29th June 2016

Converting an Idea into Business: The Birth of

The idea of starting was the result of a fusion of several ideas. I had a keen desire to start a business of my own. A lot of my time, after office hours, was spent on exploring ideas. Many of these; never crossed the conceptualization stage; and some failed at the feasibility stage.  Having been in the restaurant business for a while with my father, the food industry looked like a great option; though our own venture had failed.  Failure in the restaurant business left me with a feeling of unfinished job in that industry; so I thought of creating a portal; that would enable people to easily reach out to restaurants and cuisines of their choice based on location.

An Idea is born

My wife and I were still contemplating about the business dynamics in terms of costs and profits when similar portals got launched; with Zomato moving up the chart quickly. This was frustrating as we thought that with the right kind of funding we too could have succeeded.  At the same time we realized that having an idea is not enough. There is a lot more to converting an idea into a business that would be able to attract talent, clients and investors. More so, India’s venture capital ecosystem was maturing to internet ideas with quick scale up and delayed profitability.

The idea of came in while working in the Head Hunting domain as the Founder & CEO of Sapphire Human Solutions.  In my initial years of handling head hunting assignments at Executive Access, I had observed that the key consideration for most of the candidates was the compensation package followed by work culture.

Over the years, and more so in recent times the priorities of candidates have undergone a sea change. Work culture, weekly offs and flexibility in the working hours began to figure prominently in the consideration list of the candidates. Many were willing to settle even for lower salaries if they found a better work life balance in the job.

Our social demographics were also witnessing possibly irreversible trends. Nuclear families, growing but very fit retired population, students coming from smaller cities to bigger ones for education and needing part time jobs to fend for their studies, growing class of freelancers, early entrepreneurs and so on.
I also observed that while the marketing departments of most of the companies were trained to quickly respond to the changes in the customer expectations, the HR departments were slow to respond to the changes in employee expectations who are also very important clients from an HR perspective. I interacted with my HR friends and found that they were not only fully aware but were actively looking for alternatives to the age old ways of job descriptions. Most were aware that by bringing in flexibility in the job designs, their organization will gain by not only attracting & retaining talent but also by saving money on costly office infrastructure. I could clearly see an opportunity for creating a differentiated job portal for those looking for flexi jobs and the idea of started germinating.

But I was running an executive search firm which was doing well and growing fast. Starting something from scratch again was considered a big risk. My father always asked me to find him a job (he used to often pull my leg saying what use my headhunting skills are if I can not get a job for him). The thought always stayed with me. Then, in March 2014 came one of the biggest news of my life – We were expecting our first child. My joy knew no bounds and I was thrilled with the upcoming parenthood phase in our lives. However, the other talk was how my wife would cope with her job. She was looking for flexibility at work given that ours was a nuclear family. Sometimes your strongest beliefs also need a trigger point. I knew that his was the trigger that, perhaps, I was waiting for.

Test launch & the proof of concept was initially funded by boot strapping. The idea of building it was so strong that it kept me awake and almost all of my time after office hours at Sapphire Human Solutions went into working on the portal. I approached my friends & well-wishers to help me out. I began to look for ways of attracting people who would be willing to leverage their extra time to help me out on small budgets. The idea began to take shape. was a blurred vision initially but once I began to act on the idea, the vision became clearer and clearer. This taught me a good lesson about not wasting too much time on arm chair thinking and generating thoughts through action.

I had domain knowledge due to my several years of practice in the head hunting domain; yet this was a totally new concept for me. While interviewing so many CEOs and top rated marketing professionals, I knew the importance of testing out an idea before full launch. I also knew that the investors would look for a proof of concept which too needed a test launch. The idea was clear but the resources were limited, so I had to innovate.

Interestingly, what helped me the most was alignment with several top notch professionals on a flexi basis. Some of the best known names agreed to collaborate on an online basis from remote locations. This increased my reach with a very low cost and high productivity. Offline interactions were limited to meeting select prospective clients and monthly meetings with the collaborators. I could see the power of flexibility in my own venture which was by itself a great encouragement for me and my team.

Getting users’ and corporate support

The belief now needed to be translated into a feasible business. This meant getting jobs seekers who were looking for flexi jobs and companies who would offer such jobs. Sometimes; limitation of funds makes you more creative. We employed innovative ways of reaching to our target audiences. We were successful in some while others taught us important lessons. Initially; the users came in slowly but then soon word of mouth picked up, and we started clocking 50,000 visitors on our site from 4th month onwards which crossed 1 lac visitors 6th month onwards.

To our surprise; a large number of registered candidates were employed on a full time basis but were keen to switch over to jobs which would allow for a better work life balance. We did a quick survey among the candidates and found that commuting for long hours on the road, inability to attend to small children, old parents or in-laws at home; weremaking their lives very challenging and also impacting their productivity levels. The challenge was more for the female candidates but the number of males wanting to opt for flexi jobs was no less. This also indicated a change in the male psyche in the metros as the males too have begun to help out with home related work including child care.

The demand side comprised companies who would offer jobs or assignments. We made a list of companies with and without a flexi work policy before starting an awareness programme. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that the flexi work options were no longer restricted to only the IT industry. A large number of other companies had also begun to practice orotherwise were actively considering flexi policies in functional areas like marketing, public relations, accounting, recruitments and support areas where there is no need for a one on one customer facing interaction. We contacted the HR heads of over 100 companies across the country and realized that while the awareness was very high, the HR heads needed a business case to convince the board about the urgency of having a flexi policy. Our study of the global best practice companies in India as well as abroad indicated a huge need for sharing the best practices and adapting these to suit the Indian conditions. The response from companies has been better than expected. What is surprising is the whole hearted acceptance from large corporates who are not only forward looking in their thinking but are also willing to quickly change and adapt the new work paradigms. We are now adding two companies every day on our portal and hope that the numbers will multiply very fast as we scale up our contact programme.

The journey has just started 

I know we are in a marathon and not a 100 metre sprint. The fact that we are in the internet space where scaling up fast is critical makes it even more challenging. I am lucky to have a team which understands and appreciates that for us to achieve our vision we don’t just have to build a business that matches the demand and supply side. They understand that the challenge in the internet space is to build a strong brand differentiation for the portal as well as for our company. This can only be done through a differentiated work culture.  To quote a good friend of mine from the media industry “It’s interesting to note that almost all the newspapers carry similar content;yet their work culture differentiates each brand so clearly in terms of respect, reach and revenues depending on what is being valued most.” is in the HR domain and it has to be a best practice company in terms of a work culture that will attract and retain the best talent who would then create the differentiation for our clients, candidates and the society at all levels. For us, this is just the beginning.


Dr Manan Chaturvedi

Founder of Fortune Architect

Vijay Rai

Managing Director- Asia Pacific & EMEA Markets with Saviour US INC

Ajay Bhatia

Respected HR Leader

Shampi Venkatesh

Founder, P-Quotient

Deepak Bharara


Sugato Palit

Executive Director-HR & Admin, Experion Developers

Amarjit (Amar) Singh Dhull

Managing Director, UK Fostering, Founder, UKINDO International &

Rishi Srivastava

Promoter & Director, Rockland Hospitals Network, Delhi

Mr. D.P. Singh

Vice President & HR Head- India/SA at IBM HR Consultant

Runa Maitra

Founder and a principal consultant with People Talent International

Mr. Dhyan Chauhan

Mr Chauhan has held leadership roles in HR at leading multinational companies

Ashish Bajaj

COO & Co-founder of Round Ark Limited, Gurgaon