Karunjit Kumar Dhir provides a sneak preview of “SCIKEY MindMatch” that enables AI-powered job & culture fitment and shares his top priorities for 2021.
In this Research NXT Interview, Karunjit Kumar Dhir, Co-Founder at SCIKEY, talks to us about his journey, or transition so far from start-up to corporate and back to the start-up world. Additionally, he shares his findings of the top roles and sectors that are much in action in the new normal.
Key takeaways from this Research NXT interview:
Here are some extracts from the insightful conversation we had with Karunjit.
Hi Karunjit, thanks for joining us today for this conversation. So, I would like to start with your professional journey and co-founding SCIKEY?
Karunjit: My journey of SCIKEY is a little different as against normal founders who do start-ups. I spent about 15 plus years of my early career in the technology consulting space, and I was one of the first global employees to join my previous organization. Back then, in 2006, it was a start-up. So, that’s how I got exposed to the world of start-ups, and I spent about 12 plus years starting as a management trainee to being someone who was first heading their P&L for India, and then subsequently, Malaysia. While I was focused on scaling the business, at some point in time in my career I started feeling the need for change, not only in terms of a job change but change to do something different than what I was doing. Something was amiss and I had started feeling that I wanted to be happier. But at the same time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was caught between going for a bigger role with another corporate, being with another start-up from scratch or something else with a start-up flavor. Then, probably as God would have planned it out for me, I was approached by one of my early days’ customers & a mentor who had already partnered with the family office of SRK Exports, a multi-billion-dollar global enterprise. They were looking to invest and create technology lead ventures, since all this while their investments primarily were around diamonds, solar, manufacturing and jewellery, etc. They are also the largest exporters of polished diamonds out of India and have investments in aviation, solar, and green-tech sectors but not in the pure technology space. So, I think I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a part of this early team, who would then be responsible for conceiving, creating, nurturing multiple start-ups, and building a portfolio of tech ventures. That is how it happened for me, and it allowed me to go back to the start-up world again that I have always been passionate about. And yet, not just worry about being a solopreneur trying to build something again from scratch because I could leverage the existing ecosystem’s resources and support with a large business backing.
This allowed me to focus on getting the right business model and an initial set of team members in place fairly fast. So that is how we started to build SCIKEY about three years ago. And as we speak, SCIKEY is a multi-million dollar business present in five global markets, with members and paying customers from the US, UK, India, Malaysia, and now we are also planning to launch or platform in the rest of Southeast Asia. In a nutshell, this was my journey, or transition from a start-up to corporate and back to the start-up.
Thanks for taking us through the journey so far. If you could share more details about what SCIKEY is into and what exactly you guys do and make a difference in the market?
Karunjit: In very simple terms, SCIKEY helps create work and business opportunities for billion minds using technology and our digital market network, a combination of an online marketplace supported by a professional network. Our goal is to help businesses & professionals ‘Be Better’ by leveraging the power of our digital platform that is supported by a professional network and an integrated services ecosystem. You could also compare it to a fusion of LinkedIn and Upwork, so that’s the kind of model we have. We have employers, organizations, or enterprises who create work. They come to our platform as a part of the demand side. We have work-seekers or service providers that could be either individual job-seekers, freelancers, small to midsize companies, or even large service providers who form the marketplace’s supply side. Our entire ecosystem over the SCIKEY platform enables the right matches and provides an end-to-end and consistent transaction journey. I’m using the word assurance and consistency because when you look at large corporations, they typically are not very accepting to the usual freelancing as opposed to a mainstream option to get the work done. Freelancing or online services has predominantly been the space for individuals or small to midsize companies or start-ups. It was never a mainstream play for large enterprises, and that’s a big gap noticed. So, we are now trying to be that middle layer providing assurance, quality and consistency of security and delivery between the enterprise customers and the providers. In the SCIKEY platform, the enterprise customers do not have to worry about negotiating individually or consistency of outcomes, which is a flip side of the freelancing model. Our business model is also unique in the sense that at the SCIKEY platform we crowdsource all the work, but we assure the end customer of the desired outcomes offering a much better services assurance at par with any large professional services provider to offer the best of both worlds – digital & physical. This allows us to keep our fixed cost-base quite lean & perhaps that is one of the key reasons why we are operating cash-positive already. Like an Amazon Prime or Netflix premium, we have the ‘SCIKEY Assured’ label, an integrated service offering from SCIKEY especially crafted for our Enterprise & Global customers who deserve a premium service, that has our team of SCIKEY certified experts taking care of all the platform transactions on behalf of the customers if need be. This is briefly how we operate
The new normal is a time where hybrid teams of in-house staff, remote contributors, and now, managed talent are increasingly being accepted. And it’s great that SCIKEY had predicted and created a unique marketplace to find such teams already, and that too backed by AI and the “SCIKEY MindMatch” algorithm. Could you please elaborate on this and the resultant impact on businesses browsing the SCIKEY Market?
Karunjit: To give you a sneak preview of “SCIKEY MindMatch” in very simple terms, this is an algorithm that helps you read or decode an individual’s mindset. The applications of it can be numerous. Here are a few applications of the SCIKEY MindMatch algorithm:
The new normal is a time where hybrid teams of in-house staff, remote contributors, and now, managed or outsourced talent are increasingly being accepted. Have companies been more adaptive to having a managed team anywhere or individuals working for them who are not part of the organization?
Karunjit: Let me share an interesting experience with you. So, as soon as the pandemic hit around March 2020, the first knee-jerk reaction all organizations had was to stop their spend on any such platforms like us and use whatever tools were available to them internally. Hiring went on a standstill, any external engagement that needed extra spend, was put on hold. That’s the same thing that happened to us as well. Suddenly, the platform’s net new demand almost came to a stall with literally no new work or jobs coming to the platform for about two months in a row. However, from June and July onwards, we saw a surge of brands coming onto the platform, and interestingly, we were able to onboard about a hundred brands on the platform in a matter of just last three or four months. This is the same number that we managed to onboard in the last two years till March 2020, since we started. This was particularly because the idea of remote work & talent started to sink in with most of the organizations.
As organizations, their first two months were spent on the preparation mode meeting the top two priorities ensuring that the people are safe, so they introduced work from home. Secondly, they wanted all their business as usual, and that the customers were taken care of. So we assumed that the first two months of the standstill were because of this, and when they had stabilized the tools, technology, and work from home arrangements, we saw a surge of native brands and work listings or job listings on the platform. There was a surge on the supply side as well with thousands of net new members signing up as job seekers, perhaps due to the job losses or insecurity. That is what I think happened as the immediate impact of the pandemic.
Once the organizations started experimenting with the remote teams working from home, the first feedback we got from almost all the customers we spoke to was an initial dip in productivity and engagement as people were not used to this kind of working arrangement. However, that phase also went through, and this is again one major area, where we utilized our SCIKEY MindMatch data and insights to understand patterns of individual employee mindset & traits needed to create the optimal remote work model talent alignment and take it to the next level, till it is finally operated at scale.
In terms of certain specific skill sets, or industries, the more active ones have been technology, eCommerce, pharma, chemical, digital payments, medical equipment sectors and the D2C(Direct to Consumer) brands. And within technology, the more relevant skills are digital-first roles like cloud, DevOps, IT & data security, etc., for obvious reasons. We also saw many searching in the roles around data analytics, data engineering, data modelling, and regular analysis, reporting, and business intelligence. So, I think these are a few areas; we saw much action in.
As someone who is very close to the future of work & talent industry, who has developed solutions in this space, what would be your suggestion on the top three aspects to anyone who’s planning a business strategy for the upcoming year?
Karunjit: I can share my perspective and how we are looking at getting ready for 2021. This includes learning from many of our customers from the tech space, so I think two or three common themes are emerging. They are:
Further, owing to a global macro-economic environment, a favourable sentiment and a large technology talent pool that India has, we will witness a lot more FDI into India with a lot of foreign multi-nationals creating many more tech jobs in India by setting up a COE(center-of-excellence), an ODC(offshore-development-centre), a virtual captive or even distributed tech teams working from anywhere. So, all of this interesting stuff is going to happen in 2021 and beyond.