The Indian job market is going through a churn, especially amid the never-before-seen rise of the Indian startup ecosystem that requires more practical and soft skills. While unicorns and startups like Paytm, BYJU’s, Zomato, Urban Company, Udaan, PhonePe and several others constantly face the talent crunch, the challenge is to accelerate the growth of startups by facilitating uninterrupted talent discovery and upskilling, feels Nirmit Parikh, CEO and Founder of Apna which has become the fastest unicorn in the country at a valuation of $1.1 Bn.
Apna, a job marketplace for India’s blue-collar workers, is now the 26th Indian startup, and the fastest (in nearly 22 months), to have entered the unicorn club this year, and overall the 68th Indian startup to have crossed the $1 Bn valuation.
Parikh tells Inc42 that currently, nearly 1.5 Lakh companies and startups are hiring from Apna but the magnitude of the challenge is herculean to solve as we see more and more success stories coming from the startup sector which is facing an acute talent crunch.
“With the full swing of vaccination in the country, and the government’s encouraging vision towards entrepreneurship and gig economy, we see a lot of potential already. The healthcare, logistics and delivery, and facilities and security management sectors are already seeing an uptick in jobs as India leaves the pandemic impact behind towards an accelerated growth,” he emphasises.
Founded by Parikh in 2019, Apna provides communities for skilled professionals such as painters, carpenters, sales agents, among others. The platform claims to have grown 125X in the past 15 months and, at present, conducts 18 Mn interviews per month — from a million it recorded in August last year.
The job marketplace claims to have served more than 16 Mn job seekers. At present, the platform has over 5 Mn jobs available and has more than 70 job categories and vertical communities. The job platform leverages a sophisticated algorithm that matches candidates with employers taking into account their skills, experience and preferences.
Indian Startups Stares At Talent Crunch
Every startup is facing a higher attrition rate, not seen in the last couple of years, as more and more entrepreneurs, especially from the tier 2 and 3 cities, join the bandwagon. The talent crunch is so sharp that startups are looking for leads everywhere.
According to Parikh, they cater to the sector where more practical and soft skills are required compared to technical skills.
“Apna’s mission is to upskill the rising workforce and make them adept with upcoming and emerging skills to disrupt the employment gap and hiring challenges faced by them. The key strength is its 70-plus virtual communities that offer access to upskilling and career enhancement,” he says.
It is for this reason that “we continuously and consciously collaborate with premium institutions in skill development such as the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), Automotive Skills Development Council, UNICEF Yuwaah, among others,” he elaborates.
According to an employment outlook survey by Manpower Group which included almost 1,500 employers in India, in 2021, sectors such as ecommerce, finance, real estate, manufacturing are expected to see a huge surge in employment. In the group’s survey, 65% of employers showed positive signs of returning to pre-Covid hiring by August this year.
Clearly, while the pandemic and the following lockdowns had earlier led to massive reduction in employee benefits cost, this year there is a sharp rise in demand for skilled tech talent. Unsurprisingly, the spurt in hiring stems from the influx of funding for startups that have built a warchest for the talent war.
Apna Aims To Bridge The Gap
Apna, which aims to increase its footprint globally such as the US, South-East Asia, and Middle East and Africa, starting in 2022, thrives on the hyperlocal connect and the opportunities that emerge from it.
“We are taking concrete steps to facilitate quality opportunities beyond metropolitans and Tier 1 cities to serve a larger user segment. Apna is already serving 28 cities in India and has a mission to reach 300 cities and 4,000 towns. Upskilling and access to employment as per the skills are the biggest problems that apna targets to solve,” Parikh tells Inc42.
“We offer 100% verified jobs and connect the candidates directly with the employers building trust in our platform. This has given rise to a lot of life changing livelihood avenues including rising participation of women workforce and emerging gig economy,” he adds.
The startup had raised its Series A round worth $8 Mn in September last year and then raised $12.5 Mn in an extended part of the round in March this year. The round was led by Lightspeed India and Sequoia Capital in participation with Greenoaks Capital Rocketship VC. Back then the platform was operational in only eight cities. The startup, in June this year raised $70 Mn in Series B led by Insight Partners and Tiger Global.
It has just raised $100 Mn in a Series C round led by Tiger Global, along with participation from Owl Ventures, Insight Partners, Sequoia Capital, Maverick Ventures and GSV Ventures, at a valuation of $1.1 Bn.