According to a February 2019 report by IDC, India is among the top 3 contributors in the software market in the APeJ (Asia-Pacific excluding Japan) region, accounting for 12.6% of the overall market. Also, the country is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 14.4% between 2017 and 2022 in the software market within the APeJ region.
Yet, the quality of Indian software developers is being questioned the world over. With a massive shift in the way software is developed thanks to the rise of remote and distributed teams, many coders and developers find themselves lacking in the latest skills while companies struggle to find the right kind of talent.
Subhendu Panigrahi went through a similar phase while working with a US-based startup Infratab in 2011 where he was assigned the task of setting up a team in India.
“This forced me to dig deeper into the Silicon Valley of India. Engaging with startup founders and investors in the Bengaluru startup ecosystem gave me a clear picture that the market needs a platform for talent identification and assessment.”
In 2014, Panigrahi took this as an opportunity to launch a SaaS-enabled marketplace Skillenza based on the hackathon model. The HRTech startup has just closed a $1 Mn Pre-Series A funding round led by CBA Capital’s Education Catalyst Fund (ECF) with participation from Let’sVenture, CIO Angel Network, Keiretsu forum, Hyderabad Angels and its existing investors including Blume Ventures, and Tracxn Labs.
This takes the total funding raised by the HRTech startup to approximately $2 Mn. It is backed by investors like Indian Angel Network, as well as a group of angel investors including — Redbus cofounder Phanindra Sama, California-based Crestlight Venture Partners’ Jay Sethuram, Torrent Networking Technology founder and CEO Hemant Kanakia, and founder of angel fund and incubator Srijan Capital Ravi Trivedi.
Skillenza’s SaaS component is the assessment engine that can verify software engineers and data scientists and is being sold separately to customers. The marketplace component has about 500K registered users who participate in hackathons and get verified. It also counts Indian startups like Ola, Knowlarity, Zivame, Simplilearn, Hike as its clients.
“What attracted us to Skillenza is its offering that combines the creative process with 21st-century skills,” said Vishal Bharat, Managing Director, CBA Capital. Ashish Fafadia, Partner, Blume Ventures further added that the HR industry is ready for transformation with tech startups leading the way. “We believe Skillenza is right there pioneering the ways of quality hiring,” he added.
Skillenza: Addressing Two Pain Points Together
Skillenza is currently addressing two pain points at the same time — first, bridging the gap between enterprises and great talent, and second, how individuals shape their professional careers and find the right opportunity.
Individuals can solve real-life problem statements or challenges posed by companies via different modules to assess their programming skills and machine learning skills. This includes an array of challenges, be it a 30-minute quiz, programming challenges, case study competition or 24-hour hackathons to engage and evaluate talent. With each hackathon, the jobseekers earn credits based on their performance on coding and data science tests.
On the other hand, enterprises are using Skillenza to create a community on the platform and host challenges. These challenges help these companies brand themselves, reach out to a broader audience, engage them and filter out the best recruit. “They are relying less on resumes and moving to an activity/assignment based hiring to reduce the noise in the hiring market,” Bharat added.
According to New Delhi-based programming and software training institute Coding Blocks, the trend for hardcore software developers from the past has now shifted. The popularity of the languages have shifted and now the languages which were once said to be the key to getting a good job have been trumped by other newer languages. Still, language experts in Java, NodeJS, PHP are in demand, but the introduction of new technologies like AI, ML, Big Data has created the need for new skill sets in the IT recruitment space.
To keep up with the change, Skillenza’s learning centre helps software professionals stay at the forefront of developments in their careers by providing them with the ability to upskill and continue to learn through curated programs and courses offered by its education or content partners.
“Users create a portfolio on the platform that they can use to showcase their skills which we have termed as an experience graph or user profile,” he added.
Differentiating Its Way By Adopting Open Innovation
The other use cases for enterprises apart from talent branding and hiring, are product evangelism and open innovation.
“At Skillenza, we are seeing increased traction of this use case as it engages our users even if they are not actively looking for jobs. Skillenza users solve these kinds of challenges to win prizes and recognition. This is a big differentiator from a typical job board like Naukri,” he added.
For both recruiters and job applicants, time is a crucial factor and in this aspect Skillenza claims to have an edge over traditional job portals, closing open positions within 11-15 days on an average.
While the HRTech startup has a clear advantage in terms of innovation over typical job websites, however, both globally and in India, there now exists a brigade of startups catering to the needs of the enterprises in a similar manner. A few notable names here include Mercer-Mettl, Aspiring Minds, Devskiller, DoSelect, CoCubes, HackerRank, Interview Mochha, HackerEarth, Triplebyte among others.
Opportunity And Plans Ahead
As Marc Andreessen once said, “Software is eating the world”. The need for software engineers and data scientists is increasing at a great pace and the market is becoming bigger with each quarter. It is expected that by 2025, India is poised to become the sixth largest HRTech market in the world, if not faster.
According to Inc42 DataLabs, the sector has garnered $504.8 Mn funding in 2018, which is a 207% rise from $164.2 Mn funding in 2014.
“Also, the acquisition of Mettl by US-based Mercer in October 2018 has boosted the investor sentiments in the overall HRTech space and we are hoping to see more action in the coming days,” Panigrahi added.
Skillenza has already achieved initial product-market fit and is now building tools to do a deeper analysis of the skills and abilities of a software engineer or programmer. The next target is to grow its user base to 1 Mn by 2020 and engage students and professionals from Tier 2 and 3 cities. Also, the HRTech startup is looking to introduce a certification programme for the developers.
“We have increased our market penetration and the kind of customers we are working with. This format of hiring is becoming popular in large enterprises now and it’s no longer a tool that risk-taking startups are willing to experiment,” he added.