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BetterPlace India’s largest tech platform and one stop shop for brands when it comes to everything blue collar. Started by Pravin Agarwala (former SAP senior executive) and Saurabh Tandon (former Mu sigma)
BetterPlace is working with more than 1,000 companies in India to meet the aspirations and needs of the blue-collar workforce employed in the companies with an eye to generate more jobs and bring down the attrition in this category.
The company provides various solutions from Onboarding, verification, training, financial services, benefits and more. BetterPlace has mined through profiles of over 20 lakh blue-collar workers and recently launched the India blue-collar jobs report. Key finding of this report is the gig economy that is emerging in India in a big way and as a result, there will be 21 lakh job openings in the next 12 months to be filled in.
Techiexpert Team had an opportunity to talk to Pravin Agarwala, co-founder & CEO, BetterPlace.
Unique problem you are addressing
Urbanisation has led to unprecedented population migration from rural areas to urban cities. The new destinations pose a number of challenges for any migrating workforce, as well as for the employers of these aspiring individuals.
This is where BetterPlace comes in.
BetterPlace, with its platform, enable millions in the blue-collar workforce get access to jobs, skills, and training in their local language, access to banking solutions, credit, insurance, quality healthcare, etc. by providing solutions that build and leverage their digital profiles.
All of its offerings encourage transparency and enhance the ability of employers to streamline the workforce – from “SkillConnect” that maps supply-demand for this workforce, to “EngageConnect”, which involves employee management, to “FinConnect” , which promotes financial inclusion.
In more technical terms, it is a human-centered, technology startup with a platform that manages the lifecycle of an organization’s Blue Collar workforce end-to-end, while also helping these employees help themselves in terms of income, finance, and progress. As a result, it adds some structure to the currently informal Blue Collar job market.
In terms of B2B, BetterPlace focuses on hiring, digital on-boarding, background verification, workforce skill development & training, assessment and certification, attendance management, compliance management, health insurance, and exit management. In terms of B2C, the organisation ensures progress of Blue Collar Employees by aiding them in their job hunt and with financial services like loans, insurance et cetera, using their proprietary trust scoring method.
Having provided end-to-end blue collar workforce lifecycle management services to over 1000 companies, coupled with its vast Blue Collar Employee base, BetterPlace is the largest tech platform of its kind in India.
Team Behind BetterPlace
Founded in 2015, Betterplace started out as a background verification company. Later, to meet the demand-supply gap in the Blue Collar ecosystem, its founders shifted their focus and purpose to create a digital platform that enabled efficient and transparent employee-lifecycle-management services. So, who exactly are these founders with foresight?
BetterPlace is the brainchild of Pravin Agarwala and Saurabh Tandon. A global tech leader, entrepreneur, and dreamer, Pravin was VP and Global Head at SAP Business By Design Development and is currently an investor and advisor in several tech start-ups, including ConfirmTkt (Investor and Advisor), Flo Learning (Co-founder and Advisor),and Flexiapps Solutions (Advisory Board Member).
Saurabh 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. Most interestingly, he is a keen observer of the evolving convergence of Math, Business and Technology.
Idea & motivation to make productive?
Unfortunately, a grim incident motivated the two founders to establish BetterPlace. It was 2014 and India was in the midst of a protest – a response to the alleged rape of a 6-year-old schoolgirl in Bangalore. There was an uproar and the nation was questioning the safety standards and mechanisms, not just in school, but across the board.
This incident troubled Pravin Agarwala and he decided to find a solution that could assure safe living to every citizen. For a year, Agarwala and his team of researchers conducted an extensive market study to understand every aspect of safety – personal and professional. This led to some unexpected finds:
For instance, in a study of 10 logistics companies, each with an average employee strength of 1,500 blue-collared professionals, the team found that a high attrition rate was leading to a supply-demand imbalance. Hence, the companies were running only basic verifications using government IDs as proof, with no continuous evaluation or electronic data consolidation being done.
In another study, which included 25 apartments in Bengaluru’s IT corridor area, with close to 60 informal employees (maids, cooks, security guards, and drivers), it was found that none of the staff was verified.
A number of similar findings led to Agarwala co-founding BetterPlace Safety Solutions, a company leveraging technology and data analytics to restore the growing trust deficit across multiple sectors.
how are you leveraging emerging technologies (AI, Deep Learning Etc)
BetterPlace is introducing technology to the traditionally-managed Blue Collar sector and is using advancement in technology to enhance the verification process, attendance, skill development, training, and credit score calculation. How does it do that?
BetterPlace makes use of Robotic Process Automation for various ID checks, court Checks of potential employees, ensuring due diligence & faster turnaround time in the verification process. To assign tasks, it uses a verifier network that is along the lines of Uber’s driver network, which intelligently assigns tasks based on location and other predetermined factors.
Facial Recognition and Geo-fencing are extensively used for the purpose of attendance, while chatbots are used to impart training & learning modules, as well as encourage skill development of employees – at their own pace. Most interestingly, AI and deep learning are used to design algorithms which calculates an employee’s credit score basis which they know who to lend out to and how much.
USP of your Idea
BetterPlace is an all-in-one offering for businesses in terms of employee recruitment, hiring, and management while, at the same time, providing essential apps and products for the end users – the blue collar employees. These apps cover health benefits, financial solutions, and job opportunities.
For employers, the AI-powered platform provides customised services in Common Onboarding, Employee Management, Employee Engagement, and Smart Notifications to keep employers updated about the day-to-day workings of their company. It also gives admins the authority to create multiple user roles. In a nutshell, it provides smart insights that enable employers to make informed decisions.
BetterPlace takes its vision a step further with easy-to-use UI and insightful UX, on both mobile and desktop, ensuring that any user is able to understand and utilize the platform with minimal effort or zero learning curve.
This one-stop-solution approach, in addition to being revolutionary and people-centric, is also cost-effective, helping organisations optimise their resources significantly.
Needless to say, BetterPlace’s biggest USP, with the tech, the execution, and the impact, is that there is no other company providing the scale and depth of the services that BetterPlace provides.
Early days struggle.
The early days of an organisation are always about discovery – of the process, the bumps, the solutions. For BetterPlace, the discovery started with identifying the surface problems and gradually, through the process of in-depth research, getting to the real, deep-rooted issue.
There were several problems that could be solved with just one or two modifications in processes, but identifying and understanding the one central issue that led to a multitude of surface problems was the key task.
While internal revelations were lifting spirits, there wasn’t much hope from the external world. Unorganised and fragmented, India’s Blue Collar workforce is migratory in nature and slow to adopt technology.
The digital footprint of this population segment is less than 1% and this has spilled over to their work life. Convincing employers and employees that going digital were essential to thrive in the gig economy proved to be more than grueling.
Fortunately, initial funding and a good board of advisors, well-versed in corporate governance played a significant role in keeping the venture running. Customer Acquisition was never easy. Lack of customer awareness and low rate of technology adoption foretold a bleak future. However, they fought, they survived, they strived.
According to BetterPlace, now is when the real struggle begins.
Lalitesh Katragadda, ex-Google senior executive and pioneer of online maps in India, was one of BetterPlace’s early investors. As of December 2018, the organisation has raised a total of over $6 million as equity money from several investors, including 3one4 Capital, Unitus Ventures, and Neeraj Arora-backed Venture Highway, and is in the process of raising another $30 million.
User base till now.
It is not just about the user base achieved, it is also about the number of people empowered.
Today, BetterPlace is working with more than 1,000 companies and more than 10M Blue Collar Employees in India in order to meet the aspirations and needs of the blue collar workforce.
Till date, it has built a growing supply of 2M+ potential blue collared employees, while already helping 1.2M Blue Collar workers become credit-ready using the platform’s proprietary trust scoring algorithm.
In addition, the company adds more than 15,000 new employees on a daily basis, has conducted more than 10 million hours of skill development, has completed more than 10 million KYCs, and is now aiming to bring 150 million workers into the formal economy by 2021.
New Areas if they are looking to expand.
BetterPlace has been focusing on its B2B offerings and will continue to expand in the same segment, encompassing background verification and complete lifecycle management (HR) solutions. They are already sourcing and onboarding on behalf of major companies.
This year will also see the scaling-up of elaborate product offerings addressing financial, health, and other needs of the user base. Products to look out for include BetterJobs, BetterMoney, and BetterHealth, all created for and targeted at the Blue Collar workforce – all in an effort to power the next 1 billion Indians. After all, it is not enough to just get a job. One must be able to sustain one’s self and maintain a healthy, comfortable lifestyle.
BetterPlace continues to focus on addressing the blue-collar industry in India by strengthening the existing ecosystem, using frictionless solutions powered by AI and machine learning. It aims to become the blanket solution for every industry.
Over the next 3 months, BetterPlace will be scaling up services like BetterJobs, BetterMoney, and Telemedicine.
The first will help Blue Collar Employees apply for and get hired at secure, verified jobs in reliable organisations, while the second will help them keep their salary in a digital wallet and transfer it back home without paying heavy remittance charges, in addition to making use of a variety of financial services that help them save.
Telemedicine, the doctor-on-call concept, would be free for the employees, with the employer paying a nominal sum. Under this scheme, the employees and their families are able to connect with doctors over phones, for consultation regarding minor illnesses, helping them reduce their monthly non-working days.
Plan to integrate with 3rd party apps /services like voice assistant (Amazon Echo/Google Home )
There is something in the works, but nothing in the immediate future.