InstaTaskers - The story of my startup journey with freelancers and friends
Eight years after passing out of the hallowed portals of IIMA, I had begun to feel that corporate life was indeed monotonous. As part of the corporate grind, I had sampled various functions including strategy, finance, and even HR. Working with the strategy team of a 5,000-strong real estate developer, I made key decisions that led the company to the position of the largest real estate developer in India. I had a good resume, but I felt stagnant and found myself repeating the same cycle of assignments over and over. Corporate life, with all its processes and pep talks, had become easy and predictable to me. I realised I needed a challenge to grow and was on the lookout for my aha! moment when a mutual friend introduced me to Kunal. Kunal had just completed his MBA and had been pondering over the benefits freelancers could bring to SMBs. On the other hand, my friends and family had already filled my head with rants about the dearth of on-demand quality talent, and the hassle of long onboarding for good hires. Together, Kunal and I quickly hit on the idea of starting InstaTaskers – a platform that connects freelance talent to businesses.
From theory to practice
Taking an idea from the recesses of your mind and turning it into a profit-making venture is easier said than done; even for someone with years of experience. The first year of entrepreneurship has given me a different perspective of a successful business.
There are four main things that a startup needs to get together before they can think of any solid business – the concept, the core team (founders), the right talent (non-founders such as employees, contractors, freelancers) and the finances. No moolah, no work! Early-stage startups have a big problem with the third item on that checklist – the right talent. For small businesses, the added caveat is that this talent should also come at the right price.
We at InstaTaskers focus on this third aspect – the issues of finding the right talent. It is especially hard for businesses which have sporadic projects requiring high-quality talent on an urgent basis. The latest India Recruiting Trends report from LinkedIn Talent Solutions mentions that the deficit between hiring volumes and hiring budget has increased. On the other hand, quality of hire is the most important KPI followed by the time taken to fill a position. Mostly, businesses do not even have the time to go through the entire cycle of hiring and onboarding someone to finish a priority project. InstaTaskers matches businesses' requirements, budget, and timeline with the capabilities, price point and bandwidth of curated ‘Taskers’ (the term we coined for our freelancers and agencies). The need for this on-demand talent pool is further validated by the fact that in just a year since inception, we have managed to seal 500 deals, generate close to 1900 leads and bring about 1200 Taskers into our fold!
Taking the plunge
In India, freelancing is an up-and-coming sector. Though the number of talented experts and good opportunities has increased, most still fear that being a full-time freelancer might not help you cut the deal in the marriage market. The industry has been plagued with issues of flight risk and distrust, but it is all set to change.
The biggest issue with freelancing in India is the trust factor – you do not know who you are hiring, and the hiree does not know if you will keep your word and pay them on time. However, when you use the right platform to scout for the talent you know exactly who you are dealing with. Your ‘talent’ is not a funny email id on the web; it is a genuine person who you can communicate with by phone, mail, or in person if you so wish. Trust? Check.
The second issue is matching business requirements with talent. This is very hard to do on platforms where freelancers must bid for leads. You are swamped with emails and phone calls discussing money, while talent and expertise take a backseat. Instead, if the system matches you with the right talent and cuts through the needless bidding war, both the business and the freelancer get what they need without any drama. The talent here is of course verified and chosen from a curated pool, so you can rest assured that only the best comes your way. For a freelancer, this process eliminates stalling, allows them to do good work without cutting corners for price reasons, and increases lead conversion. Win win for both!
Payments have also been a huge pain point for the Indian freelancing industry. A good hiring platform should allow you to post your requirements for free, and have a secure and safe payment mechanism which eliminates flight risk. So, the business pays only when their requirements have been met, and the freelancer knows that quality work will not go unrewarded. No flight risk? Check, again.
From the horse’s mouth
At InstaTaskers, our endeavour has been to create this seamless and foolproof mechanism for both businesses and freelancers. And we must be doing something right because the praise has been pouring in. This from a client who manages a content agency and has recently started working with us: "I want to add at this point that I regularly get tasks done from various online marketplaces & other freelancers, and I believe your freelancers are definitely a gem in your kitty for the kind of sincerity & discipline that they bring."
Another client who had failed to get his website application up and running for a year and had tried working with (and lost time and money) with three separate teams before he came to us, said this: “Working with your developers has been such a change - The discussion with the developers is peer to peer. And they do try to understand what is needed rather than just coding mindlessly.”
This is what has kept Kunal and I going since the fateful day our acquaintance morphed into a well-oiled business partnership. We believe that the 15 million freelancers in India can be a great value-add to the startup and SMB sector in the country who are constantly struggling to find expert assistance. Since day zero, our aim has been to change the perception that freelancing in India is a doomed adventure, and by Jove am I enjoying breaking the glass ceilings on this one!