on several sectors, including retail, technology, BSFI, manufacturing, healthcare, consumer products, and manufacturing. 

The team claims that its customer base has increased 5x and revenue has grown by 900 percent.

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)