While the world grapples with many problems all at once, it is prudent to reason that just like evolution itself, that shaped living organisms via one event to another over millions of years, so to are we, as human beings being shaped by the myriad political, economic and social problems, and evolution, all in a bid to solve these problems to the best of our ability.
A majority of India’s work takes place in the informal economy with approximately 450 million workers. Sometimes, the sheer size and geography of this colossus called India is mind-boggling And indeed it’s a wonder how such a mass of more than a billion with all their diverse beliefs, thoughts and ideas coordinate work, goods and capital among them. While inefficiencies exist, like they always will, it’s these inefficiencies that challenge India’s entrepreneurial class to push themselves and make a difference to the lives of millions. India’s large domestic market will form the base of a new economic uprising, provided we don’t shy away from tackling huge problems one step at a time.
Today, at Bangalore Insider we spoke Pravin Agarwala, the co-founder and CEO of Betterplace, whose vision is to empower India’s 450 million informal workers to seek work, upskill and build a better life, via a tech-focused platform. Below are the excerpts from our interaction.
Give a brief info about the startup
BetterPlace Safety Solutions, blue-collar focused SaaS platform, launched in 2015 by Pravin Agarwala (former SAP senior executive) and Saurabh Tandon (former Mu Sigma) is working with over 1,000 companies and 15 million blue-collar job seekers. Betterplace has been ranked 6th globally in the contract workforce management segment by Tracxn (which tracks 550+ firms in this category globally) thereby making it the largest tech platform for managing end-to-end lifecycle of the blue-collar workforce in India.
Betterplace provides its software as a service “SaaS” which enables employers to manage the entire life cycle of their blue collar workforce by providing services like Hiring, Assessment of job seekers, Digital Onboarding, KYC, Training, Attendance Management, Payroll, Compliance etc. for the employers while helping blue collar employees get up-skilled, access to financial services like loans, healthcare, insurance etc. Betterplace customers are present across blue collar heavy industries like Logistics, Facility Management, Private Security, On-Demand Services, Retail, Schools, Construction etc. This includes companies like Amazon, Flipkart, Ola, Dunzo, Swiggy, L&T, Flipkart, JBM Auto, Randstad, Sodexo, LIC, Accenture among others
Since COVID crisis began and migrants returned to their hometowns as a consequence of the Pandemic, Betterplace has been actively mapping the job seekers and helping them find appropriate job opportunities to come back to the cities or closest opportunities near their homes. Betterplace recently launched its yearly Blue-collar jobs report for the second consecutive year. The report which is based on data from the past 5 years, 1000+ companies, 20,000 pin codes, 80 Lakh employees & millions of data points gives insights into the ground realities, pandemic impact concluding with the path to recovery.
In the last three years, Betterplace has achieved 25x growth and currently has an annual turnover of USD $7 million and is on track to grow it 3x over the next 12-18 months.
Inputs by Pravin Agarwala, co-founder and CEO, Betterplace
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
The blue-collar workforce in India is highly unorganised and migratory in nature. The attrition level in this segment ranges to 200% which means large companies working with blue collars are in a perpetual hiring cycle. For the workforce, it means that they either change jobs quickly or like to work for a few months at a stretch before returning to their villages for the harvest season. When we started in 2015, no such tech company existed in India which would focus only on addressing the issues faced by both employers and employees. As we worked with new-age companies and even traditional ones, we realised to make an impact at scale and bring organised labour changes in this segment, the use of technology has to be done right.
Over the years, basis feedback and deeper understanding of the sector, we have continuously improved our tech platform and with the use of AI, we have been able to understand the entire landscape with granular details. Today, with the help of technology, we can pinpoint which jobs are getting more interest, what gig workers need for faster onboarding, in terms of financial support, medical help in case of emergencies and more.
The idea behind launching Betterplace is not just limited to bring more blue collar workers into an organised system but also help them lead a better life and this can be achieved with the use of technology.
The platform provides lifecycle management solutions like hiring, digital on-boarding, background verification, skill development, training, assessment and certification, attendance management and tracking using geo-fencing & facial recognition technology, compliance management, fintech lending support via Betterplace wallet with no remittance fee, healthcare benefits such as doctor on call tele consulting service, health and life insurance, as well as exit management.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
Prior to launching Betterplace, I was heading the global business unit at SAP Labs India and in 2014 caught the entrepreneurial bug. Today, along with running Betterplace, I am also an investor and advisor for several tech start-ups, including ConfirmTkt (Investor and Advisor), Flo Learning (Co-founder and Advisor), and Flexiapps Solutions (Advisory Board Member).
Saurabh Tandon has managed engagements across retail, sportswear, pharma and agriculture sectors at the world’s largest pure play decision sciences firm, Mu Sigma. With a background in Engineering, Hedge Funds, and Finance, his specialities include Credit, Event, and Managed Futures. At Betterplace Saurabh looks after all facets of operations.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
Betterplace is a Bangalore-based startup. My Co-founder and I are based here and we believe the City has much to offer for startups to grow faster, from robust talent supply to supportive investor pools. Being a home base, it has helped us in our early days as we knew mentors, friends and test customer base whose feedback helped us to continuously improve our product. Being a tech platform, we offer our services pan India tailored to the customer’s requirements.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
I am absolutely obsessed with Customer delight. Our success is completely dependent on the success of our customers. We get truly excited by adding tremendous value to our customers. Nothing keeps me awake, I sleep well after everyday’s work as it’s absolutely satisfying 🙂 Nevertheless the opportunities to innovate , innovate things that would simplify processes for the large blue collar ecosystem captures the largest share of my dreams.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
There are a lot of players in every segment, such as hiring, skilling, etc, while the solutions available are focused on solving one particular problem; there are none who are integrating end to end services with lifecycle management.
Betterplace is a unique tech platform that offers end-to-end blue collar workforce lifecycle management services, with an aim to provide suitable safe living resolutions for all safety concerns through our web-based service and mobile applications.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
The Dalai Lama once said that the Purpose of life is to be HAPPY. I believe I and fellow founders find happiness in what they are doing and that becomes the largest part of life 🙂 Nevertheless being the father of 2 daughters , I cannot miss the charm of spending time with them. While pandemic has its own challenges , it has given the much required family time.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
As of December 2018, the organization has raised a total of over $6 million equity capital from 3one4 Capital, Unitus Ventures and Neeraj Arora-backed Venture Highway.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
If you ask my wife she can elaborate on it in the best possible way 🙂 On a serious note, I think people believe I have a solution for their problems. The reality is that I only ask the right questions perhaps. They know the solutions better than I do.
What gets you excited about this company?
2 things. One the privilege to work with great minds and second the opportunity to create positive impact for millions of people.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
My day starts at 5:30 am in the morning. Typically I try to close all pending items like responding to emails, preparation for the day etc within the first hr. I believe in spending the next 60-90 minutes on health. Go for a walk, exercise and also spend some time with my cute little plants. After a good breakfast with family the regular office work starts. Normally I plan my activities from 10am till 8:30 pm. This includes meeting customers , internal reviews, hiring and people activities and of course funds and investors management. The day ends with a good dinner with family followed by family time. These days IPL takes some part of that as well 🙂 I switch off my mobile at 10:30 and go to bed thinking what I achieved today and whats in store next.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Ahh , this will be a story in itself. I met my co-founder in a flight on the way back from singapore. Became family friends and rest is kind of history now. Another colleague of ours was heading sales and met us for a partnership , the deal didn’t go through but we got the best guy 🙂 Couple of folks have been good friends for the last 20 years, when I shared our story with them, it immediately clicked and we are enjoying the awesome journey together. Many of our colleagues come through references. Honestly speaking we are all connected with each other beyond work and that helps us share a common purpose.
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