WaaS startup Meraqui is helping blue collar workforce find relevant gigs in India
India has approximately 70 million enterprises, of which about a fifth of them have offices and a GST number, as per staffing solutions provider TeamLease’s 2020 annual report estimates.
Conversely, the country has approximately 450 million blue collar workers, according to BetterPlace’s blue collar workforce report, of which only 8-10 percent have access to formal jobs, less than 5 percent have access to upskilling opportunities, and only 1-2 percent have access to formal credit.
While doing their research, Shalin Maheshwari and Lalit Singh felt the space was highly fragmented and most operators were small, serviced a specific activity of lifecycle management of the workforce, and used very little technology.
“We felt a partner for both stakeholders (employers and employees) is a must to focus on what they do best and not be bothered with the nuances around the lifecycle management of an employee,” says Shalin.
“Organisations want fulfillment of their plans and a stable partner who can assist them reliably, transparently, and efficiently. This is when we decided to create Meraqui, a workforce management as a service (WaaS),” he adds.
Founded in 2019, Mumbai-basedis a tech-enabled platform that provides holistic, end-to-end lifecycle management of grey and blue collared workforce.
“We are the bridge between employers and the workforce. We are sector agnostic, but majority of our work is in ecommerce, logistics, supply chain, warehousing, and manufacturing sectors,” Shalin tells YourStory.
The startup is present in over 25 states and 82+ cities across India, and has partnership with 150+ clients, who are marquee global and Indian blue-chip companies, MNCs, and unicorns.
Meraqui’s proprietary tech stack Sheldon workflow covers all aspects of hiring and managing -- from facilitating recruiters and nodes to conducting interviews. Selected candidates receive a DIY onboarding link through chat bot/SMS to ensure OCR-backed automated background verification and onboarding of candidates.
Once candidates are on-boarded, GPS enabled geo fencing/facial recognition-based attendance management module is used to arrive at timesheets that feed into payroll module for automated pay register generation.
“The system has a full-fledged ENGAGE ecosystem for all the stakeholders. The clients have a portal with a single window, which gives transparent view on their workforce and status of compliance, payment, and so on. Workers have job, skill, and money opportunities in their pocket through the ‘Mera World’ Android app. One of the most loved features includes a pre-approved early wages feature that helps them in times of emergency or even otherwise,” Shalin adds.
According to Shalin, Meraqui sources workers from tier-III and IV cities and rural areas, which is something that clients love about the startup.
The startup’s Sheldon Match Logic AI Engine claims to ensure best-fit match for a given job with the candidate leading to higher degree of candidate satisfaction and reducing attrition at client sites significantly.
“Our end-to-end workflow along with an ecosystem approach towards candidates as well as clients is our third USP that makes our offerings unique,” says Shalin
“Larger players in this space definitely have a legacy to back them, but new age companies like ours with an agile approach help us to win over customers with faster execution and custom made solutions to their challenges,” he adds.
Shalin and Lalit previously worked together at fintech platform KapitalTech.
Lalit is an engineer and did his master’s in IT from NITIE Mumbai. He has worked with tech companies like i2 Technologies, ITC InfoTech, Samsung, and Unilever IT.
Shalin is a healthcare professional, with a sound understanding of business needs and operations from his family businesses in healthcare, pharma, manufacturing, and financial services.
“We constantly saw issues on both sides -- employer and employee -- and an absence of a bridge between them, specifically for blue and grey collar workers. From 2016-2018 we had evolved our thoughts and ideas about this space, and we were convinced to commit ourselves dedicatedly to this endeavor. In January 2019, we launched Meraqui,” says Shalin.
Meraqui has a lean team of approximately 70 people.
The market and future
As per Verified Market Research, workforce management is expected to be a $570 billion industry by 2028. India’s average is less than a third of global average in terms of prevalence and penetration of flexi-staffing.
“With increasing infrastructure spend, digitisation focus, PLI schemes, modernisation pushed by the government, increasing investments in Indian startups which increase job creation, and China+1 policy globally, we have adequate tailwinds for organised players in this space to blossom,” Shalin says.
Meraqui claims to have been growing almost 250 percent year-on-year since inception, with positive unit economics.
“We are currently at an ARR of Rs 100 crore with 4x growth plans secured for the coming fiscal. We are seeing maximum growth in Delhi-NCR in the North and Bengaluru in the South. Geographically, the contribution from South is (40 percent), North (25 percent), West (25 percent), and East (10 percent),” comments Shalin.
In India, Meraqui faces competition from players like Smartstaff, Betterplace, Vahan, etc., while globally Workrise and Jobs&Talent are creating much value in this space.
“Our services start with just hire only, i.e., providing recruitment solutions and we charge them a one-time fee to hire and manage. We use our platform capabilities to enable operational management of workforce like sourcing, on-boarding, attendance, payroll, compliance, upskilling, financial benefits, etc., wherein we do everything from recruitment to complete workforce management for our industry partners. About 95 percent work is in complete hire and manage, also called workforce as a service (WaaS), which is a recurrent revenue model charged monthly,” he says.
The startup aims to onboard more than three lakh associates on its platform for over 2,000 clients, with an ARR of Rs 4,000 crore by 2025.
“We are keen to expand and strengthen our presence across the country and bolster our value added services to our associates. Our approach is B2B2C and would like to engage with large organisations in the country, and at the same time retain our associates onto our platform once on board by providing them all ingredients for career growth, health, financial assistance, and benefits. We have been approached by investors and are actively talking with them to raise funds for our next leg of growth,” Shalin adds.
Meraqui has raised an investment of approximately $1 million in debt and equity from friends, family and Saraf Family Office.