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Women Entrepreneurs

Helper4U aspires to be the Naukri.com for semi and unskilled workers

Helper4U aspires to be the Naukri.com for semi and unskilled workers
Image credit: Helper4U
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Mumbai-headquartered job portal for semi and unskilled workers Helper4U.in was founded in July 2014 by husband wife duo Meenakshi Gupta Jain and Punit Jain. Helper4u is an online database of domestic helpers like maids, babysitters, cooks, housekeepers, security guards and many such. Employers can access the data online or through Helper4u's mobile app and can hire the one that suits their requirements. The portal aims to help unskilled workers find jobs with respect, at no cost, while employers choose from available candidates at minuscule cost.

With revenue of Rs 35,000 during July 2014 to March 2015, Meenakshi expects to clock over Rs 500,000 during fiscal year March 2016, and till March 2017, she plans to touch Rs 1.2 crore in turnover. To achieve the same, Meenakshi has charted out aggressive growth and expansion plans. With 1400 and increasing job seekers and 500 employers on its platform, the venture plans to go live in Hyderabad next month, along with its extensive presence in overall Pune and Mumbai. Further, Meenakshi aims to reach out to at least one new metro city every six months through affiliate partnerships.

Meenakshi has successfully bootstrapped her venture through her savings, with Rs 11 lakh in investments till date. Her 25 years of rich corporate experience of being a teacher, corporate trainer and an e-learning professional gave her the much needed insight and motivation to start something of her afresh. While putting up with long working hours, Meenakshi decided to start the portal on the sidelines. The overwhelming response from her family and friends circle gave her the much needed boost to look after the venture more seriously. In an interaction with Entrepreneur, Meenakshi shares more about her entrepreneurial journey:

What led your interest in the field of employment services database?

I had heard stories about how the maids were not allowed in societies/buildings unless they bribed the security guard, and how agencies would torture them over commission. One maid, in fact, told me the story of how she had to sell her Mangalsutra to register with an agency and another one hinted at a casting couch operating with the security guards to send them to employers looking for jobs. I was horrified as well as amazed that when there are women constantly looking out for maids, why should such a problem be so widespread. After talking to many people, I realised that the demand as well as supply is there, but there’s no way for the two to connect.

Even with online portals, the problem was that the hiring happened through the portal acting as middleman. So, we started to use mobiles to connect the two and started working on an online database of maids in Powai to enable a direct connect between the Job Seekers and Job Givers. We actually started with the domain name Maid4U, but soon some men also came to visit us saying they also want jobs. So, we just expanded to include anyone unskilled/semi skilled, and rebranded it to Helper4U.in.

How supportive has been your family towards the new venture?

My husband has been the one who pushes me back towards the light at the end of the tunnel whenever I feel bogged down. My daughters feel I am doing such a great job helping the people from the poor strata get calls for job proactively.  My parents were initially worried about it, since I was visiting slums to talk to my Job Seeker segment, but today they feel proud of what I am doing. My brother, who owns a software company in the US is so kicked up about the way the venture is shaping up that he has actually offered to invest in it. This has been the most effective validation of the idea I could have got.

How did you cracked your first online registration?

We had distributed fliers in our society within a month of going live. We got many enquiries and one person paid online. She was actually a young girl, working in Delhi and looking for a maid for her parents in Mumbai. She used the site to line up maids for interview for her parents, while sitting in Delhi! In the same round of promotion, two customers got the money delivered home, as they were not confident in paying online. Similarly, a restaurant owner hired four people and again got the money delivered home. Now people have started finding online as a cheaper and faster option than hiring through agencies or through references.

How govt policies are helping in your business?

We are using Aadhar Card as the identity proof as it is linked to finger printing and one unique ID anywhere in India. Job givers have also started accepting it as an ID proof and feel a bit at peace while hiring people with an Aadhar card. Cheap mobile rates is what has enabled our business and internet connectivity is another thing which will help us in a big way.

Your opinion on start-ups coming up in the field of employment services database.

There are many databases in this field, but what is missing is one which helps people at the bottom of the pyramid connect directly with employers, and actually get employers to call them proactively. So we decided to disrupt the current scenario of the unskilled workers going around asking, and at times, begging for jobs. Something like a Naukri.com for the unskilled is what we are trying to be. It will take time to go viral, but seems to be working so far.

Edition: October 2016

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