India has a huge blue-collar market comprising over 250 mn workers, employed in delivery services, logistics, contact centres, etc. This number is growing due to a decline in agricultural employment and the addition of 7-8 mn new college graduates to the workforce every year, 60% of whom lack employability skills and end up joining the blue/grey-collar workforce.
“The blue-grey collar workforce, despite being in large numbers, is scattered across the country without a unifying point to support their employment,” says Madhav Krishna, founder & CEO, Vahan, a Bengaluru-based tech startup that helps companies such as Zomato, Swiggy, Flipkart, Uber, and Shadowfax hire blue-collar workers. “They (blue-grey collar workers) are not comfortable with technology due to their educational background. This leads to both large companies and booming startups facing trouble in employing the right workforce and maintaining a database of their front-line workers.” According to him, one of the biggest challenges faced by recruiters in the segment is a three-way matching problem, that is, finding the right intersection of what a jobseeker wants to do, can do, and the kind of jobs available in the market.
Vahan solves this problem through a combination of deep user understanding, product design, and data. It is leveraging machine learning to help blue-collar workers find jobs that match their skills. With a faster turnaround time, the company has not only allowed employers to hire candidates in large numbers but also reduced their hiring costs by as much as 30%. “We are focussing on creating products that are simple to use,” says Krishna. Vahan’s chatbot ‘Mitra’ is pivoted on WhatsApp which is ubiquitously popular in the SEC D&E segment. “As over 95% of Indian smartphone users already use WhatsApp, this solution does not require jobseekers to download a separate app and allows them to apply for jobs in multiple languages,” he says, adding, “Vahan also helps these workers seek opportunities around them through its geotagging feature. This saves them from exploitation at the hands of middlemen.”
Vahan came into being after Krishna, while handing out food to passers-by outside his home in Delhi, realised that a lot of people do not win the ‘ovarian lottery’, a term coined by Warren Buffett, which essentially implies that where one is born is a massive determinant of one’s success in life. Such people often end up living a life of poverty. Krishna decided to change that by offering opportunities to people who might not be able to access them on their own.
Vahan has witnessed a rapid surge in adoption by both jobseekers and job providers looking to get connected. It is placing 7,000 blue-collar workers a month in over 200 cities in India and boasts clients such as Zomato
Vahan has raised capital over three rounds (angel, seed, and Series A). The company’s series A of $8 million was closed in September 2021 with Khosla Ventures leading the round. Given its growth trajectory, Krishna claims that Vahan is on track to become India’s largest blue-collar recruitment platform in the next year or so. The startup is said to be building the world’s largest and richest digital profile database of blue-collar workers and believes that the company’s data assets and deep understanding of the target audience will be used to unlock massive value downstream.
It also plans to help blue-collar workers get access to financial services soon and even their next upskilling opportunity so that they can grow in their careers and lives, thereby gaining control of their economic destiny.