Founded in 2020, FlexC is a distinctive platform that intends to revolutionise the hiring landscape in India. Girish Kukreja, CEO and Co-Founder of FlexC aims to reimagine the hiring space, by being a talent marketplace to hire and manage the hybrid workforce. Starting something on his own was always on the bucket list, Girish is an MBA from the Indian School of Business. He has over 20 years of rich and versatile experience in the field of IT covering Product Companies, IT and BPO services. He has worked with leading companies like Infosys Technologies Ltd where he worked for more than nine years, other than that he also had stints with L&T Infotech Ltd and Trigyn Technologies.
FlexC operates on the SAAS platform to hire and manage freelancers, contractors, and agencies. It aggregates the HR recruiters and agencies eliminating the need of relying on multiple vendors. It is a scalable digital platform that serves as an integrated marketplace for Independent Consultants to access White Collar Gigs and for organizations to access best-in-class talent. The digital platform provides an end-to-end ecosystem for users to access/assign gigs, manage contracting, invoicing, payments, performance feedback through a single dashboard.
In an exclusive interaction with Motiverge, Girish Kukreja, Founder and CEO, FlexC shares more insights about the brand, journey so far, motivation and future plans.
Below are the excerpts from the interview:
Tell us more about FlexC. How did you finalize your brand name?
We discussed quite a number of names like FlexConsult, HR Lanes being some of few. The principle we followed was easy to remember, convey our business proposition and should have a good recall value. FlexC comes from Flexible Consulting which conveys to hire and manage their hybrid workforce.
What factors influenced or motivated the founding team to create a unique talent marketplace? What seeded the idea of a startup in the HR sector?
In India, gig employees take up only around 5% of the total workforce. Whereas in countries like the US and UK, the percentage is much higher. COVID has made Indian industries rethink their ways of working. During this time, I felt it’s time Indian industries should witness this change, and revamp their workforce structure from traditional to hybrid.
With that idea in mind, we incorporated FlexC. We aim to become India’s first talent marketplace, helping organizations hire and manage their hybrid workforce. With FlexC, our vision is to digitize the complete hiring process with the power of AI- from discovering talent to managing the flexible workforce within the platform’s ecosystem. Our uniqueness won’t be just a Tech platform but a Tech-based Service Model which is for permanent hire through our agency aggregation model, and for contracting through platform-based contractors.
What were the first few steps during and after the launch of FlexC?
Our ideology during and after the launch of FlexC changed drastically. The initial idea started with converting electronic profiles (resumes) to AI-understandable digital profiles. However, while designing we realised this is just one small part of the process, which is completely manual. With digitization, the overall process has a huge scope of improvement. There were two pivots we made-
1- Focus on B2B rather than B2C model: This was important because of our background, connections and feedback we received from the market.
2- We also realized that we can introduce permanent hiring by establishing a network of freelance recruiters and agencies, alongside keeping the actual spirit of our platform intact
The principle we always followed was “reduce batch size, reduce cycle time.” And keeping this principle in mind. We conceptualised the BETA 2.0 as the second wave hit its peak in May 2021, and launched our final product in July 2021 with one platform for hiring and managing a hybrid workforce – freelancers, contractors and permanent hiring.
Have you raised funds so far?
We did an initial family and friends around. The focus was to get people helping us from domains like US and UK regional references and marketing which was key to our business. We are in the process of raising our first seed funding, but it’s in the nascent stage.
Tell us about your motivation. What keeps you going?
First is that we are in the business of employment which gives us utmost satisfaction that one placement supports families. Second is being part of this change to hybrid models which industries will go through. Relentlessly innovating our product to suit customer needs is what keeps us going.
How has your journey been so far?
Our journey so far has been a rollercoaster ride- packed with growth, lessons and milestones. A Roller Coaster ride is where there will be uncertainty, scare, ups and downs but you need to enjoy the journey and be satisfied in the end. So far we have achieved our two major milestones which were-
1- To create an AI-powered talent marketplace and establish ourselves as a Brand in this space.
2- Achieve the ideal supply of consultants, recruiters and organizations on our platform. At present, FlexC has more than 20,000 professionals across 400+ skills and 200+ agencies for our talent aggregation model. Also, 500+ organizations are revamping their workforce structure with FlexC.
Currently, we are in the third phase, working on increasing the efficiency of our model, multiplying 10X and customizing our user’s experience.
How big is your team? How did you manage your team & business during the COVID-19 outbreak?
We are a 25-member strong family and have 200+ agencies and 15K professionals as our extended workforce. We are a virtual first organization, managing all our operations online- from incorporation till today. Our approach and business have built and flourished on the tools we use. Technology plays a vital role in efficiently managing virtual teams. We have productivity tools like Work plus, and for CRM we rely on Hubspot. We use Razorpay to manage employee onboarding and payroll. To maintain formal communication, we use the GMAIL suite of products.
In your view, how technology is redefining the HR industry? What are the key HR Tech trends and changes that you have witnessed in the last one and half years?
During the pandemic, the companies had to adopt the WFH culture. Onboarding employees had become a bit more challenging and involved more logistics (sending laptops, forms at employee’s home etc.) Also, HR had to think of ways to maintain employee engagement. This accelerated digitization in HR, putting pressure on HR to adopt HR Tech to make the process easier and efficient. Today HRs use technology for employee hiring, monitoring, maintaining engagement and many more tasks.
The future of employee engagement has to be through technology and with WFH becoming the new norm, HRs will have to adopt new technologies such as Artificial intelligence, machine learning, privacy and cyber security-enhancing tools to ensure productivity and efficiency.
What kind of gaps a talent marketplace fills in? What role is FlexC playing in revolutionizing the HR sector?
A Talent Marketplace offers a single platform for organizations to engage with multiple agencies. Currently, the agency network for permanent external hiring is a closed space and we want to open it up. It will benefit the organizations as they can only focus on the candidate’s profile rather than agencies. Another benefit is that organizations get one single platform to manage the hybrid workforce. FlexC will help organisations reduce cycle time of talent acquisition through expanding agency networks or contractors to satisfy the immediate needs.
Who are the major competitors of FlexC in India as well as globally? How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?
FlexC is competing with service listing platforms like Naukri which provide self-service to Organisations to fulfil, or ATS systems which are pure platforms to help with the process. Companies like Naukri, Upwork, Freelancer, Incruiter, Prosperix are our competition in one of the elements of the Hybrid workforce but no one has an E2E solution for the same.
01- More than an ATS, and comes with an elastic network of HR recruiters and professionals, solving talent gaps organizations face. Our Talent aggregation will be uberizing the HR recruitment for permanent hires.
02- Has an AI-automated screening process which reduces down the cycle time by 50%. This applies to the organization’s talent database, agencies talent pool and talent pool created from the platform.
03- Manage the complete hybrid workforce on the platform by tracking the spend analytics, payments, tax compliances, productivity and milestone tracking.
What are the business opportunities in the HR Tech space especially in the APAC region? How do you see growth, market response and challenges in a post-COVID world?
The Asia–Pacific region is home to 1.3 billion of the world’s 2 billion informal workers. India is second highest in the working population. So, business opportunities in the HR tech space to solve the hiring and management problem have tremendous potential. Globally it’s a $28Bn industry and growing towards $43Bn by 2027. FlexC is targeting the mix of the global staffing industry and tech space which is worth $225 Bn +. This is the reason we believe Worktech will supersede HR Tech. With digitization growing faster, this space is expected to grow at a faster pace, especially the changing mix of contractors to the permanent workforce. The market response has also been encouraging. The share of contract labour in total employment increased sharply from 15.5 per cent in 2000-01 to 27.9 per cent in 2015-16. With India moving to Work from Home Town, the post-Covid Era will see people preferring more WFH and multiple projects than settling for one project. The challenges remain of direct fitment to job, market supply issues especially with latest digital technologies, engagement from offer to joining and professionalism of candidates during the hiring process.
Being a startup, what do you think is the biggest challenge in India? Please share your views on how the Indian Government is doing on supporting startups?
I think challenges to start a business in India are reducing and the current Govt is supporting MSME/Startups. The current startup ecosystem success has just started with India receiving more Funding than China in 2021 and also the number of unicorns in India increasing every month. There is a lot to improve compared to the USA where capital is the easiest. India has picked up on innovation but will still take some time to get to that stage.
Where do you see yourself in the upcoming 3 to 5 years?
So far our primary focus has been on startups and mid-tier organizations. We are approaching large scale organizations as well, and have been receiving positive traction so far.
In the coming years, with our product being globally extendable, we want to set foot in the global markets and introduce FlexC to multinational organizations. We also want to make top Indian talent accessible to global markets through our platform.
What are your messages or leadership lessons for budding entrepreneurs and emerging artists?
There are a couple of things I would like to share with the budding entrepreneurs:
1- Start Early: The startup market in India is growing at a very rapid pace, with more startups making it into the unicorn club every day. If you feel you have a scalable idea, start working on it. Starting early will give you an extra advantage.
2- Focus on building a great team: A good idea needs a great team to turn it into a scalable reality. Remember, you cannot run the whole show by yourself. You will need people. Hence make sure you surround yourself with good ones, both in terms of ethics and skills.
3- Research- Study the market as much as you can. Build your product. Study again and revamp it. Sometimes people believe they need to conduct market research only in the beginning. But that’s not the case. An entrepreneur has to keep studying the market and innovate their product. Celebrate every little success. It will keep you and your team motivated to perform better.
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