Start-ups devise hiring platforms for tech jobs

Experts say recruitment of personnel with technical expertise such as coders requires more specialized sites—a gap that is gradually being filled by start-ups


Sachin Gupta (left) and Vivek Prakash developed HackerEarth, a Web-based community and assessment platform where coders can build their profiles, interact with one another and link coding projects from other websites. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhary/Mint
Sachin Gupta (left) and Vivek Prakash developed HackerEarth, a Web-based community and assessment platform where coders can build their profiles, interact with one another and link coding projects from other websites. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhary/Mint

Sachin Gupta and Vivek Prakash, both 23, were surprised when a classmate of theirs at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee failed to land a job with Google Inc. in the 2011 campus placements.

“He was one of the smartest in our class. It was not his loss, because he could get any other job he wanted..., (but) he was the kind of programmer that companies would kill to have,” said Gupta, who then felt there was a need for companies to refine the process of recruiting candidates with technical expertise.

After discussions with recruitment heads of many tech-centric firms in the summer of 2012, Gupta and Prakash developed a technical skills assessment platform called HackerEarth and formed a company called Career Stack Innovation Pvt. Ltd. The Bangalore-based company, which was incubated in the first batch of GSF Accelerator in October 2012, recently raised $500,000 from AngelPrime.

HackerEarth is a Web-based community and assessment platform where coders can build their profiles, interact with one another, link coding projects from other websites like GitHub, practice their programming skills and take part in coding challenges during recruitment drives.

Recruiters, on their part, can design creative challenges during recruitment and are provided with a tool to automatically assess the quality of the code written. It charges recruiters between Rs.40,000 and Rs.60,000 for every successful hire.

According to experts, IT services companies that hire employees in bulk typically pay about Rs.20,000-25,000 per hire to talent search agencies. Medium-sized technology companies pay about Rs.40,000-45,000 per hire. Larger companies with special skill requirements pay between Rs.80,000 and Rs.2 lakh, and for top executives the fee per hire may go up to Rs.50 lakh.

“We want recruiters to meet intelligent coders, irrespective of whether they are from a tier I or tier III college,” said Prakash, co-founder of Career Stack.

Career Stack claims to have clients including mobile advertising firm InMobi Technologies Pvt. Ltd; Practo Technologies Pvt. Ltd, an online platform that connects doctors and patients; real estate website CommonFloor.com and FreshDesk Technologies Pvt. Ltd, a maker of customer support software for companies.

“We couldn’t hire by the usual interview process because we needed to find people with the problem-solving hacker attitude rather than general technology aptitude,” said Mohit Saxena, vice-president (technology) at InMobi Technologies. “This is how HackerEarth came into our recruitment process.”

“We are five or six years behind developed countries, with respect to the recruitment process. And we are not the best at picking up talent. This is why we need skills assessment platforms,” said Rajesh Sawhney, founder of GSF Accelerator and GSF Superangels, which invested seed capital in HackerEarth.

While big firms continue to rely on headhunters, especially when hiring senior executives, job sites such as Naukri.com, Monster.com and Shine.com, which is run by Mint’s publisher HT Media Ltd, are helping candidates post job listings and find resumes online. Meanwhile, employers are scouting for professionals on networking sites like LinkedIn.com, Facebook.com and Twitter.com too.

But recruitment of personnel with technical expertise like coders requires more specialized sites, say experts—a gap that is gradually being filled by start-ups.

“Gone are the days when recruitment was all about getting a recruitment team, finding sources for resumes and spamming the hell out programmers’ inboxes. The problem is different…it is the quality of the programmer that is important now. A small start-up wants a good programmer, and so does a Google or Facebook,” said Vivek Ravisankar, 27, co-founder of Interviewstreet Technologies Pvt. Ltd (which recently renamed its product name to HackerRank from Interviewstreet).

The firm, which was incubated at US-based accelerator Y Combinator, in 2011, is now headquartered in Silicon Valley and has about half a million coders in its community. Companies like Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc., Yahoo Inc., EverNote Corp., and Quora use this platform to recruit programmers, said Ravisankar.

According to experts, there are also other start-ups that focus on building gamification (use of games to engage users in solving problems) software and skills assessment platforms.

Experts estimate that almost 55% job vacancies are hidden from online portals as many firms do not like to post openings on public forums.

“When there are around five million graduates seeking jobs and only a small fraction of jobs are posted online, how do companies figure out who the right fit for the position is? We almost have to work like Shaadi.com (an Indian online marriage portal) and screen applicants’ profiles intelligently,” said Varun Deshpande, co-founder and chief executive officer of TopTalent—an online job portal that pre-screens resumes based on available job positions.

While some start-ups use data analytics and algorithms to screen and match resumes to job positions, some take care of the nuts and bolts of the recruitment.

TopTalent, a Hyderabad-based start-up, has used criteria like the college an applicant studied at, experience and current salary to filter almost 75,000 candidates for 2,000 employers till date. “It takes a lot of man hours and money to interview large numbers of applicants during the recruitment process. We just make sure we reduce this number by giving them candidates we think fit the bill in most ways,” said Deshpande, who has helped screen candidates for firms like Grey Orange Robotics Pvt. Ltd and RedBus (part of the ibibo Group).

Recruiterbox, a product of Bangalore-based Aplopio Technology Inc., is a Web-based application tracking start-ups that caters to small and medium-size firms. “Assessment tools and job portals sit on top of us. We manage the recruitment drive as an event by tracking applicants, scheduling interviews and emailing candidates’ decisions. Even the feedback from the interviews are collected and stored by us on the cloud,” said Raj Sheth, co-founder of recruiterbox.com.

Start-ups such as Babajobs Services Pvt. Ltd, a portal for highly skilled non-technical jobs like domestic helps and security officers; ZLemma Analytics Pvt. Ltd, a site that uses data analytics to match resumes with employers; and Twenty19, an internship portal for college students across the country, are just a few of the many dozen recruitment start-ups that spawn across the country every year.

“There are obvious reasons why companies think there is a huge scope for these kinds of businesses in India. The first is the fact that there are 35 Nasdaq-listed job portals in the US, while there is only one (listed portal), Naukri.com, in India. Second is that there are at least 28,000 RPO (recruitment process outsourcing) consulting organizations in India that can be leveraged by these new companies,” said Deshpande of TopTalent.

Some start-ups say recruitment might soon become an automated process, a belief not all experts share.

“The business pie for any stand-alone service in the recruitment space is very small. Whether they can survive without partnering with a larger recruitment agency is doubtful. For example, Naukri has 32,000 customers already,” said Anshuman Das, director at Careernet Technologies Pvt. Ltd, who has been in the recruitment sector for more than 15 years. “Would a company rather partner with them, or spend money trying to acquire customers? I foresee a lot of distress acquisitions in the future,” he added.

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