Apna Time Ayega! Know How This Entrepreneur Is Building Job Network For Blue-Collar Labor
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India, a country which once depended heavily on the agricultural sector for sustainability and employment opportunities, now has 300 million blue collar laborers. This number is on the rise as more and more farmers are tempted by better livelihood in cities. With all that said, if one observes carefully, blue collar laborers which mostly comprise of carpenters, painters, electricians, field sales agents mostly rely on contractors or word of the mouth to get a work. On the contrary, if you talk about the country's 18 million white-collar workers, there are several professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, Naukri.com, Indeed.com, among others to help them get their dream job.
To address this pain and help the blue-collar laborers connect faster to new employers Nirmit Parikh formulated the idea of a networking platform for the blue-colored workers in the country. In an interaction with Entrepreneur India, Parikh talks about what led to the startup and what are its plans moving ahead.
From going undercover to Apna Time Ayega
Parikh wore his entrepreneurial hat earlier than most out there. Coming from a family of engineers, his first startup was at the age of 21 and was called Incone, an automatic dam control system. Later he found Cruxbox – a platform that summarised websites – which was acquired by Kno and then Intel. This development made him shift to Silicon Valley as Intel’s director of data analytics. Later he went on to work at Apple. It is during his stay abroad where he realized that opportunities that a welder in Ahmedabad will receive will not be the same as the opportunities that an engineer in the US will get, and that makes the difference.
“Throughout my career I worked with many frontline workers in factories and manufacturing facilities. There was always a deep disconnect between what incumbent products/ companies in this space were offering and what the market need was,” Parikh added.
Explaining further, he said that blue-collar workers' have required skills but not resumes. Most platforms these days have a resume driven process and most jobs are shared through informal channels, while the incumbent platforms only aggregate formalized jobs.
To read the problem closer, Parikh even went undercover as an electrician, foreman and even cashier to feel their everyday challenges. He realized opportunities are directly correlated with their professional network, ability to learn new skills like spoken English and access to better jobs.
This led him to found Apna.co, a vertical professional networking platform for India’s working class. The name, ‘Apna’ was inspired from Ranveer Singh’s instant hit “Apna Time Ayega” from Gullyboy.
For a startup that is trying to bring difference by going against billion dollar companies, needs strong support from its initial days. Parikh thanks his current investors which includes Lightspeed, Sequoia, Greenoaks Rocketship VC to have believed his vision and showed their confidence in him. The startup has recently raised $12.5 million, taking the total infused fund to $23 million.
“Apna was going after a very real problem -- to help 240M+ blue and grey collar workers in this country find jobs, build a professional community and upskill themselves -- that wasn't addressed by any of the existing platforms. Also Nirmit was thinking about the solution in a very powerful product-first and community-first way. Most of us at Lightspeed were founders before and we love backing companies very early in their journeys - Snap, OYO, Udaan are other examples. So, anytime we meet the combination of a bold entrepreneur, a provocative approach and a large problem, those are journeys we want to go on despite the risks,” added Vaibhav Agarwal, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners.
The startup has till date onboarded nearly 100,000 companies including small and large enterprises. The startup boasts that its enterprise employers have a 95 per cent retention rate on its platform. Some of the renowned employers to have boarded the platform are Aditya Birla Group, Reliance, HDFC Bank, Swiggy, Zomator, among others.
Users in the app get access to local job opportunities, can network with peers, practice interviews together, s
hare their accomplishments, and gain new skills.
The startup that operates in eight major cities in the country delivers nearly a million job opportunities to people every month. Around four million job applications are filed per month and so far around seven million frontline workers have used the platform to find their next opportunity.
The onset of the pandemic wreaked havoc in the country’s job market. Irrespective of which sector you are in, millions were laid off, as companies tried to truncate its expenditure. While there were millions of white-collar job losses, blue-collar workers bore the brunt of lockdown the most. The endless, agonizing walk of migrant workers trying to reach homes, haunted people enjoying work from home for days.
When the lockdown began, Apna.co had just started its operations.
“We accelerated our product development, and chose to open up the Apna platform and make it entirely free for all recruiters - to ensure the fastest access to opportunity for India’s struggling workforce and help India get back to work,” Parikh added. This helped the platform to grow as more job seekers signed up on the platform.
According to Parikh there was a demand for jobs in the essential services sector. On the community side, users helped each to improve their cross-skill.
The startup which is now operating in tier-I cities, is looking to provide jobs to job seekers in tier-II and below cities. It aims to operate nationally by the end of 2021.
The startup also plans to experiment with a few international markets.
“We plan to heavily invest in upskilling and career support services to offer more holistic assistance to our users to get ahead in their professional careers.”
The firm currently doesn’t generate revenue but plans to generate it from employers with Apna’s recruitment product offerings and support enterprise reach efforts towards skilled and semi-skilled workforce.