Using tech for verification and background checks, this startup aims to "create trust"

Launched in 2016 by IIT Bombay graduates Piyush Peshwani and Vineet Bansal, Gurugram-based OnGrid is an ISO-certified digital platform for background verifications and checks. It has served more than 1,000 clients, and run over 20 million checks.
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The trust deficit across India is high. The diversity of languages, cultures, and belief systems mean trust doesn’t exist automatically – or grow organically.

“On one side of this trust gap are the individuals; on the other, we have employers and service providers. Establishing trust can create a lot of hassle and paperwork for both parties, leading to lost time, high costs, and sometimes lost opportunities for people, be it landing a job or getting access to a service,” says Piyush Peshwani Co-founder and CEO, OnGrid.

“At OnGrid, we are solving the problem of lack of trust by using technology solutions for verification, KYC, and background checks, so that organisations and service providers can onboard individuals seamlessly. We want individuals, including those from the unorganised sector, to be able to use their verified credentials, with complete choice and consent, to access jobs and services,” he says.

Gurugram-based OnGrid, which was started in 2016 by IIT Bombay graduates Piyush and Vineet Bansal, operates in the space of background verifications and checks.

 

The digital trust platform leverages the latest technologies to make trust establishment and accountability assurance faster, digital, and cost-effective. The OnGrid platform (web or APIs) can be used to verify employees and contractors to mitigate risk and ensure compliance.

Other scenarios where it can be used include verification of users, merchants, or customers in use cases such as disbursal of loan, offering an insurance product, giving a house, vehicle, or furniture on rent, etc.

The startup offers 40+ verifications and background checks, which can be instant (API responses), digital, and physical. It claims to have served more than 1,000 clients across multiple industries, and completed over 20 million checks. 

Getting started

Vineet and Piyush first met during their college days at IIT Bombay and stayed in the same hostel. They went their own ways after graduation. 

Piyush was part of the team working on the Aadhaar platform from 2010 to 2013. He has experience in the identity space, having advised governments, global philanthropic institutions like the Gates Foundation and World Bank, and large Indian businesses on the use of identity in enabling financial inclusion through direct benefits transfers (DBT), healthcare and instant access to services like getting a mobile connection or opening a bank account.

 

Working in the banking and financial investments space in New York, Vineet had closely witnessed the power of digitisation in the US economy and society. When he learned about the work happening in India on initiatives like Aadhaar and DBT, he decided to move back to India in 2015 to create an impact closer home.

Their Head of Technology, Qutbuddin Dahodwala, is an IIT-Delhi alum who they met through common friends. He decided to join the founding team after the trip and discussed the vision for OnGrid.

 

Since inception, the team has grown significantly in size – it now has 200 full-time employees and interns, and a PAN-India network of thousands of field verifiers for physical checks.

The USP

OnGrid's USP is that it offers a full-stack verification platform that can be used to verify anyone - be it white-collar employees, or blue-collar professionals, who work mostly as contractors, or on the payrolls of third-party vendors. It offers APIs that can be used to verify and onboard users, customers, loan applicants, merchants, or any service professionals or platform partners.

 

According to Piyush, OnGrid's solution removes the hassle for HR teams to collect information, documents or consent, as the candidates can provide this directly on the OnGrid platform, or even on the HRMS platform that integrates with OnGrid APIs. 

“We continue to grow at a rapid pace and have introduced new solutions such as eLockr and Gridlines for making trust establishment and verifications instant, cheaper, and more accurate,” Piyush says.

Through eLockr, the startup wants to disrupt the way employment records and income is verified globally. eLockr clients can issue digital credentials to their ex-employees to get free benefits like hassle-free automation, useful attrition insights, surveys , and privacy compliance by giving access to credentials to candidates, who can then control consent settings.   

The Gridlines API stack aims to help onboard users and customers instantly and meet their risk-mitigation and compliance objectives. These APIs include KYC from an identity standpoint (PAN/Aadhaar/voter ID/driving licence/passport/vehicle RC), bank account verification, GST verification, face match and document OCR (optical character recognition) by use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, COVID vaccination status check, compliance checks such as Aadhaar-PAN or Aadhaar-UAN linking checks, past employment checks through the EPFO infrastructure, etc.

“We have made investments in eLockr that makes employment verification instant, and with the complete consent of the individual. Such digital infrastructure has been missing in India. With eLockr, the turnaround time for employment verification has come down from one-two weeks to become instant,” Piyush tells YourStory.

Funding and monetisation

OnGrid raised an angel round of $450,000 at the time of inception and claims to have been profitable since the second year of its operation. 

The startup’s monetisation model is based on per candidate, per check. OnGrid APIs can be integrated in client systems for as low as Re 1 per API transaction. Clients can do exhaustive background checks on a prospective employee for a package price of less than Rs 1,000, which includes digital, physical, and hybrid checks.

 

OnGrid currently operates at an annual revenue rate of $5 million and has plans to reach $10 million in FY23, with healthy EBITDA margins.

It services clients across India and those with candidates spread across multiple English-speaking geographies. Most of the technology stack and global database checks (legal sanctions, enforcements, negative media checks) are designed to verify candidates in any part of the world.

 

The competition includes First Advantage, Pinkerton, HireRight, Sterling, and HelloVerify.

 

OnGrid’s clients span IT /ITeS/Tech including startups in banking, financial services, fintech, and insurance; logistics; transportation; ecommerce; retail; hospitality; food and beverages; healthcare; manufacturing and staffing; social media; and gaming and entertainment.

Lalit Keshre, Co-founder and CEO, Groww, says: "Our HR team evaluated potential background verification partners in 2019, and we decided to go with OnGrid because of their user-friendly digital platform approach. We have been using them for over two years now and run six to eight checks per employee."

Mayanka Batra, HR Head at Aeon Credit Service Pvt Ltd, agrees. " Our decision to go with OnGrid in 2018 was based on the fact that they are a fully automated platform and offer a range of record checks.”

The present and the future

Piyush says the market is fast growing with an increasing number of use cases (onboarding and verification of candidates and customers across jobs and services). 

The global identity verification market size is forecast to grow from $8.6 billion in 2021 to $18.6 billion by 2026, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 16.6 percent during 2021-2026, according to a report by MarketsAndMarkets

“If you add other components of background verification and trust establishment (other than identity), the market size will grow to an overall number of $30 billion by 2026,” says Piyush.

“Factors such as the rise of the gig economy, COVID-induced remote work, the Great Resignation, and digital onboarding will be the key catalysts for our business and can potentially expand the addressable market significantly. 

“OnGrid aspires to be the number one player in the verifications space in India. In 2022, we are also planning a global expansion of all our offerings — OnGrid background verification, eLockr, and Gridlines API suite,” Piyush says.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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