Read the interview with Chandrika Pasricha, Flexing It
Please explain your venture to us in brief.
Flexing It is an online marketplace for short-term skills, and our platform connects organisations to professionals and expertise on a project, consulting assignments, advisory roles and other short-term, part-time and flexible work structures. We have built a curated pool of 5400+ professionals, of which over half are drawn from top-tier institutions and a similar proportion bring over a decade of experience and 600+ organisations are using our services as of now.
When did you join the business? What have you brought to the table?
We started in end 2012 driven by the need I saw in the market for a platform like Flexing It. While we had multiple solutions to help people find regular jobs, both online job sites and offline search firms, there was no solution catering to connecting the demand and supply of short-term, project based and flexible skills especially for mainstream areas such as consulting, marketing finance, HR etc.
What makes this particular concept different? Are there competitors? If yes, how do you stand out?
Other international freelancing marketplace websites like Odesk and Elance are our biggest competitors, though our proposition is unique and differentiated in the following ways:
- Flexing It is about mainstream professional skills – while we do have technology and creative professionals as well, our core comprises of professionals from consulting, general management, finance, HR, marketing & sales, etc., backgrounds
- Our assignments often involve an onsite component, unlike the other websites that usually end up ‘offshoring’ the work to professionals based in other geographies. Our professionals too prefer this – with over 80% preferring an onsite (and therefore client interaction) component to their assignments
- Our predominant focus is on the quality of skills – The average experience of professionals registered with us is over 10 years, and we approve each profile and assignment posting. The basis of the connections is the matching of skills and expertise, versus only pricing
- Our platform provides transparency – it permits either side to initiate contact, and know that their application/role has reached the inbox of the intended audience! So professionals have the ability to discover and select the opportunities, but also know that their profiles reached the target organisation.
- We are India’s first platform to use a matching algorithm - FlexScore™. This is our proprietary matching algorithm to enable companies to find relevant and high-quality skills efficiently based on an intelligent heuristic.
- We are more than just a marketplace. Through our focus on regular and quality content shared through our blogs and social media groups, we are slowly becoming a community of freelancers / independent workers, where people can share their perspectives and help refine the concept which is still nascent in India.
What is the revenue model?
For the first year and bit, the platform was free to access for our users to test the quality of the bench, and for us to use their feedback to strengthen the matching process. Based on the experience and understanding gained, we have recently initiated pricing for companies and offer 2 different service packages based on their needs: MyFlex and SuperFlex. Organisations that opt for SuperFlex get active support from an Account Manager to create/post assignments, screen profiles, custom search, help source expertise on urgent basis and also maintain confidentiality if needed. MyFlex is the basic model, where the companies post the assignment and screen profiles free of charge, and pay only while contacting any candidate.
Who are the consumers that you are targeting with the innovation? How is this going to affect them?
Given that we a marketplace for skills, we have 2 set of consumers – Professionals, who are looking for assignments and organisations, who are looking for skills on demand. Our vision at Flexing It is to create a transparent, efficient and effective way for the demand and supply of short-term, flexible skills to connect.
For professionals, we provide the ability to craft a great portfolio of work at the pace they want, and reduce the risk of working independently by providing access to a large number of quality assignments that we source and bring to the platform.
For organisations, Flexing It is a great way to obtain skilled resources for the duration and intensity they need.
What is the potential of growth?
Our view is that we are in the midst of a major change in how work will be delivered in the future. Independent estimates indicate that anywhere from 25-50% of the US workforce by 2020 will be freelance, and Deloitte in a recent report spoke of the move to an ‘Open Talent Economy’ where half of the resources a company relies upon to get work done will no longer be on its formal payroll by the end of this decade.
In India, while we can argue that the pace of change remains to be seen, the trend is definitive and we are likely to see several new ideas and models emerge to cater to this need.
Enclosed is our blog on trends we see globally and in India
What is the strength of the organization and the scale of operations?
We currently have a strong team of 6 core team members looking after marketing, BD and operations. In addition we have a strategic partner, TalentBridge Technologies, which provides the technology and design backbone.
We also work with a panel of external writers who provide quality content, and get regular energetic cracker-jack interns.
We are currently hiring and looking for senior Business Development folks!
Give us a brief background of what you were doing before starting the venture.
Prior to this, I was a management consultant for over 15 years, and spent a bulk of that time at McKinsey in both India and the United States. Over the past few years, I am working as an independent consultant, serving clients in the areas of healthcare and development.
Currently our top priorities are to
(1) build greater awareness regarding our platform and brand, and scaling up our marketing efforts,
(2) continue to refine our product features and offerings, for both the professionals and organisations that use us, and
(3) further improve upon FlexScore – our matching algorithm that helps companies to find perfect candidates and individuals to find relevant roles.
Have you received any funding so far? Are you looking for funds? If yes how do you look to allocate the funds?
Flexing It has been self-funded from the beginning and continues to stay that way. We are keen to get to a certain scale and be extremely sure of what the external funds will support us in, before we explore taking on external funding.
What challenges did you face when you were starting out?
When I started out, it was all about getting the foundations in place – I was doing everything myself, ranging from figuring out how to register a company, to developing the business model, to reaching out to companies and testing the idea. There are many challenges involved in starting out a company – how to create a team that believes in the idea and can commit to building a company, how to manage operations when you don’t have the traditional infrastructure of a big organization, getting that first large customer when you are a young organization without a track-record, etc. I adopted as much of a structured approach to the challenges as possible, and have also realized that it is important to stay persistent and committed and patient if you are building something for the long term.
As time has progressed, I have built a team around me to help manage day-to-day operations and marketing, and I am gradually shifting my focus towards more strategic issues.