Need househelp but don't know whom to ask? California-based Sean Blagsvedt set up www.babajob.com in Bengaluru to help unorganised workers find better jobs and build a social network that will help economically weaker sections of society
When Sean Blagsvedt decided to start a headhunter service for the unorganised sector of India, he was met with perplexed looks. Their first reaction was 'who is this American trying to help drivers, cooks and cashiers get better jobs?" says the 31 year-old who has called Bengaluru home for the last seven years.
Blagsvedt, who made his first trip to India in 2007 while working with Microsoft Research Lab, was involved in finding technology that would be relevant for the four billion people of the world, who are economically poorer.
"As part of that research, I came across a paper that showed that people escape poverty by getting different jobs, usually via people they know. In short, the poor only know about jobs in their social network and conversely employers could only hire other people in their network.
I figured that if we could digitise all the jobs and job seekers and use the phone to connect people, we could make the informal labour market much more efficient and help catalyse the escape of millions to better livelihoods," he explains. Hence, Babajob was born.
The employment recruiter website that functions across all states in India caters to job seekers who earn less than than Rs 12,000. Members include cooks, cashiers, drivers, maids, guards and entry level office help. "In december 2010, we had 70,000 job seekers. Today we have over 2,10,000," says Blagsvedt.
Job seekers are alerted about job opportunities via SMS and employers are required to enter details about the nature of work and promised pay. It's a busy time for Blagsvedt but it still remains an untapped market. "It's only in the last few years that we've seen almost every household in India be able to afford a mobile phone and honestly, our service could not exist without mobiles and their ability to connect job seekers to employers," he says.
Babajob also offers mentors, who function as middlemen to connect employers with job seekers, with a special incentive in the form of mobile credits. While members register for free, employers must pay for verification of the employee's credentials if they choose to opt for the service.
Blagsvedt also partners with mobile service providers along with retail and training companies to distribute the services. "As Android phones get cheaper and more common, you'll see us building local language mobile apps to reach out to more people and help them find jobs on their phones."