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Out-of-the-box ideas in fray

Out-of-the-box ideas in fray
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First Published: Mon, Nov 03 2008. 11 42 PM IST

Biz focus: PlugHR’s Bhaskar says they targeted SMEs so that the latter could focus on growth rather than getting entangled in daily HR issues.
Biz focus: PlugHR’s Bhaskar says they targeted SMEs so that the latter could focus on growth rather than getting entangled in daily HR issues.
Updated: Mon, Nov 03 2008. 11 42 PM IST
Mumbai: Here’s a start-up that is looking to benefit from the market slowdown. Mumbai-based PlugHR Services Pvt. Ltd sets up and manages the human resources (HR) division for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The start-up supplies HR personnel who operate within the client company and work closely with the client management to develop key employee policies, establish necessary processes such as leave procedure and even help with hiring. In the process, it claims it helps companies cut costs by 30%, on an average.
Biz focus: PlugHR’s Bhaskar says they targeted SMEs so that the latter could focus on growth rather than getting entangled in daily HR issues.
PlugHR began 14 months ago targeting small, but fast-growing companies that did not yet have a formal HR team in place. “We thought of the idea for small businesses, where often you’ll find senior management entangled in daily HR issues like payroll processing, when they should focus on growing the business,” says Prashant Bhaskar, chief executive officer, PlugHR.
The start-up supplies one or more HR executives to work in the client’s office, and assigns a senior project manager to oversee operations, and charges companies an annual fee for its services.
“There is definite opportunity, with the (current) downsizing and cost benefits offered, but it would get much higher revenues if it catered to the US, which pays in dollars,” says Sanjeev Bikhchandani, CEO, Info Edge (India) Ltd, which owns job portal Naukri.com.
For PlugHR, thrift is in its DNA. For a full year after it began operations, the company had no office space, not even a garage. It met all potential recruits at Barista coffee shops at Chembur and Bandra. Once, it hired a candidate on the pavement outside Barista at 7am because the coffee shop hadn’t opened for the day.
Its website, which runs on Blogger, the free Web platform owned by Google Inc., informs candidates they will have to take pay cuts if hired. It has made two dozen hires, including project managers who previously worked with large multinationals.
PlugHR is working with 22 small and medium businesses, including companies such as DNS IT Services Pvt. Ltd , Logix Consultancy Group P. Ltd and Automotive Exchange Pvt. Ltd , which owns car sales portal CarWale.com. In recent times, Bhaskar has been receiving calls from larger companies with existing HR personnel looking for more cost-effective solutions. It is in talks, for instance, with a Gurgaon-based business process outsourcing firm with a mandate to downsize its current five-member team.
The start-up, with operations in Mumbai, New Delhi and Nashik, plans to expand to Bangalore and Pune and aims at 100 clients by the year-end. While PlugHR plans to benefit from the emphasis on cost savings, a prolonged slowdown could be a challenge. “A sentiment of growth in the minds of SMEs is important for our own growth,” says Bhaskar.
National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN), the not-for- profit organization behind the Tata NEN Hottest Startup awards, has said it is extending the date to 20 November from 6 November to shortlist 30 start-ups ahead of selection for the awards. NEN said it has hired consultant Ernst and Young to help with the audit process that has been put in place to ensure the best firms make it to the list.
Crowd wisdom at the heart of predicting event outcomes
New Delhi: When the Filmfare Awards were presented in February, Pune-based entrepreneur Hariharan Krishnamoorthy ran a small pilot, trying to see if a stock market-like system, only this one for predictions, could accurately reflect the actual awards.
Predictions were bought and sold and traded, prices sometimes moved up, sometimes crashed on speculation—but in the end, nine of the 11 awards were spot on. The prediction market showed both a curious wisdom in the crowd’s predictions, and an opportunity for a start-up.
Krishnamoorthy’s experiment is now called LordsofOdds.com, run by Mindhive Labs Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Launched some four months ago, the site is an online prediction market—where users buy and sell predictions, whose prices determine the probability of their success or failure.
British site Betfair.com, which traded around $28 billion (Rs1.37 trillion today) in 2007, is the world’s largest such prediction exchange and the inspiration for LordsofOdds.
There is, however, no real money involved in LordsofOdds—a virtual currency (exchange rates unknown) represented by a stylized capital L is the de facto means of betting.
Started with personal savings of less than Rs6 lakh, LordsofOdds now has 2,000 users and six employees, and estimates revenue of Rs8-10 lakh in fiscal 2009. Most costs at LordsofOdds are salaries, but Krishnamoorthy expects that to change as marketing and publicity costs rise significantly. “Right now, we just have predictions on the Web; we want to take them to more than one medium. We’re also looking at a lot of offline modes—outdoor advertising, even radio, TV channels maybe,” he says.
LordsofOdds covers a wide ground: sports predictions, ranging from on-field events such as match results to broader speculation about retirements and team selection. There’s also Bollywood ( Karzzz flopping is going at 53.20 L, compared with it striking box office gold—at 22.2 L) and politics.
The site’s revenue model hinges on advertising, sponsorship and tie-ups with events and media channels. “Sponsorship is something we’re definitely looking at—having brands associate themselves with specific properties. We’ve had a Castrol association with the Moto GP predictions on the site,” says Krishnamoorthy.
PlugHR Services Pvt. Ltd, Mindhive Labs Solutions Pvt. Ltd and Phonon.in are among the nominated companies at the Tata NEN Hottest Start-ups competition, of which Mint is the official print media partner. Details of the competition can also be accessed at www.livemint.com/ hotteststartups Krish Raghav
Patching user and marketer seamlessly
Bangalore: Calling a telecom executive as you surf the Internet to either place an order or get more information about a product may soon be a thing of the past, if Vadodara-based Phonon.in has its way.
One of Phonon.in’s latest offering is what it calls a click4call solution that connects customers with marketers, by punching in a phone number while surfing the Web. Immediately, a Web server makes a call connecting the visitor to the advertiser.
Founded in 2006 by Ujwal Makhija, the proprietorship firm provides so-called computer telephony integration, interactive voice response and mobile solutions. Makhija says Phonon’s success will depend on its execution skills as well as support to users. Firms such as OnMobile Global Ltd make for competition for the profitable Vadodara firm that topped Rs1 crore revenue mid-2008.
Phonon has an early mover advantage in India, says Rajesh Srivathsa, managing partner, Ojas Venture Partners, but “there exist quite a few companies that provide (such) solutions (overseas)”. Deepti Chaudhary
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First Published: Mon, Nov 03 2008. 11 42 PM IST
More Topics: Venture Capital | NEN | PlugHR | Bhaskar | SME |