By Anusha Ashwin
Harnessing Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities to boost search engine optimization tools, data analytics, and talent mapping is the reflection of today’s advancement in talent acquisition. Technology has been revolutionizing the way recruitment works with the entire process now being automated with talent management software. AI in talent acquisition saves time, cost and more importantly it eliminates third-party service providers like recruitment agencies.
This simply means that the manual procedure to choose the best candidate for suitable job roles among piles of applications is eliminated and more over finding the right talent with skills and experience gets easy.
Startups in India have certainly exploited AI in talent acquisition industry. One such case in point is Arjun Pratap, who, in 2012, entered the talent acquisition industry with HR technology powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), Data Science and Machine Learning to potentially enable workforce transformation. He founded EdGE Networks with a profound ambition to help organizations build future-ready workforces.
The ambitious start
Before the entrepreneurship bug got him Arjun Pratap worked at SpeedERA Networks and Akamai Technologies, where he was responsible for building their India and international businesses. He also headed the sales function at Dexler Information Solutions to provide strategic direction in building the company. While working with these organizations, he discovered that the next-gen HR technology thrives on Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Analytics and Machine Learning that can help organizations dribble with their HR conundrums in a more efficient and productive, faster and unbiased way.
Sharing more about his journey Pratap says, “During my first venture, which was a digital learning platform, I was often haunted by a question while recruiting talent, ‘What if my next potential candidate lies within the piles of discarded resumes?’. When I failed at my first venture, I saw the prospect of my next venture in HR technology and laid the foundation for EdGE Networks in 2012. This venture was built on the premise of a powerful search and match, how does one alleviate search friction for people and jobs. We started with ‘resumes’ and ‘job descriptions’ being the start point and our ability to build technology to read and match the two like a fantastic hiring manager. This led to building an HR technology platform, backed by Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Analytics and Machine Learning that would enable workforce transformation.”
Pratap is the sole founder of EdGE, but he believes that his COO and CTO are vested in his business through their beliefs and their stock. EdGE started with two angel investors, and Pratap in his own capacity put in the necessary seed capital to get started. In 2013, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) identified EdGE and offered it funds with a grant and a debt.
With headquarters in Bengaluru and sales representatives in the US and UK, EdGE has grown 228% in the last three years. Pratap says, “While our product and solutions are based on some of the most cutting-edge technologies, we have also worked towards creating a responsible and agile organization that is ready to partner with customers to build game changing HR tech solutions.”
EdGE has three products under its label. HIREalchemy – the talent acquisition product that enables the search, rank, and recruitment of talent with ease and accuracy. The Talent Analytics Suite helps in predicting attrition, forecasting resource demand and enabling fact-based decision-making across the HR value chain. The Workforce Optimization Solution forms the intelligence layer on top of HR systems and helps effective organization building.
With these three-strong products in portfolio, EdGE has established a solid base in the Indian market with two of the top 5 Indian IT firms and Top 10 global IT firm as its clients. This success gave Pratap the confidence to foray North America and UK markets stationing sales representatives in each of those markets.
Cashing on AI in talent acquisition
“Today, the challenge of managing a large workforce is when and where AI and data science are coming into play. CHROs can use AI and data science driven technology to study and understand their workforces and take effective as well as timely decisions. Not only can this put a check on the attrition rate but predicting attrition tendencies in employees but help them module-retaining measure. At EdGE, we make sure that all segments under the HR umbrella are addressed and we use AI and data science towards solving the pressing HR challenges. In our Workforce Optimization and Talent Analytics suites we use these technologies to study every underlying message that is often missed by human sight. Predictive analytics forms an important part of the intelligence that we offer in HR to our clients. From search and match to stack ranking resumes to predicting the joining probability during the recruitment phase; talent transformation and attrition modelling in the workforce management phase, all our products and services are garnered by AI and data science,” says Pratap giving importance to AI in his technology.
Certainly experimenting AI and implementing it has not been easy. Just like any other startup, Pratap encountered teething problems in technology implementation. But, fortunate he was. One of his large IT firm client served as an anchor customer, and working with them EdGE evolved, making future implementations smoother.
Bagging Awards, Entering Google Developers Launchpad
A bag full of credentials! EdGE Networks was awarded the Technology Fast 50 India 2016 awards by Deloitte, and was also one of the two winners to receive the MIDAS & Deloitte Tech Fast 50 Award. EdGE was also named in the NASSCOM Emerge 2016 Awards in its list of top 50 emerging startups in India. Featured among the “League of 10”, it is positioned amongst this year’s most promising B2B startups. EdGE made it to the Startup50 Awards 2016 Winners List by The Smart CEO magazine, and top 10 undiscovered startups from India by Equidam.
What is worth mentioning is that, recently, EdGE was chosen as one of the six Indian AI startups in Google’s 4th edition of Launchpad Accelerator program and Pratap views this as a great opportunity to meet and to be mentored by some of the brightest minds in the world.
EdGE has also received the UK’s India Emerging Twenty (IE20) Awards 2017 by London & Partner recently and as a result the company had been a part of the prestigious London Tech Week 2017.
EdGE, the innovation partner for National Skill Development Corporation
Before getting into how EdGE and NSDC work. Here is more on NSDC’s 2020 plan. NSDC has been tasked with a role to contribute significantly (about 30 per cent) to the overall target of skilling/up skilling 500 million people in India by 2022, mainly by fostering private sector initiatives in skill development programs and providing funding.
EdGE Networks owns a Skill Repository that has over a hundred thousand technical and non-technical skills. EdGE’s Skill Repository is used to align job roles with the NSDC’s standard classification of occupation (National Occupation Standard- NOS) and identify the candidates who need to up-skill/re-skill to stay relevant in the workforce. It will help a workforce to identify job opportunities that would fit them best. In short, EdGE Networks helps NSDC accomplish these goals through their Talent Acquisition and Workforce Optimization solutions.
“We have successfully achieved talent mobilization for unemployed candidates and upskilling/re-skilling of employees to drive talent transformation. Across Manufacturing, Healthcare, Retail and IT& ITeS domains, we are seeing new human capital requirements in terms of skills, competencies and in their capability to absorb, learn and apply new skills. By partnering with EdGE Networks and other partners, NSDC wants to identify the skills and competencies required for the future and the candidates who can best upskill/re-skill themselves. This mobilization of talent can help organisations move up the value chain and can drive a new age of IP and value creation across domains,” explains Pratap.
Reigning into the future
Pratap has it all planned. For 2017-18, EdGE Networks will focus on enhancing employability, connecting the right person to the right job and QP (Qualification Pack)-based reporting. Pratap and his team is working towards generating a stream of super innovations this year, and to triple their customer base and revenues in this year. Global expansion especially in UK is on top priority for the next six months. Winning the award by London & Partners is ought to help push the boundaries for EdGE.
Spelling out his ambitious plans, Pratap, says, “With AI, we are witnessing a huge impact on all areas of business. It is fast becoming the go-to technology across sectors like IT, Retail, Healthcare, HR, Banking and Finance, Automobile, Gaming and more. We are currently building a product, which could help small businesses recruit smartly. We are also getting ready for our foray into the BFSI space. The next few years will be very exciting in our journey as we plan to enter different domains and geos. We believe we have a great opportunity to build the intelligence layer across legacy HR systems that can’t be replaced. Also, to replace systems that have workflows that are soon being built with a better experience across our platform; these could be the HCMs and the ATS’ of the world.”
Adding more Pratap says, “We have built a robust alliance program which includes strategic alliances with HR service providers – RPO, Job boards, BGV, Assessment firms, ATS, etc. with an objective of providing an end-to-end experience to our customers. We also have go-to-market partnerships with companies, which is part of our plan to scale-up. We have a collaborative approach to innovation with a network of customers, SMEs, technologists, academia, etc. An increasing number of businesses are seriously considering the role of recruiting technology and digitalization on their business models. We believe there is a plethora of potential yet to be discovered on how AI can make an impact of the entire HR process, which goes much beyond talent recruitment. Our ultimate goal is to be the best talent search and match platform in the world.”