Getting the right ‘blue-collar’ fit

Getting the right ‘blue-collar’ fit

If you’re looking for household help and have exhausted your usual contacts, chances are Babajob Services Pvt. Ltd. (Babajob) could help with your search. Founded by an American, Sean Blagsvedt, the Bengaluru-based firm was started in 2007 to help the livelihood of the very people who are uneducated to use the Internet. As a web and mobile solutions provider, Babajob caters to blue-collar workers such as maids, drivers, cooks and office staff besides others who often form the backbone in running our daily routines. Babajob now has successfully registered over 200,000 jobseekers, more than 600,000 job posts and over 40,000 potential employers (of which 42 per cent are repeat customers).

Unlike with the digital medium, where not everyone from the lower income level could have access to computers, mobile phones make it easier to reach these people since numeric literacy is good.

“Babajob is a great matchmaker for both the employers and the jobseekers when it comes to finding the right fit,” says Blagsvedt, CEO. They hope to do this by helping jobseekers find suitable jobs that are closer to where they live and getting the right candidate for the employers. With a 20-member team, the company has invested in an outbound sales team that targets prospective employers. While their initial mandate was to focus on the domestic space, two years ago, due to higher demand, they started catering to the blue-collared needs of businesses, which now constitute up to 93 per cent of its job postings.

Going mobile

In 2009, Babajob went pan-India and entered the two major metros – New Delhi and Mumbai – first. The game changer occurred a year and half ago when Babajob tied up with mobile service providers that made the process simpler. “Unlike with the digital medium, where not everyone from the lower income level has access to computers, mobile phones make it easier to reach these people since numeric literacy is good. Also, for the operators it is a great way to connect to a huge percentage of their users,” adds the 35-year-old. By tying up with six major service providers and last mile financial services provider, Eko Financial Services, jobseekers and employers can register with Babajob by sending a SMS, besides walk-ins and online registration. It now sends over one million job alerts every month with 80 per cent of its jobseekers relying on its mobile services.

Snap Shot

Babajob Services
Founder: Sean Blagsvedt
Year: 2007
City: Bengaluru
Target: Expand to more countries like Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa by mid-next year

Though posting jobs are free, Babajob charges employers for any premium services and is on a revenue-share model with telecom operators for job alerts and voice access services that are paid by jobseekers. Among the value-added services, employers have the option of selecting from a wide range of jobseekers that best suit their criteria. Babajob is tied up with Hyderabad-based JuntaKhoj to provide background verification on request. And it also offers health insurance for the employees if needed. Considering that Babajob works in a sector that is inefficient and unreliable, where placing employees doesn’t always come with contracts, it hopes to bring in more trust into the system. “We’ve a reference system in place, where someone can vouch for an employee. We also have a unique identity number on the side of each profile that would give proof of address,” says Blagsvedt. Babajob also has ‘mentors’ such as a friend or a relative, who are given incentives to help connect jobseekers to their employers.

An interesting insight

Blagsvedt first came to India from the U.S. in 2004 as a part of the Microsoft Research India team working on making technology relevant to the base of the pyramid. The idea for Babajob took seed when Blagsvedt came across a report by Duke University economist Anirudh Krishna that was presented by his colleague on why Indian families get in and out of poverty. He learned that poverty often happens when there is a health problem in the family and they come out of it when there is income diversification. For this to happen, jobseekers from the lower strata often rely on their network of people, so better the network, better the chances of gaining employment. This is where Blagsvedt wanted to come in – help broaden their network and thus, impact their quality of life. He soon quit his job and with the help of his, his stepfather’s and a few angel investors’ capital put in an initial investment of US $ 500,000 to kick-start the venture.

Babalife was the first move – a social networking site that would let people connect and share details about such jobs, from which Babajob was born. But getting the very people who do not use computers to register was not an easy task. “We took six months to register the first 5,000 jobseekers on foot by filling out forms. It wasn’t very hard to convince them because we showed them job alerts, unlike with the local employment agencies. We also partnered with NGOs and vocational institutes to register the students,” shares Blagsvedt. Positive media coverage and word of mouth also helped its cause. Nevertheless, it took the company two and half years to reach about 70,000 job seekers. In just the last ten months, the website has been able to triple that number.

Looking ahead

Blagsvedt makes it clear that ‘social enterprise’ is a title that he does not like being associated with Babajob. “It sets the bar lower for us. I believe we’re the only job company in India with a unique model that caters to the bottom of the pyramid,” he states. Having gone pan-India, he wants to expand more aggressively and has set his eyes on Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa by mid-next year. The company is in the middle of fundraising now and hopes to finalise it by the end of this year. It also aims to register a million jobseekers by end of next year.

“There is limitation in terms of sending members’ profile over SMS, so we will be moving towards apps and automated voice services in six different Indian languages by next year. We want to go across more channels and strengthen our marketing. We need to focus on building a strong brand,” he concludes.

Concept in Brief

Babajob is a web and mobile solutions provider that helps low-end workers such as maids, cooks, drivers, guards etc. register and receive regular job alerts on their phones by connecting them to their potential employers

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