Sujatha wasn’t very happy in her job. Her work as a sales girl in a Bangalore shop paid 7000 Rs (110 Euro) a month, but her hours were long and irregular. Sujatha wanted to find a new job, but most lower-paying jobs in India are found through word of mouth, and she wasn’t having much luck.
Sujatha doesn’t know how to use a computer and can’t speak English. In a bustling city of nearly six million people, there were likely thousands of jobs open to her, she just couldn’t find out about them. Then her aunt told her about Babajob.
Job hunt via mobile phone
“It didn’t cost me anything to sign up,” Sujatha says. “I told them that I like cooking, showed them my identity card, and a few days later they sent me a text message with several cooking jobs in my neighborhood, and who to contact about them.”
She’s now working as a cook and housekeeper close to home. Although, at 5000 Rs (80 Euro) a month, the new job pays less than the shop did, Sujatha says she likes the work better. The shorter and more regular hours also give her more time to spend with her family.
Successful job searches like Sujatha’s are exactly what Sean Blagsvedt is aiming to replicate across India. He started Babajob in 2007, with the goal of helping people in the lower end of the country’s job market connect to more jobs.
Beyond word of mouth
“We cater to informal sector workers: maids, cooks, security guards,” Blagsvedt says. “A lot of the job seekers that we have don’t have access to the internet. They need to be able to use the information on simple mobile phones.”
While many people doing blue collar jobs in India have no computer training, or no regular internet access, they generally do have mobile phones. So Babajob makes it possible for people to use their phones to create profiles, including their home areas, languages spoken and desired salaries. For a rupee-a-day fee, they can also receive daily messages with potential job matches.
With 180,000 jobseekers currently listed, and 580,000 open positions, Blagsvedt says Babajob is becoming a viable alternative to the friends-and-relations job hunt that most blue collar workers have traditionally used.
“You can be way more efficient if you have lots of buyers and sellers in one marketplace,” Blagsvedt says. “The biggest white collar job site in India right now has 26 million uploaded resumes, but it’s serving only two percent of the country. If we are aiming at the bottom 80 percent of workers, there’s a lot of work left to be done.”
Creating a virtual marketplace for India’s massive job market is one thing, making it trustworthy is another. Babajob is also working on that.
After moving from one Mumbai neighborhood to another, Lubaina was looking for a new housekeeper. She tried the usual method of letting the security guard know that she was looking for someone, but she didn’t find anyone with whom she was comfortable.
References on request
When she found out about Babajob, she skipped their free job posting service and opted to pay 3000 Rs (45 Euro) for their assisted search. “They checked into the type of work she was doing earlier and found out if she is regular,” Lubaina says. “Once I chose somebody, they gave me a week’s free trial, so I could study her and see if she was a good fit.”
Lubaina’s new housekeeper has been working for her for five months now. When asked if she’d use Babajob again the next time she needs to hire someone, Lubaina says she hopes that she never has to hire a replacement for her current housekeeper. But she would recommend Babajob to friends.
And word does seem to be getting around about the service. Blagsvedt says their user growth rate has quadrupled in the last six months. New advertising campaigns through text messages to mobile phone users are helping. If they succeed in making Babajob a household name, he says, they could have 80 million users by 2016. And that would give 80 million people on the lowest rung of India’s economy access to better paying jobs.