Startup

Unnati: Connecting employers with workers from an informal sector job market in India

Most of us who have ever felt a need to look out for maids, drivers, office boys, delivery boys or cooks, have faced a lot of difficulty in finding one. Lack of source to find the helper that you are looking for is a prime stumbling block in your search. Approaching known sources may not always work. These helpers fall under the informal sector job market which is untouched and unorganized. Akin to the job portals like naukri.com and monster.com, if only you could find the helper/worker that you are looking for on a portal, wouldn’t it solve your problems? Unnati, an employment exchange platform emerged as a solution to address this problem.

How Unnati works?

Unnati Employment Exchange connects the employers in Gurgaon with lakhs of informal sector workers like tele callers, computer operators, taxi drivers, waiters, office boys, cooks and many more. Unnati Employment Exchange provides free service to job seekers. It doesn’t charge any commission from them. Both business and household employers can register on its website for free. Upon registration, employers get frequent SMS alerts about suitable jobseekers in their neighborhood. Employers can directly call and interview unlimited number of jobseekers for free and hire candidates that best suit their requirements. Unnati currently follows a ‘pay per hire’ model where employers pay a one-time search fee (INR 1000 for most types of workers) for each worker hired through the Unnati Employment Exchange.

Unnati’s mission is “Zero Unemployment in India”. Their dream is, to put it simply – “A job for every worker. A worker for every job.”

How Unnati was formed?

The idea to start a company that focused on cracking the informal sector job market evolved when Shantanu was struggling with a common problem that most of the households face today – finding a good household help. Though he and his wife checked with all the possible sources apart from calling up some of the infamous maid agencies of NCR, but nothing worked.

While discussing problem spaces for Indian startups, with his entrepreneur friends, Ravi and Aashutosh when they were working on their other first startup, Bizkoot, at that time, they felt that something seemed broken in the informal sector job market. They also identified that this problem, potentially a multi-million dollar one, needed immediate attention. They also thought that if India was to ever solve its unemployment problem, somebody had to take steps to crack the informal sector job market. It was then that they decided to take a shot at it and thus Unnati Employment Exchange was born.

In order to understand the informal sector worker base, garner insights into their lives and struggles, the team set up their first office in a mud hut in Tigra Village, a slum in Sector 57 of Gurgaon. Both Shantanu and Ravi worked from there from morning till night, for the next three months while integrating with the slum community and learnt how urban bottom of the pyramid workers lived and worked.

Meet the Founders

Unnati Team Pic_Aug 2nd 2015

Team Unnati

Aashutosh, CTO of Unnati, is a computer science engineer and a math and science geek by inclination. He is the man behind the architecture and development of Unnati’s tech platform.

Eral Ravi, COO of Unnati, has over a decade of corporate HR experience in various financial services companies. Prior to being associated with Unnati, he headed the North Region Sales HR at Bharti Axa. He is an MBA specializing in HR from Pune University.

Shantanu Singh, CEO of Unnati, has over a decade of management consulting, sales and brand development experience and was earlier associated with Accenture Management Consulting and ITC Ltd. In his last corporate role, Shantanu served as a Principal at Accenture Management Consulting. He is an MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur.

Funding

Unnati has raised two rounds of funding till date. The first ‘seed funding’ round in May 2015 saw investment coming in from two of their close friends. In the second round of funding in June 2016, Info Edge India Ltd. (the parent company of Naukri.com, 99acres.com, Jeevansathi.com, etc.) invested INR 4Cr in the company. However, Unnati is unlikely to raise any fresh round of capital in 2016.

Their Competitors

Unnati sees the ‘referral’ system that informal sector employers and workers have traditionally used to look for new hires or jobs as their biggest competitor. Unnati Employment Exchange, which connects an employer to a vast network of lakhs of potential jobseekers and referrers is very different in this respect. Unnati also enables employers to get more choice, hire faster and often at lower cost as compared to the traditional referral system.

Challenges Faced

In order to reach and communicate with informal sector workers, they started experimenting with telephony based systems as they realized that online job portals would take some time to gain traction among this population. The response rates they received were multi-folds higher as compared to pure online channels. As a result, the Unnati Employment Exchange now widely employs telephony to connect workers with employers.

Their Future Goal

By this year end, Unnati is looking forward to have a fully fleshed out, tested and proven business model design. When they gain confidence in the workability of the Unnati Employment Exchange model (in a way that is profitable and sustainable), they will expand in other cities.

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