This fulfilment-oriented jobs startup aims to be the Naukri of the blue-collared workforce

Founded in 2020 in Delhi-NCR, Pragati Jobs is a fulfilment-oriented jobs startup aimed at the blue/grey collar (BGC) market.
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Despite the presence of multiple online recruitment platforms like Naukri, Shine, and Monster, Ambrish Bajaj felt that hiring entry level staff was still a challenge. A point that a lot of his startup founder friends attested to. 

“They used to say they get so many irrelevant CVs from job portals, which were a huge waste of time mostly as hirings never really closed through them. And, in my last job at HT, we built a mobile based workforce management system for 3000 field sales executives. Building products for that market gave me first-hand experience of challenges in this level of workforce, both from candidate and employer’s perspective,” says Ambrish. 

Pragati Jobs Team

Leaving his job at HT, Ambrish decided to do something in the blue-collared space. He launched Pragati Jobs, a fulfilment-oriented jobs platform aimed at the blue/grey collar (BGC) market. The startup was founded in 2020 in Delhi-NCR. 

Building the product 

For the first few months, Ambrish spoke to 200 odd job seekers, and about 50 employers in this category, which led to the realisation that there was so much mistrust and lack of faith in the jobs ecosystem whether online or offline. 

Ultimately, people resort to taking help from friends or consultancies (who charge) to get a job, not always an optimal decision. Explaining how he started, Ambrish says, 

“I visited a job fair for entry level jobs in Noida in November 2019. There was a huge turnout of companies and job seekers. But due to inefficiencies in the process, which is evident across the ecosystem, less than 50 people got hired that day, out of 1000+ who came to the fair. This had to be improved. This was our Eureka moment!"

"There was no Naukri for blue collar jobs and workforce, and we went out to build a trusted and reliable jobs platform for both candidates and companies. The idea of Pragati Jobs was born, and we started working on it.”

The current team size is 10. Gaurav Jain, who was earlier with PwC, joined as co-founder. 

The pandemic effect 

“We were born during the pandemic in 2020. We had just got one engineer for about a month, who had barely coded a few features of our initial product and then covid struck (in March 2020). Covid threw up multiple challenges, which we lived through, and survived,” adds Ambrish. 

Another challenge Covid posed was their choice of customer segmentation. The initial months were spent building for the retail and hospitality industry, a segment which almost shut business in Covid. The team had to change direction. 

“We chose logistics/delivery, and that I feel is the most important decision we took. Even in the second wave, delivery and logistics demand continues to grow. It held us in steady and growing territory,” says Ambrish. 

Workings of the product 

Speaking of how they built the product, he says it was based on primary interactions with 5000+ candidates, 100+ employers, and analysis of ~200,000 user data points. 

For candidates, Pragati is a faster and trustworthy place to get a job. They find a job, check their eligibility and skills, and if they are qualified for the job (the screening logic gives instant feedback), they get connected to HR post qualification. 

Through instant feedback about eligibility and skills, the team can transparently and instantly communicate with candidates about next steps. Candidates either move successfully to the next steps or are rejected, for which the team gives feedback, so the candidate is not in the dark and can choose to apply to other jobs. 

“For employers, we solve ‘search, screen and schedule’ talent. HRs utilise pre-configured skills+eligibility tests to automatically filter out inbound applicants. The solution further enables HR to schedule candidates for interviews at the nearest location. This saves time for HR, and has improved conversion rates markedly, compared to industry average (factor of 5-8X),” says Ambrish.

Companies can sign-up on the job posting site, and post jobs. Each job is reviewed by us before making it live to ensure quality and correctness. Pragati Jobs’ job match engine ensures candidates are alerted about a new job based on their skills, locations, and other profile data. 

“We use WhatsApp to connect a screened candidate with a recruiter of our client. We have enabled over 30,000 such interactions via WhatsApp and phone calls,” says Ambrish. 

Pragati Jobs team

Market 

The pandemic has had a negative impact on the blue-collared workforce. According to a report by Betterplace, a platform for blue-collar workforce management, more than 10 lakh blue-collar jobs are estimated to be lost due to the ongoing pandemic.

Some of the startups in the space include- Betterplace, JustRojgar and Spayee. In the nine months of Pragati Jobs launch, the monthly traffic has grown 30X. The team aims to grow 40-50X in the next 12 months, and are looking for funds to support this. 

“At large companies, our main promise is that we can help them hire at scale and quality. We also reduce their operational hassles by automatic filtering of candidates and scheduling walk-ins through the product itself. We have improved their hiring rate by a margin of 5-8X. We are in the top 1-2 conversion channels for our customers,” adds Ambrish. 

Revenue model 

The team follows two pricing models - pay per outcome (PPO) and pay per qualified response (PPR). Value adds include lead management system, interviewing features, SMS alerts. Ambrish adds that they work on PPOs mostly with large companies and ecommerce players and on PPR models with Gig players and SMBs. 

The team is funded by a group of angel investors who are senior HR professionals and senior leaders in the consumer internet industry like Hotstar, and Makemytrip. The startup raised its initial funding in August last year to build the product and get POCs done.

“Most of the investment we raised went into product building, and a smaller portion went into marketing. We wanted to be confident through a series of trials that our product is solving job seekers and employers’ problems, and only then scale up,” adds Ambrish. 

The team started investing in online channels of acquisition in the last three months, however close to 60 percent of the traffic comes from non-paid channels like google search, social, referral, direct etc. 

Client base and future 

Ambrish adds that the cost of customer acquisition has been in a controlled mode, and in the last two months, “our revenue is greater than variable cost (marketing cost),” he claims. Pragati Jobs works with ecommerce, medicine, delivery players including Flipkart, Swiggy, Zomato, Pharmeasy, Dunzo, Shadofax etc to solve their blue collar workforce problems. 

“We also have numerous smaller clients, who hardly have HR teams. Our solutions almost act as their virtual recruitment team. The heavy lifting of going through so many CVs, calling 100s of candidates and then arranging walk-ins is almost eliminated. Our solution lets the small teams talk to interested and screened candidates, so that they can only focus on quality of hiring, while leaving the operational part to the tech. With smaller companies, our main differentiation is that we save them significant time in hiring, while ensuring they speak to only qualified candidates,” explains Ambrish.

The team now plans to add more job verticals and other blue/grey collar categories. The target clients would be largely new age tech startups in ecommerce, logistics, food, pharma, D2C space. 

“All these require field force to carry out sales, marketing, merchant acquisition, delivery etc. Our message to them would be: You focus on building a bigger user base and business using your tech, we will take care of building your field force (using our tech). We plan to launch our Android app in the next quarter. We are planning to further accelerate our growth to reach 1 million MAUs in the next 12 months with 10,000+ clients/jobs in 10 cities. We are also seeking funds to achieve this growth,” concludes Ambrish.

Edited by Anju Narayanan