I Created A $240K/Year Marketplace That Uses AI To Improve Hiring
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I am Girish Kukreja, Founder and CEO at FlexC. I started FlexC about a year ago intending to disrupt the hiring space in India. We are a talent marketplace curated to help businesses hire and manage their hybrid workforce (permanent hire and flexible workforce).
Starting something on my own has always been my dream. After spending more than 20+ years in the industry, the onset of the pandemic finally allowed me to make that dream a reality. The pandemic has changed the way we work completely.
With more organizations going hybrid, the ratio of hiring freelancers and contractors will increase to 20-30% of overall employees. And in this new age business era, FlexC aims to become the No.1 marketplace to help businesses smoothly transition during their journey.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I have been in the Indian IT services business for over 2 decades, and have noticed the following patterns:
1- Scale to 450K people strong.
2- Developed markets where the mix of permanent and flexible employees is much higher.
In India, permanent hires take >95% of the workforce while in the USA/UK the percentage of the same lies somewhere between 60-65%. With Covid, I felt it is time India should witness this change of mix and introduce a hybrid workforce in their organizational structure.
With that idea in mind, I started to work on FlexC. FlexC will be India’s first talent marketplace for organizations to hire and manage their hybrid workforce. The idea is to digitize the whole process with the power of AI which can help not only discover talent but also manage and engage the flexible workforce through the platform ecosystem.
I was pretty sure that this idea could scale into a great business. And when I discussed this idea with my experienced peers, they were even keen on investing. Therefore FlexC received its initial funding from my savings and investment from connections.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The idea started very simply where with the power of AI we wanted to convert electronic profiles (resumes) to digital profiles (machine understandable). This is what triggered us to be in this space.
As we started designing, we realized that the process is completely manual. Hence digitization of processes would provide a huge scope of improving the overall process for organizations. Our Product was the cloud-first SaaS platform with Azure as its cloud platform, Python for AI, React for UI, and .NET for APIs.
Of Course, there were already plenty of players tapping into this space. Hence we wanted to distinguish ourselves with more emphasis on only a flexible workforce - contractors and freelancers.
We also realized very quickly that with keeping the spirit of the platform, we can also include permanent hiring by establishing a network of freelance recruiters and agencies.
We conceptualized as Covid hit during May 2020 and launched our BETA in Oct 2020. The principle we followed was “reduce batch size, reduce cycle time.” Keeping these principles in mind, we designed the prototype and re-launched it with additional designated space for hiring and managing freelancers and contractors on the platform.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our approach has always been to keep doing business manually with the agility to automate and digitize the process. It's always important to listen to the market and customers to understand the need and solve them, taking one problem at a time.
We had a small team of recruiters who were focused on onboarding consultants and freelancers. We also onboarded a few of our early customers to help us describe their needs and evolve our platform.
Do not forget to celebrate your milestones, no matter how small they seem. Those little celebrations will help you stay motivated and enjoy the journey.
This approach has always kept us on our toes to align with the market, and hence our pivot to include permanent hires through the agency network has worked well. I still recollect our launch day which went live almost at 3 am in the night. It gives you goosebumps when you see your idea take shape and is now available for the market to like or dislike. Every Release has always been a celebration for the team after that.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I think the only thing that works to retain customers is delivering to their requirements and maintaining a solid relationship. Relationships can be perceptions or can be measured through data. We have always relied on data to measure and improve the relationship.
Being a marketplace, you need to have the right balance of demand and supply. We faced a lot of hiccups initially to manage that and this fine balance will continue to be our challenge till it grows to the inflection point. We are in the B2B business. Relationships and references are the two key elements that help us attract and retain customers.
We have a different proposition of platform and power of network than traditional players, and we have seen customers helping us pilot in their organizations. Once we can prove ourselves, we can retain the customers.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I think we have still scratched the surface, while we have seen a good early success of companies, agencies, and professionals on our platform, we need to see how to take this 10X from here. Being a platform is where we need to solve client needs and engage professionals. Keeping the right balance is something we need to work on continuously.
There will always be phases when as founders you will have self-doubt on direction, speed, and idea itself. It's important to keep solving the problems focusing on the core of the idea and every problem solved will give you the confidence to move forward. We have failed multiple times in message communication, marketing, and process design. But what keeps us going is our zeal to improve every aspect of it day in day out.
In our journey so far, we have surpassed our first and second stage which was- to create a digital platform with AI capabilities & achieve the right supply of consultants and organizations.
Today FlexC is at its third stage where we are working to increase the efficiency of our model 10X. At present, our platform has more than 15,000+ consultants with 400+ skills. We have 200+ agencies for our talent aggregation model and 500+ organizations.
So far we have been focusing on startups and mid-tier organizations and are approaching large-scale corporations. We are glad to be receiving positive traction so far. In the coming years, we want to foray FlexC into global markets and introduce our product to multinational organizations.
No matter how hard you try, you cannot run the whole show by yourself. Spend your time choosing the right key members.
I firmly believe we are in the right direction and the future of the workforce is through this platform and will see this change.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I think the most important lesson I have learned is that it’s okay to make mistakes. Jobs provide you with a safety net. But when you start your own business, there may be instances where you may feel a sense of fear to make decisions creeping into your mind. But here you cannot delegate or avoid that dilemma. Therefore it is important to keep reminding yourself to make decisions, learn from the mistakes, and move on.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Right from start, our principle was to behave as a professional virtual first organization. Our approach and operations are built on the tools we use. We use Razorpay, for employee onboarding and payroll processing.
To track and monitor productivity we use Workpuls and for CRM we rely on hubspot.
Our platform has the complete admin support functionality to track the complete business operations- transactions and invoicing. We use the GMAIL suite of products for organizations' email and messaging.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Zero to One by Blake Masters and Peter Thiel (isn’t it obvious?) and The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt and Atomic Habits by James Clear have been the most influential books.
Listening to leaders like Elon Musk, Sundar Pichai helps me to keep up with how the world of technology is changing. Some quotes that I find very inspiring:
“Every time we create something new, we go from zero to one.” - Zero to One
“Never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible.” - Atomic Habits
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
There are a couple of things I would like to share with people who are just starting out.
01 - Make sure you are financially covered and can invest your savings for the bootstrap. Even investors expect you to do the same.
02 - Young millennials - if you have an idea that you feel is scalable, please start working on it. The startup market in India will be the next big wave- it already is. Starting early will be an added advantage.
03 - After starting, the next thing you should focus on is building a great team. No matter how hard you try, you cannot run the whole show by yourself. Spend your time choosing the right key members.
04 - The product does not sell itself. Research, build the product and keep sensing the market to make the right changes. Also, don’t lose the focus away from the overall business while creating and improving the product. Always keep a check.
And of course, do not forget to celebrate your milestones, no matter how small they seem. Those little celebrations will help you stay motivated and enjoy the journey.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
FlexC itself has a hybrid workforce model, our doors are always open to talent across the globe. We do not have vacancies for any particular role. However, If you wish to join our team, please share your portfolio on [email protected]
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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