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October - 2009 issue >Company Spotlight Connecting Colleges & Companies Author: Sikta Samantaray As part of his responsibilities, J.S. Chhabra, Training and Placement Officer in a college in Punjab had to go around the metro cities and knock the door of companies and persuade them to come over for campus recruitments. Though he spent a lot of time and money visiting companies, he was failing to pool in companies to his campus. His IITian nephew Harpreet Grover sensed the opportunity and called up his old IIT-Bombay roommate, Vibhore Goyal, Co-founder and CTO of CoCubes, who convinced him that technology was the solution to bring about a paradigm shift in the Indian campus recruitment scenario. They went on to build a platform to connect colleges and companies, thus helping colleges manage and increase placements and companies bring their entire campus process online. Goyal recalls, “Ten years ago, when Harpreet and I joined IIT-Bombay, our hostel had three computers and we used to walk down to a STD booth to call home. When we graduated, it was difficult to find three rooms in the IIT without computers and everyone had a mobile. Now, by 2009, even students in tier–2 and tier-3 cities have a mobile and regular access to the Internet. We believe that during the last decade, while the target student population became different, campus hiring and engagement methodologies remained same and are now in a disconnect with the current crop of youth. And in the last few years of growth story one has not had the time to reflect and change. The current downturn has come as an opportunity in disguise to address this disconnect.” The Current Scenario Currently, campus recruitments work on an offline model. Companies don‟t have the means to get their message directly to authenticated students and get response as well as stay in touch with offered candidates till they join. Colleges still use their notice boards and circulars to reach out to students and brochures to invite companies. What this finally results in is a lower opportunity for students and high cost for colleges and companies. “That‟s where we want to crack down using technology to bring the process online,” says Grover. Campus recruitments have slowed down significantly in the last one year. So, are companies still interested? “Well, campus is a strategic priority for most large and medium companies. It gives them a chance to interact with the graduating students through contests, blogs, and content for over a year, educating them about the sector in general and specifically about their company. Also, whenever they might want to start hiring they can get going, as interested and evaluated students are ready and available,” says Grover. Starting Up Initially Grover and Goyal had a tough time to make it work in terms of business model as well as technology platform. It was not easy to start on the vision of bringing 17,000 colleges, including those in the tier-2 and tier-3 cities and scattered across India, to engage with the companies on a real-time basis in an authenticated manner. While capital was scarce, they pooled in their own savings to start off and later took a couple of rounds of angel investment to build a seven people team and the first 20 clients. One of the toughest times in their journey came in mid-2008 when an angel investor, who had committed $400,000 for investment backed out at the last stage, leaving them in debt. That is when the parents again supported the venture and all the team members stood by the company. What also toughened the challenge for CoCubes‟ team was the need to stimulate awareness among colleges that going online was a better and an easier way to connect with companies for increasing the placement rate and managing students. Grover affirms, “I believe, it is about persistence. Nobody is going to get through in a day or year to all colleges of India. It requires energy and patience. And our belief was that rather than the others (like companies and assessment and training firms) doing it, why don‟t we do it and position ourselves as a channel to them.” And yes, with this passion of moving ahead in this online recruitment space, the team of 19 people has managed to capture its clients‟ satisfaction. Moreover, the unique business model got attention, which helped raise capital from Ojas Ventures in March 2009 to expand the sales and operation team India wide. Leveraging Technology to make it Work The team works with large and medium companies to bring their campus recruitment process online. One of the unique value propositions is to bring any college in the country online in less than 2 days. They only register colleges and get data directly from them. Only students whose names are on the rolls, are messaged their logins and passwords on their mobile phones. They can then come online and fill their standardized resume and can also choose to complement their profile with video footage, but do not have access to the fields containing their cademic scores, which are uploaded by the college authorities. The platform allows the companies as well as the colleges to engage the students right from the pre-placement to the post placement stages. “The challenge we encountered was the huge disconnect, which exists between the three entities (college, companies, and students) in India and there is a need for an online and SMS-enabled interactive platform,” says Goyal. Since recruiting companies are mostly located in the metros, the Gurgaon based start-up realized a need for an online and SMS-enabled interactive platform to connect colleges and companies. For instance, a BSc student in a city 50 km from Jaipur may not have an Internet connection, but he can type „Yes‟ or „No‟ on his mobile to confirm his interest in a job posted by some company, which will be automatically updated in the candidate‟s status in Moreover, for HR managers in companies, the tools available on the platform lets them get a gist of the recruitment process the company has undertaken over a period of time. The platform also provides the real-time employment status of the candidate. “The platform has helped us in planning efficiently before visiting any campus, which eventually led to minimize the efforts and costs and achieve more targeted results,” affirms Siddarth Tyagi, Recruitment Strategist, Evalueserve. We asked Goyal if there are any corporates that have built something on the same lines. “A couple of companies have their internal platforms in use; but in the end we believe that a student in the campus cannot have 20 logins for as many companies, and that is where comes in. Also, we are cheaper than internal alternatives; we can get started by next morning and keep improving 24x7 from our multiple client feedback.” The Way Ahead is currently India‟s only student engagement and campus recruitment platform. The team has successfully reached out to about 56,000 students, 300+ colleges, and more than 30 companies across the country. Some of the clients they work with include Sapient, Evalueserve, Feedback Ventures, VIT University, Vellore, Birla Institute of Management and Technology, School of Planning and Architecture, Thapar University. To execute the well laid out future plans they are looking to bring in new faces in the area of sales and operation along with enhancements of features in the existing product line-up. “We are looking for exceptional people who are in quest of a fast paced and exciting career and are willing to put their heart and sweat to get there,” says Goyal. With its subtle and unique approach, the enthusiastic employees, and the verve with which the company has begun moving forward, the founding team promises a glorious path ahead - not just for the company but also for its customers. The manner in which the IITian founders are charged to revolutionize the campus space simply brings back the nostalgia of Naukri‟s success as a job portal by a then unknown entrepreneur – Sanjeev Bikchandani way back in the 1990s.

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