Startup Mantra: Job, talent pool for tech-savvy women

Founded by Pooja Bangad and Tejas Kulkarni, Pune-based HRTech start-up SheWork
Pooja Bangad and Tejas Kulkarni, co-founders of SheWork.in (HT PHOTO)
Pooja Bangad and Tejas Kulkarni, co-founders of SheWork.in (HT PHOTO)
Published on Mar 05, 2022 04:11 PM IST
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BySALIL URUNKAR

Founded by Pooja Bangad and Tejas Kulkarni, Pune-based HRTech start-up SheWork.in, is helping women in tech, especially the ones who are returning to work after a maternity break, get high-paying tech projects. SheWork is a shared employment platform, hosting more than 20,000 talents, through which companies can hire and deploy talent within one week. The start-up aims to build a women-friendly eco-system that takes away stress, anxiety and ambiguity from their lives and provides direction, mentorship, guidance networking and job opportunities.

In the beginning…

Pooja and Tejas are alumni of PVG College. After completing their graduation, Pooja got an offer and joined a multinational company while Tejas went to the UK. Before relocating, Tejas formed ‘Telemerge IT Services’ company with his brother Tushar in 2015. While Tejas was working with a company in the UK in the telecom domain, Pooja also got a chance to work in the same domain while doing her projects.

Tejas says, “Telemerge IT Services got big clients from the infra-tech domain in the first year of operations itself. As we were growing, in 2017 we needed more technological support. I reached out to Pooja and did some initial freelance activities together. Our synergies since then led to the creation of SheWork.”

Pooja calls herself an accidental entrepreneur. “I come from a traditional business family and had gone against the odds to do a job. This was quite unusual. But the entrepreneurial spirit in me spurred me to do a start-up of my own,” Pooja said.

Pivot

Telemerge IT Services offered digital transformation, mobile app and website development services. The company is growing and had about ten big corporations as paying customers. In 2019, a US-headquartered company having a presence in Pune were facing problems in talent acquisition. The company asked Telemerge team to help them source the tech talent.

Says Pooja,“We were having the expertise which the US-based company was looking for. We readily helped them with ten developers. Since I and Tejas have technical and telecom domain experience, we took care of all offshore development activities for the company. The initial engagement of three months got extended to 1.5 years. That was our first success in contract staffing services.”

Pooja and Tejas realised that talent acquisition was a big problem for small and large companies. Tejas said, “It was pre-Covid time when ‘diversity’ was a buzzword. Shared spaces and shared processes were picking up. However, women’s participation, especially in the tech domain and senior management level, was lacking due to several social reasons. After identifying this market-gap, we pivoted our business.”

Friendly-pandemic

In India, we have an employment driven approach instead of the contract-based approach, says Tejas. “This means, you can either freelance or be a full-time employee with a company. There are limited options for short-term contract employment. The pandemic has now channelised this contract and freelance approach.”

Pooja added, “According to data from 451 Research, a technology industry research firm, women now make up 34 per cent of the IT workforce in India and the country is now almost at a 50:50 gender parity rate in STEM graduates. The biggest challenge lies in retaining gender diversity through middle management and leadership roles. The pandemic turned out to be ‘friendly’ to us in a way. Big corporations have also globally adopted women-friendly work-from-home or remote work and shared-resources work policies. Women talent also are feeling confident to work from home. This has triggered more participation from women.”

Offer shopping

Even though the first problem statement of ‘talent availability’ was solved, another one known as ‘offer-shopping’ (accepting offers from relatively smaller companies to bargain for better salary packages with big companies) remained a challenge. Besides, no one can guarantee the reliability and performance of the hired resource.

To overcome this problem, Pooja says, SheWork has a pool of mentors – known as ‘Talent Advocates’ who educate and guide the women talent to come back to their career and also upskill them.

“We have built a product which will help in defining the hiring process – easy hiring, easy talent acquisition and easy onboarding. The core of it was diversity and women-led talent. We are helping these women to work remotely, as per their convenience, with any company from India or abroad. With such innumerable benefits, Shework is empowering women to reach the highest echelons of the corporate ladder with ease and by creating such success stories, more women will follow suit,” Pooja said.

How it works

Free registration as talent or company by submitting details

Company submits job post

Job post approved by admin by manually intervening

Verification of what and why a package has been offered

Job post is approved and circulated to all those registered on the platform

Talent can apply if they wish

Talent gets an invitation

First interview of talent and company is done through the platform via Zoom integration

Companies can shortlist or save the profile

Companies can do as many interview rounds through platform

Feedback from talent and company is received, stored on the platform and shared mutually

Based on the feedback, ratings can be improved

Profile and companies with higher rating or reviews come on top

Document uploading and offer letters sent through the platform itself

Talent or company can terminate the contract with a notice period or compensation payment of one month

Profile screening

Talent advocates reach out to candidates when they register on the platform

Checks conducted for technical and non-technical skills

Checks are done for total experience, roles and responsibilities

Address, criminal antecedents, background verification check done after talent joins company (takes 12 days)

Talent Advocates find out what kind of career aspirations candidate possesses

Profile is listed on the platform

Company Screening

GST certificates, other documents, turnover and revenue numbers

Reviews on social media and other platforms

Is it well-funded, are salaries credited on time?

How is work culture?

Are any false offers given?

SheWork Plans

Tejas claims SheWork is a platform that helps women to get the right opportunity at the right time. Women talents get to work on high-paying projects while retaining the freedom to work from anywhere. Citing an example, Tejas informed, “One of our talents had relocated to Pune from Nagpur after her marriage. She was looking for a shorter duration job as her husband was going to relocate again. After registration, she chose the start-up plan and immediately got an offer from a company. Due to the pandemic, her relocation plan got postponed and her job was renewed for the next 6 months. She has planned for her pregnancy and the company is also happy to extend her tenure.”

Start-up plan

Dedicated Resource Engagement – 3 Months to 6 Months

SheWork Fees – 20 per cent of talent cost to company (CTC)

Specially designed for start-ups since their requirements keep changing and they can’t predict business for long term

Talent is available on a short-term contract to start-up companies

Women can plan their pregnancy, travel, etc

One-month notice for both sides in case of contract termination

Long term plan

Dedicated Resource Engagement – 6 Months to 11 Months

SheWork Fees – 20 per cent of talent CTC

Suitable for midsized or large companies and talent

Reduces offer shopping

Buy-Out plan

Dedicated Resource Engagement – Permanent

SheWork Fees – One month salary from Employer

Preferences

60 per cent candidates prefer start-up plan

70 per cent candidates prefer long term plans too

Talent seeks stability by combining a start-up plan with a long-term plan (multiple options can be selected while choosing a plan)

Candidates looking for longer engagement go for a combination of long term and buyout plan.

Tejas said, “We also give different tools for project management, performance management, timesheet, etc; to monitor the talent’s progress. Freelancing doesn’t give surety of the talent availability for three months and no one can vouch for their productivity. Also, on gig platforms, freelancers have to get educated and bid to get work. However, on SheWork, we encourage talents to go for dedicated work employment.”

Total Women Talent listed on the platform – 20000+ (Women– 85 per cent; Men – 15 per cent)

Due to job loss during the pandemic, some men also registered on the platform

Turn-Around-Time (registration to deployment) – 1 week

Educating Talent

SheWork helps companies with diversity in hiring, says Pooja. “Talent and companies are spoilt with options on regular job portals. But no one ‘advocates’ for the candidate there. Well-funded start-ups also struggle to get good talent because candidates may not trust new companies. This is where talent advocates from SheWork play a major role. They educate the candidates about why their roles are matching, what benefits they will get, etc. However, we never influence the talent to take a particular favourable decision.”

“We try to keep the platform as a ‘secured community’. We don’t share any data of women’s talent within our community with any company. We don’t share profiles having personal details with anyone including companies,” stated Pooja.

SheWork.in

SheWork caters to candidates with experience of 3 years + only.

At present, SheWork offers jobs from the IT domain only. Job profiles include developers, program managers, project managers, technical leads, etc.

Non-IT, BPO, Finance, etc job roles are not supported

Total team – 70 including 11 talent advocates

Number of paying clients - 150

Number of candidates placed – 1,000

Talent says…

“I was on the lookout for challenging opportunities in IT. I read about SheWork on social media and registered on it. The next day, I got a call from their team to interview for a project with an international client and I onboarded on the fourth day. I have been associated with shework.in for the last one year.”

- Jigisha Patel (30), Sr Dotnet Developer, Infimetrics, Pune (11+ years’ experience)

Future plans

Pooja and Tejas both believe that talent acquisition processes and business will evolve in the next five years. The duo says, “In the next five years, we want to contribute to the leadership roles for women. We don’t want to rapidly scale up. We feel it is important to build a steady and profitable business. We have work orders from big corporations for the next 1.5 years. If we channelise it, we can scale up without any external funding. We are now focussing on product development, automation and marketing.”

Funding and Revenue

Investment so far – 1 crore (including funds from family)

First-year revenue - $1 million (~ 6 crore)

Share of start-up and long-term plan share is about 85 per cent share

Customers

Talents interests coming from Southern America, Nepal, Bangladesh and India

Within India, most are from tier 2 cities in Maharashtra (Pune, Nagpur, Nashik, etc), Gujarat (Ahmedabad), Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal, Indore, Khandva, etc)

Start-ups and companies from Bengaluru, Hyderabad

Competitors

Job platforms including LinkedIn, etc

Staffing companies like Diamond Pick, etc

Ed-tech companies like Scaler, etc

HR Startups

India – 3650 (1235 – DPIIT recognised)

Maharashtra – 560 (206)

Pune – 133 (51)

Source: Startup India Portal, Government of India

Indian IT and Business Service Industry

2021 H1 – $6.96 billion

2025 – $19.93 billion (estimated)

Source: IBEF Report, December 2021

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