AuthBridge in media
A 2019 HCM Trends report from ‘The HR Federation’ states that global HR technology venture capital reached $3.1 billion in 2018, more than triple the amount invested in 2017.
A survey on the ‘Future of Workforce’ claimed that the HR function is the most vulnerable to be replaced by automation. If one were to look at the historical impact of technology, the claim feels removed from the truth. What technology has historically done across functions-replacing labour-intensive jobs in the immediate future to create new kinds of jobs in the long run- it is set to do the same for the HR department as well. In fact, A 2019 HCM Trends report from ‘The HR Federation’ states that global HR technology venture capital reached $3.1 billion in 2018, more than triple the amount invested in 2017.
Tech in HR Operations
Powered by the new wave of technologies such as Automation, Digitisation, ML and AI, the HR industry has developed efficient and data-driven operations solutions with predictable ROIs, an indication of the graduationof the role of the HR from an administrative and compliance department to key decision and impact maker. Some of the majortrends to have emerged include:
Laborious tasks like employee onboarding have been transformed with Robotic Process Automation so that repetitive jobs like creating records, documentation and adding employees in payroll systems can be made quicker and hassle-free.
Learning and Development
Employee training programs have become digital and catered to individual needs. These programs use interactive AI and AR/VR solutions as well as gamified L&D systems to ensure participation. It is also possible now to measure their effectiveness against clear ROIs and goals.
Data-driven decisions around promotions, compensation, training, employee retention and agile cross-functional team staffing can be taken with the help of HR analytics. Sentiment Analysis based on sentiment data generated through hundreds of interactions between managers and employees is also not unheard of in today’s time.
With HR Tech, companies are making way for dynamic goal setting, regular performance check-ins and crowdsourced feedback. This kind of engagement, with data analytics to back it, makes employees feel more engaged and helps retain them.
Predicting workforce demand and attrition, searching for the right candidate, primary screening and interviews can all be achieved at a few clicks with intelligent AI systems.
Digitization of information coupled with the latest technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, elastic and deep search etc. has opened new possibilities in background verification. We, at AuthBridge, have embraced technology for driving innovation. Today, we can deliver Instant Identity Authentication, Real-time Criminal Background Check (through our registered platform VAULT™),Education and Employment Verification. Technology has enabled the creation of proprietary databases and powerful search engines to scrape millions of data-points to generate precise results. Our in-house field staff managing application(FieldKart) has brought accountability and reliability in operations, especially in Physical Address Verification. Most importantly, technology has made it possible for us to deliver better data security and compliance to our clients, two crucial pillars of success for any business.
Technology is learning to be humane
Conventionally, the HR departments have relied on human judgement in understanding employees and their emotions, motivations, behaviour and complexities. While automation for operational tasks starteda long time ago, the new-age technology powered by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is now ready to enable the HR department to make data-driven conclusions in relation to the nuance of human emotions and psychology as well. This technology is changing the ecosystem of the HR world and making it function in a way unimaginable a decade ago. Be it direct roles of learning and development, payroll management, onboarding, employee engagement or outsourced services like employee background screening, HRMS etc., technology has empowered the HR domain like never in the history before.
The future of HR Tech looks bright
The global human resource management (HRM) sector is projected to reach $30 billion by 2025. The McKinsey Institute estimates that by this same time the global economic impact of AI will be somewhere between $7 and $13 trillion. With timely investment and right tech education, the HR function will be able to move beyond the mundane to create business efficiency. The successful HR leaders of the future will have a seat at the high table that they can use for a dialogue on the future of work, which is not expected to be linear butadaptive of thegreat needs of the new generationto grow across industries, verticals and departments. The future of HR holds an amalgam of tech with human capabilities and it’s time for HR leaders to embrace this future to build their own.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are two of the disruptive forces in the industry today. Being in their early stages, they already have the potential to absolutely change the way business decisions are made in the organization.
AI/ML Favors Companies With Significant Data Stores On Historic Operations. So, It Favors Companies With Scale And Those Who Have Invested In ERP, CRM, MES, Sensor Data, Etc. And Kept Historic Data. Very Small Companies And Those That Have Thrown Out Historic Data Will Be At A Disadvantage.”
Stephen Pratt, CEO, Noodle.ai
Conversations around Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning began in the 1950s. It was then that people started talking about these technologies academically, in relation to the business and what they could generally mean for the development of computer science. In 2019, AI and ML’s all-encompassing presence within the business operations have transformed them from merely a niche solution to a mainstream disruptive force.
Anil Arora, Principal Data Scientist, SAS India notes that an explosion of data sources, low costs of computational power and advancements in methods and algorithms are the catalysts that have led to the advancement of AI and ML over the last decade.
Artificial Intelligence Is Poised To Unleash The Next Wave Of Digital Disruption, And Companies Should Prepare For It Now. AI Promises Benefits, But Also Poses Urgent Challenges That Cut Across Firms, Developers, Government, And Workers. The Workforce Needs To Be Reskilled To Exploit AI Rather Than Compete With It.”
Anil Arora, Principal Data Scientist, SAS India
AI and ML for the Enterprise
AI and ML are revolutionary technologies. These learning algorithms have the potential to fundamentally reform the way operational decisions are taken by the enterprise. In 2018 the NITI Aayog under the National Program on Artificial Intelligence, adopted a three-pronged approach – undertaking exploratory proof-of-concept AI projects in various areas, crafting a national strategy for building a vibrant AI ecosystem in India and collaborating with various experts and stakeholders.
The Indian enterprises are gradually moving towards AI-ML friendly business operations, as they have identified and plan to benefit from the advantages that an organization stands to accrue if it deploys these technologies.
Conversational AI Is A Frontier Technology, Offering Capabilities That Most Companies Are Not Yet Aware Of. This Includes Everything From Making Marketing Conversational, Interactive, And Personalized To Making Customer Support More Immediate, Effective, And Cost-Efficient.”
Kartik Walia, Head India operations, Amplify.ai
AI and ML are extremely useful for Security, for instance. It allows the system to identify a pattern of use, mannerisms, data transfers, accessibility, etc. At any slight deviation, say irregular log in requests by employees or accessing of data base through unknown systems, AI tracks the disruption and alerts the authorities immediately so that the crisis can be averted. Hence, by intercepting and mitigating potential breaches or leaks, AI and ML become crucial tools for prevention from the security point of view.
Below are some testaments from business leaders on how Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have proved to be a game changer for their business.
Commenting on how AI has shaped their business activities, Gail Moody-Byrd,CMO, Noodle.ai, says, “We have a not-so-secret plan to create a world without waste through the Enterprise AI apps we deploy to manufacturers and supply chains. Our products focus where the waste is – companies that make things and move things. We think traditional rules-based software is failing business leaders, so we work with our customers to leverage artificial intelligence to do things like improve quality, reduce downtime, improve fill rates and recover lost sales – all while reducing waste.”
Talking about how ML has benefitted their business, Ajay Trehan, Founder & CEO, AuthBridge says, “We have used AI/ML to reduce the turnaround time for our customers, to deliver lower costs and serve better quality. Vault, our Criminal Records search product, has become more efficient through ML and is getting even better with time through self-learning driven by additional data sets. Instant results from searching millions of records are getting precise reducing the time considerably to deliver the service.”
Addressing the issue, Sandeep Geol, Senior Vice President – Technology, Moglixsays, “We have deployed AI and ML based solutions to address critical business problems such as Data Quality, Buyer’s behaviour prediction, supplier selection and more. We are using AI and ML for supply chain optimizations through initiatives like Data Cleansing and Catalogue Management, Purchase Recommendations and Supplier Performance Management.”
But the Transformation journey is hardly as smooth as it seems to be.
The Rise Of AI And ML In The Financial Industry Proves How Quickly It’s Changing The Business Landscape Even In Traditionally Conservative Areas. We Are Witnessing And Delivering Transformational Changes In How We Make Decisions, Manage Risk, Prevent Fraud And Automate Processes – For An Improved Customer Experience.”
Neeraj Goyal, Head of Technology India, RBS India.
Problems with AI and ML deployment
The challenge that arises with such technologies, that are still, in many ways, only in the early years of development, is that there is not enough information or awareness about it. “Many customers in the Indian market are not aware of the difference between a report, a BI dashboard, a simple analytics service and a ML or AI service. The awareness factor also is dependent on the steep learning curve ML and AI as a domain warrants,” says Anand Subramaniam, Head – Artificial Intelligence Practice, Aspire Systems.
All the highly skilled personnel that any business already has, would be people who are trained in technologies that have already gone through the initial stages of development and are now an established norm. But as far as adoption of AI and ML is concerned, businesses cannot proceed without either acquiring a new tea or training its existing one.
“AI projects require a multi-functional team,comprising of domain knowledge experts, data scientists and programmers,” says Ajay Trehan, Founder & CEO, AuthBridge.
So, even though AI and ML have immense potential for the businesses, it cannot be realized unless and until there is a considerable growth in the number of professionals available in the market who have a thorough working knowledge of AI and ML.
Addressing the problem of the extensive lack of skills and tools for the adoption of AI, Anil Arora, Principal Data Scientist, SAS India, says, “Majority of the organization want to embark upon AI journey but with lack of skills and relevant tools it becomes almost impossible to build and deploy AI in their system. It’s imperative to have highly skilled resources at disposal to be able to build any AI application.”
AI And ML Is Going To Impact Every Vertical/Sector Dynamically Or Anywhere Where Primary Customer And Operational Data Is The Lifeblood Of An Enterprise.”
Joseph Jayakumar, CEO, Amstar Technologies
Another challenge that needs to be mentioned here, is the problematic of Cybersecurity. AI and ML primarily uses huge volumes of Data to make intelligent decisions, which makes it imperative for a business to safeguard Cybersecurity to ensure that security concerns like Data Breach and Identity Theft are under control.
Like every other Technology, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, come with their fair share of potential and challenges. At the end of the day, it all comes down to how well can a business overcome the challenges, in a cost-effective manner, so that they can overhaul their activities in a way that is only for the betterment of the organization. It is only after a business excels at this, that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can prove to be a game changer for them.
Businesses Subsist For The Customers And If They Feel AI And ML Give An Easing Experience, Giving Them That Would Be The Right Solution”
Mohar V, Co-founder and CEO, TECHVED Consulting.
Gurugram-based startup AuthBridge offers services such as instant identity verification, employment background screening, customer screening, partner due diligence, and works with several Fortune 500 companies.
This incident may seem right out of a Bollywood thriller but it actually happened. A woman took on her elder sister’s identity to join a job that her sibling was selected for. Except the elder sister was dead. It was when the employer ran a AuthBridge on Background check that the truth was revealed.
Cases like this and many more are all in a day’s job for Gurugram-based AuthBridge, which offers services such as instant identity verification, employment background screening, customer screening, and partner due diligence. The company, which works with several Fortune 500 employers across the country, foiled the identity theft attempt.
AuthBridge CEO and Founder Ajay Trehan details how the incident unfolded. “After the employer reached out to us for a background screening, we went to the candidate’s previous employer. They asked us why we were screening her, as she is dead. We sent the employee’s photo and they said this is not the girl. They also sent us the hospital’s medical report of her death.”
AuthBridge Founder and CEO Ajay Trehan says his company runs checks for recruitment and existing staff across the board – starting from the drivers to company board members.
After this, the Gurugram startup confronted the employee, who admitted to assuming her sister’s identity to join the company. The deceased, who had five years of work experience, had applied for the BPO job before her death.
Ajay, an IIT-Delhi alumnus, recounts another interesting case where the CEO of a mid-sized IT company with 18 years of work experience was found to have furnished fake IIT and IIM degrees.
“After a month of the CEO taking charge, there were murmurs within the company. The employees were of the opinion that the guy’s skills were not in line with an IIT-IIM graduate’s. That is when we came into the picture,” Ajay says.
Both the IIT and IIM degrees furnished were quite old, dating to 1985 and 1987, respectively. While IIM-Ahmedabad was quick to react and came back the very next day after the query was sent to them, IIT-BHU (Banaras Hindu University) took 60 days to confirm that the fraudulent CEO was never a part of the institute.
According to AuthBridge, around 10 percent of the cases they take up every month have discrepancies. However, some discrepancies can be easily resolved. One such case had to do with hiring for an international board. The candidate had a $40 traffic violation in the US, which was still open after several years.
“Being part of an international board means that you may come under the scrutiny of global regulators. And if something like this were to come out, even though it is not a big offence, it would bring embarrassment to the board and the individual. We asked the candidate to settle the fine, after which the offer was rolled out,” Ajay says.
Other times, the upshot’s not so simple. A male teacher who had been teaching in a Dehradun school for several years was revealed to have been part of the CBI’s most wanted list. The shocking revelation was made when the school decided to run a routine check of its staff through the Gurugram company.
That’s why AuthBridge now runs checks for recruitments and existing staff across the board – starting from drivers to company board members.
To check the reputation of the candidate, AuthBridge uses aggregated data from digitised court and litigation records
How it started
AuthBridge was founded in 2005 with the premise of creating a platform for employee background screening services. Prior to starting AuthBridge, Ajay ran a BPO company offering services to the US and the UK.
“I would ask my HR whether we had background checks on employees and there would be nothing,” Ajay remembers. During his trips to the US, Ajay came across background screening companies. He realised there was a massive opportunity back home to tap into the sector and formed a small team of three-four people to experiment with the format in August 2005.
“No one was doing it in India then. And this was not detective work. This was a research-based KPO opportunity. I spoke to HR people and everyone said they were looking for a service like this. I realised the huge opportunity that lay unexplored,” Ajay says.
It took the company around four months to figure out how to go about their work, the founder admits candidly. “However, we broadly knew what we wanted to do. To authenticate educational and employment background,” he says.
In 2006, AuthBridge got its first contract. From a skeletal team, the company now has over a 1,000 employees, having served 1,400 clients.
The tech pivot
Around the time the team size reached 30, the company realised that unless they “brought in tech and thought of doing business in a radically different way” they could not scale up. And so in 2007-08, it turned to automation.
“As the client base was growing we were ending up calling or getting in touch with the same universities and organisations. We realised it was time to automate,” Ajay says. AuthBridge started creating a year-by-year database of graduating classes and employment records for quick cross-checks. Their database currently has 300 million records that it has aggregated over the years.
Since the company holds a lot of private information, the automation engines also made sure that the data was available only on a need-to-know basis. It ensured strict control on the viewing and dissemination of data.
The company currently screens 15,000-20,000 candidates on a daily basis. The three broad buckets it looks into while assessing a candidate are identity, profile, and reputation. As part of the identity check,, it looks at all identities of a candidate, including PAN, driving licence, passport, etc. The company uses government licensed APIs (application programming interface) to verify these. The profile check includes verifying education and employment history through AuthBridge’s proprietary software.
To check the reputation of the candidate, the company uses aggregated data from digitised court and litigation records. “In 2012 we started using web spiders that would crawl and aggregate the data,” Ajay adds. For reputation assessment the company also engages with former employers and colleagues on a case-to-case basis.
Ivy League institution Cornell University even published a case study titled, AuthBridge: Innovating HR Operations in India, on the company’s technology innovations in the space of employment background screening.
Competition and clients
AuthBridge’s list of clients includes the likes of Ola Cabs, Mindtree, Max Life Insurance, Manpower Group, and PropTiger. Several schools and colleges are also part of its clientele.
Competition in the Indian market exists in the form of companies such as US-headquartered First Advantage and KPMG’s background screening and verification services.
However, AuthBridge claims to be the market leader with an annual revenue run rate of Rs 100 crore. The company has been profitable from the first year itself, Ajay says.
Last year, in September, AuthBridge acquired Bengaluru-based Footprints Collateral Services, marking the biggest deal in the background screening industry, as per the company. However, it is reticent about the deal size. The acquisition was part of a long-term growth strategy of investing in service, scale, and technology. The company expects the acquisition to help capture 40 percent market share by March 2020. At present, the company claims to have more than 30 percent market share with an annual growth rate of 40-50 percent.
Ajay says: “There are more acquisitions in the pipeline to further complement our capability.”
Beyond employee verification
AuthBridge also does vendor and distributor due diligence for large FMCG companies, and reputation data analysis of entrepreneurs and companies for private equity funds. “With the data bank we have, we can aggregate this information quite quickly,” Ajay says.
The company also caters to banks and financial institutions by providing data solutions. “These organisations require data for customer-related decisions such as loan approvals. They need to decide who to loan to and how much,” Ajay explains. For first-time customers, lenders tend to look at surrogate data such as education and employment history. Authbridge provides ‘plug-and-play’ services to these institutions, allowing them to use the company’s large database.
AuthBridge has recently also started conducting drug tests for companies on their employees. Random spot tests are conducted and the most common drugs found have been marijuana and opiate, Ajay says.
The road ahead
In the early days, background screening in India was driven mostly by BPO companies, Ajay says. Their clients – typically from the US and the UK – wanted employee background checks done. It has now become a “mandatory hygiene thing” for many sectors, he says.
“Currently, white collar staff are background checked by 20 percent of the companies, so there is a major scope to grow there,” he says.
With the rise of the shared economy and temporary staffing, there has been an increasing need to verify ‘partners’ such as delivery personnel and cab drivers. The penetration in blue collar verification is at a miniscule 1 per cent and the company clearly sees massive opportunity to build on that.
The served market for background verification stands at around Rs 500 crore with a potential to reach Rs 15,000-20,000 crore, Ajay says.
The company has not yet raised any institutional funding and has so far been funded by Ajay and “some angel investment”. However, in the next 12 months, as it looks to scale, especially on the tech front, the company is looking to raise funds. “AuthBridge has already hired an investment banker for the process,” Ajay says.
Technology has always proved to cause a tremendous growth in the start-up business due to the revolutionised business concepts and models.
BENGALURU: Technology has always proved to cause tremendous growth in the start-up business due to the revolutionised business concepts and models. It provided a faster, more convenient and efficient way of performing the business transactions to have a wider reach in the global market thus attracting more clients and customers.
We believe that start-ups succeed when they focus on not just meeting customer expectations, but on increasing and exceeding them. In order to drive better health outcomes for the user our innovations in personalisation algorithms, predictive analytics and user experience have driven breakthrough health outcomes, often driving 27X more impact than traditional approaches.
As a result, our growing user base has 2x better compliance rates than prior highs, satisfaction and retention rates of 90 per cent and an NPS measure which is 8x compared to industry averages. Inciting higher expectations from our clients and users motivates us to continue innovating to stay ahead of the curve.
Due to poor user experience, users often get disengaged, leading in turn to poor compliance (studies show that at most 33 per cent users adhere to physicians; advice) and eventually poor health outcomes. For example, customer experience and expectations with healthcare have traditionally been low. Research from Accenture (link) shows that the average Net Promoter Score (NPS) for healthcare, a measure of customer experience and expectations, is 9 on a 100 point scale.
– Rekuram Varadharaj, co-founder and COO, Healthi
As a start-up begins getting noticed, some of the early challenges are to deliver speed and efficiency, while ensuring scalability to meet dynamic expectations of clients/ customers.
Luckily, we learned early to embrace technology to innovate. Being the pioneers in India for our industry, we have lived through the rising expectations of our clients for TAT, custom solutions, mode of delivery, quality and accuracy.
With a strong focus on technology, we have innovated our processes to not only meet but surpass some of these expectations and establish industry benchmarks. One such example is automating
the operations workflow system. It was a game changer and even got recognition as a case study by Cornell University.
The technology is bringing intelligence to our processes and systems and helping us to innovate to deliver instant checks, hyper-customised solutions and error-free data processing without human intervention. While dealing with a lot of data, automation is building repositories or databases, which are becoming reference points for increased business intelligence and efficiency.Often, when I am educating clients on our products and services, I end up being inspired with an idea or two myself. For us, the innovation comes from expectations; the higher the expectations, the more inspired I feel to build solutions around those expectations.
– Ajay Trehan, founder and CEO, AuthBridge
The new millennium witnessed a tectonic shift in the global business sector, with various entrepreneurship initiatives getting consolidated in the form of startups.For achieving sustained growth, a strong team comprising erudite professionals who closely follow latest trends in developments in science and technology, is imperative.
The technical wing needs to be effectively supported by an innovative marketing team which can procure efficacious monetising models and generate significant revenue. Social media has indeed become a powerful tool to integrate various growth factors, which not only includes roadmaps for procuring funds, but also encourages a feedback system that channelises client priorities and customer satisfaction.
However in an era of fierce competition and rising expectations, the success of any venture rests on its innate emphasis on fortifying its fundamentals.
– Oshikka Lumb, author and entrepreneur, Markitiers
The point of an exponential boom in any industry is crucial for two reasons. Expectedly, it opens the industry and stakeholders to unprecedented growth and innovation. Consequently, it exposes the pitfalls that the development process fell short of putting trustworthy coping-up measures against. The story of the Indian BFSI sector is not any different.
Growing disposable incomes, rising rural penetration, an extension of mobile and internet banking facilities and healthy regulatory oversight have been key to the growth of the banking sector. An IBEF report estimated that the value of public sector bank assets increased to $ 1.56 trillion in FY18 from US$ 1.52 trillion in FY17.
The surging internet usage; increase in the FDI investment limit to 49 percent and flexible regulatory laws have led to the massive growth of the insurance industry in India, expected to reach US$ 280 billion by 2020, a report by IBEF states.
Riding on factors such as stress on PSUs, lean cost structures, better product lines and risk management capabilities, distribution reach to sectors and areas that traditional banks are unable to penetrate, NBFCs have witnessed growth in their lending capabilities to the tune of 18 percent in the past five years.
Technology: Overarching cause of disruption in BFSI
Along with business growth and economic factors, the real disruption in the BFSI sector happened when technology stopped being a mere cog in the strategic wheel of the financial services sector. India’s FinTech software market alone could touch US$ 2.4 billion by 2020, tapping at twice the current rate of growth, a report by NASSCOM predicts.
The technological advancements in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Blockchain, Machine Learning and Internet of Things require new skill sets, creating scope for employment of cybersecurity experts, credit analysists, blockchain architects, robot programmers, data scientists and analysts and client engagement managers amongst others.
A FICCI-NASSCOM report states that by 2022, 15-20 percent of the Indian workforce in the BFSI sector would be deployed at these new jobs; some of these roles being touted the highest paying roles in the sector by industry experts. The 2.11 trillion PSU bank capitalisation plan announced by the Union Government is expected to push the GDP growth by seven percent generating even more employment in the sector.The new jobs, however, are also bringing new threats to an industry already vulnerable to frauds and scams.
All is not well
Cases of cybercrimes, asset appropriation, identity thefts, money laundering and accounting frauds are not unheard of in the BFSI sector. What might be shocking for the industry that relies heavily on internal hiring is that more than 50 percent of all frauds are estimated to have been committed by an insider. The recent, high-profile case of a willful defaulter at one of India’s leading public sector banks revealed that the fraud was committed in connivance with several senior officials of the bank. The Annual Trend Report published by AuthBridge on Employee Background Verification also points to a worrying trend emerging in the BFSI sector. At 11.46 percent and 10.13 percent respectively, the sector saw one of the highest discrepancy rates across industries for the financial years 2017 and 2018. Simply put, the numbers of people lying on resumes or misrepresenting their credentials were found to be higher in the BFSI sector than most others.
Background Intelligence can nip the problem in the bud
Robust tech systems, regulatory amendments for safety and educating consumers and staff are all good goals to have for the overall health of the sector. What is paramount is to ensure that the industry is driven only by an ethical workforce that can be trusted with customers’ financials and their information and can be relied upon for safeguarding company’s assets and investments and for implementing best practices in banking and money transfer. Without a principled workforce, no measures for improvement will prove effective.
In the present environment, Background Intelligence, facilitated by technology, data and speed become crucial to build trust and to allow brands to conduct business with confidence. The trust deficit being faced by the BFSI can be solved through thorough Identity, Profile and Reputation verification.
Back to basics
Hiring a reliable workforce and building relationships with genuine clients, suppliers and partners are of utmost importance for the success of any business. The BFSI sector is waking upto the possibility of adopting pre-emptive measures, using the latest employee background verification. The tech solutions are continually evolving to make the process of background verification simpler, less prone to errors and more reliable as they have been getting more intelligent with time. Disruption in the BFSI sector calls for disruption in the supporting systems, and the background intelligence industry is fully-armed to rise to the occasion.
(Views expressed in this article are a personal opinion of Ajay Trehan, Founder & CEO – AuthBridge Research Services Pvt. Ltd.)
MUMBAI: It is no more exceptional performance alone that will guarantee a job at the top. The behaviour track record of top executives is under intense scrutiny. A violent temper, a pair of roving eyes or a loose tongue could spoil one’s chances of bagging that coveted position.
It is not just global multinationals, promoterled Indian companies, too, do not want to run the risk of a bad selection at the CXO level.
Take, for instance, the case of a senior technology executive, who had to return to the US to settle a petty traffic violation. The large Indian conglomerate he was about to join as CEO refused to sign on the dotted line till he had cleared the pending dues.
“A small violation can reflect on your attitude and cost you a job,” said Ajay Trehan, founder of background screening firm AuthBridge.
The tech executive’s offer was held back until he had paid up for the violation committed several years ago.
“At the CEO position, even a minor blotch will come up for screening by other western country regulators and companies are not ready to take any risk,” Trehan said.
Profile screeners look for sexual harassment complaints, flirtatious behaviour, abrasive demeanour, criminal cases – big and petty, violation of local law, summons by regulators, visa rejection, corruption or bribery cases, and hardline political connections, among others.
Companies expect people to be candid in their disclosures, and executive search consultants and background screeners are increasingly getting requests for deep reference checks from large business houses, startups, entrepreneurs etc.
An increasing number of Indian companies are also putting senior leaders (external CXO hires) through psychometric assessment.
“Whenever we hire at CXO level, the cost of any such hire going wrong is huge. When we are hiring vice-president level and upward, at least four-five people meet that person separately. We tend to see whether there is consistency of behaviour,” said Supratik Bhattacharyya, chief talent officer, RPG. “We also assimilate data through independent and industry reference checks by talking to colleagues from the previous organisation.”
Some companies even conduct meetings in “different settings” such as office, coffee shop, five-star hotel to check the professional’s behaviour and attitude.
If someone is rude to the waiter serving coffee, then that could be reflective of the person’s nature and companies take note of such conduct during the hiring process.
“Indian companies these days want to replicate the best practices of global companies and when it comes to talent, particularly at the senior level, they are extremely careful,” said Trehan.
A senior executive of a large multinational IT company in India was warned for “consciously timing” his overseas office trips with a female colleague. “We were in the process of hiring the guy when this came up during the reference check. Though he was a good performer, he was denied the job,” said the head of an executive search consultant, who did not want to be named.
“Foreign trip is an area we are looking at. Some people raise their hands for everything; plan their meetings invariably on a Thursday or Friday so that they can have the weekend away,” said R Suresh, founder of boutique search and consulting firm INSIST Executive Search, which specialises in CEO and CXO level recruitment.
“In large companies, sometimes people fabricate reasons to go abroad. This is not really appreciated by prospective hirers,” he said.
In the past, many Indian businesses relied mainly on performance while selecting a candidate. However, the boards now have a fiduciary responsibility and are involved in top management appointment as corporate governance norms get stricter.
“If there are instances of socially unacceptable behaviour at any point in the reference process, companies would not go ahead with the appointment even for a high performing candidate,” said Navnit Singh, managing director of India for Korn-Ferry International.
“A candidate’s alignment to organisational culture is an important factor that is evaluated,” said Satpreet Arora, co-founder, Talent Litmus, which builds game-based assessments (leveraging neuroscience, data analytics and game design) to better understand behaviour of potential and existing employees.
Source: The Economic Times
It has to develop more systems to inspire confidence in both employers and freelancers
Software engineer Roshini left the 9to5 grind for short-term contractual work as content writer. Going through a portal that lists content-writing projects, she signed up for one.
While on a Skype call with a representative of the company that had offered her this project, she received a rude shock.
“They asked me to write unacceptable content. Appalled, I blocked the client. I realised I had made a mistake by sharing my contact details with the person,” says Roshini.
Roshini says she has also come across scamster-companies in the gig economy; and here, the risk of not getting paid for the work one has done is high.
There are certain platforms that do due diligence and filter out fly-by-night operators and list only genuine jobs; but having a listing on these platforms is expensive, says Roshini.
Due to the lack of proper regulation, the gig economy offers both the employer and the gig worker, many challenges to deal with.
A study by Noble House, a human resource talent marketplace, found that 49% of the companies hesitate to hire a gig worker as they are not assured of the quality of the resource.
Concern over information security is another reason companies hesitate to hire gig workers.
Rituparna Chakraborty, president, Indian Staffing Federation, says the gig economy is still nascent in India. It does not offer a ready talent pool for one to hire from, says Rituparna.
With cyber criminals getting smarter by the day, the foremost task for freelancing platforms is to build trust among employers and job seekers.
Dipesh Garg, chief executive officer of Truelancer, a platform that posts freelance jobs, says the industry has to adopt stringent systems to ensure the authenticity of job postings.
“We started this process by using spam filers to block certain jobs. But, that was not effective after a point, so we keep job listings from certain countries to the minimum, and the jobs posted from there are diligently checked for authenticity. We also check the communication that is happening and have a unique mobile number check, which allows for one to an have only one account,” says Garg.
A rating system
Noble House uses algorithms to match requirements and the talent listed in the database that can meet them; this is then followed by shortlisting of candidates and scheduling interviews.
Most platforms now have a rating system that enables corporates to zero in on the gig workers who are more likely to meet their skill requirements.
Simplilearn, a Bengaluru-based certification provider, hires gig workers for certain projects. “We assess the technical skills of the available candidates and ask them to prepare a scenario-based case study and present it,” says Archana Krishna, VP – HR and Organisation Development, Simplilearn.
In India, as hiring of a gig worker is usually very quick, background checking is not prevalent.
When background verification company AuthBridge did a screening for its clients, it found that 35 out of the every 1000 candidates screened had misrepresented themselves in their profiles.
“Very few portals have integrated background checks into their processes. We have to work with job aggregators to bring in a system where, say, you will have a green tick on a resume that has been authenticated,” says Ajay Trehan CEO and founder, AuthBridge.
He says there’s a misconception that background verification is time-consuming and expensive.
“Some of the identity and criminal record checks can be done in six to seven hours. It does not cost much to do this,” says Trehan.
Garg suggests that to avoid the risk of not getting paid, a gig worker can seek some payment at the beginning of the work, and subsequently, seek that small amounts be released from time to time.
“If a client is just posting requirements without hiring, we block them,” says Garg.
Women in leadership
DDI, a global leadership consulting firm, is organising a conference on ‘Engendering diversity: Accelerating women in leadership’ on March 15 in Mumbai. The event will also include an all-women panel discussion on ‘Gender diversity: How it influences Talent ecosystem?’ with women leaders drawn from various verticals.
Simplilearn, a digital skills training company, has brought out a video to create awareness about the POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) Act.
The video, Youtube, talks about issues such as gender inequality at the workplace, the Vishaka Guidelines, steps to prevent sexual harassment at workplace and redressal mechanisms that organisations must put in place. The video was initially created for purpose of internal training at the company; but the team later decided to place it in the public domain as doing so would benefit a lot of people. It also invites viewers to send in their questions relating to the topic. These questions will be answered by experts.
Source: The Hindu
Ritika Dabhi from Mumbai has been unable to find a job since graduating with a business degree from university almost a year ago.
She’s faced a series of rejections from companies in India. Now, she plans to try to secure a job at a call centre to make ends meet.
“In Mumbai, getting a job is a big thing and it’s very difficult to find one,” says Ms Dabhi.
There is a lot of competition for employment. One million Indians are entering the workforce every month, and half the population is under the age of 25, which means that job creation is critical for the country.
But leaked official data from the ministry of statistics, published by India’s Business Standardnewspaper, revealed unemployment in Asia’s third-largest economy hit a 45-year high of 6.1 per cent in the year to June 2018. The most recent official data made publicly available was from the country’s labour bureau for the period between 2015 to 2016, which pegged India’s unemployment rate at 5 per cent.
The issue has become highly politicised ahead of a general election in May.
In response to the data and what some are describing as a “jobs crisis”, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Thursday told parliament tens of millions of jobs have been created since he came to power in 2014. One of Mr Modi’s key pledges in his election campaign that year which helped win over voters was promising to boost jobs.
Politics aside, industry experts say India is clearly faced with challenges when it comes to job creation.
“We have the world’s fastest growing major economy globally, but a huge part of the population is neglected when it comes to finding jobs,” says Nicolas Dumoulin, the managing director at Michael Page India, a recruitment agency. “It’s a huge issue.”
He explains that the problem lies in a combination of not enough jobs being generated and that many Indian citizens lack the right skillset to make them employable from basic communication to high level specific capabilities that many companies look for.
“While different viewpoints are being debated across the political spectrum, we need to accept that [the jobs problem] is an alarming situation,” says Ajay Trehan, the founder and chief executive of AuthBridge Research Services, headquartered in Gurgaon in north India. He points to the education system as a major part of the problem.
“Experts from the private sector don’t find many fresh graduates employable due to lack of basic skill sets expected from them,” he says. “On the other hand, limited government jobs opportunities are under pressure with applications of many overqualified candidates. So, the two facets to the job crisis, if we can yet call it that, are unemployability and underemployment.”
Highlighting the extent of the challenge, a number of highly educated people end up applying for unskilled jobs. About 4,000 people – some of whom had MBAs or were engineering graduates – applied for 14 positions as sweepers and sanitary workers at the state assembly secretariat in Chennai, the Hindustan Timesnewspaper reported last week. The roles offered salaries of between just 15,700 rupees (Dh810) and 50,000 rupees a month.
Last year, state-owned Indian Railways conducted a national recruitment drive and received 19 million applications for 63,000 menial roles, including cleaner and porter positions.
Jobs with government entities are attractive in India because they’re perceived as secure positions, which come with good benefits, and are generally considered to be easier than roles in the private sector.
“There’s a wage issue in India and wages often do not cover people’s basic needs,” says Ajay Shah, the head of recruitment, Teamlease Services, an Indian human resources firm. “And at this point India isn’t completely ready for the size of workforce that will be coming in for jobs.”
Pressure is brewing and there have been sporadic protest flare ups. Hundreds of students took to the streets of New Delhi on Thursday protesting their dissatisfaction at the government for the lack of employment opportunities in the country.
A potential solution to addressing the skillset shortage is a closer alignment between academia and the private sector, says Sudhir Sosale, the head of innovations, product development and commercialisation of ideas at the National Institute of Engineering in Mysore.
“Joblessness creates a continuous drain on resources. A mismatch of academics and skills will exacerbate unemployment,” he says. “There is a need to have industry advisory boards to advise institutions on improvements that need to be brought into the curriculum.”
A lack of reliable and current data on employment in India is another issue that needs to be addressed in order to ascertain the size of the problem and prescribe applicable solutions.
“The lack of reliable estimates on employment in recent years has impeded its measurement and thereby the government faces challenges in adopting appropriate policy interventions,” India’s then chief economic advisor, Arvind Subramanian, wrote in the 2017 Economic Survey, a government document containing data and analysis of the country’s economy.
Data issued by private organisations is bleak. Figures released last month by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, show that 10.9 million Indians lost their jobs in 2018. Meanwhile, a report published by the Centre for Sustainable Employment at the Azim Premji University in September, states employment growth is not keeping pace with the economy’s expansion.
“A 10 per cent increase in GDP now results in less than a 1 per cent increase in employment,” according to the report. India’s GDP growth is forecast to be 7.3 per cent in the financial year to the end of this March, according to the International Monetary Fund.
As it grapples with what appears to be a behemoth problem, the government has come up with an initiative called Skill India, that aims to train more than 400 million citizens in sectors ranging from healthcare to textiles.
“I got feedback from the market that the people going through this re-skilling and getting a job afterwards is a little bit disappointing,” says Mr Dumoulin. “I think where the real change will come is when companies start to invest and I’ve seen companies already taking initiatives across different industries where they re-skill people to use them in specific roles.”
Boosting the manufacturing sector – another element the government is focusing on – is one way to generate a lot more blue collar jobs in India, he adds.
What’s clear is that whether Mr Modi’s government wins the upcoming election in May or a new administration is ushered in, India has a major challenge on its hands as competition in an increasingly global economy becomes stiffer.
“If we really don’t train people to meet the high-skilled current requirements of sectors from IT to agriculture to hospitality,” says Bhupesh Daheria, the chief executive of the Aegis School of Data Science, then “this is really going to impact the economy.”
Source: The National