Case Study: Deepak Agrawal, Co-founder, and CEO at TurboHire shares his thoughts on how TurboHire became one of the leading applicant tracking systems from being a humble startup to scaling up during a pandemic. He has led the team on the quest for ways to stay resilient and maintain growth. Deepak discusses how he has managed to maintain this drive — not only for himself, but also for the entire TurboHire family. TurboHire was shortlisted in the 2021 SaaS Awards.

I still remember when “I” became “We” – somewhere in the middle of 2018, when we were merely beginning to understand the potential of TurboHire. The journey of the team from having just an idea to being shortlisted as one of the best SaaS Products for Recruitment in 2021, has been phenomenal. 

How The Journey of TurboHire Began

Our early research and development phase was quickened with the blessings of our advisors – stalwarts from the industry and academia who brought in expertise of the entire HR function as well as business strategy for young companies such as ourselves. After we believed that we had finally created an MVP, it took us 12 months of hard work to set up the company. 

Our initial thoughts were of developing a product that could be incorporated into already existing Applicant Tracking Systems. However, after much research and talking to prospective customers, we realized that selling our product to large companies that are already using an ATS would not be an easy task. Therefore, we decided to create an end-to-end Talent Acquisition platform wherein recruiters would get solutions for all their requirements in a single place. In addition to that, we also decided to incorporate augmented intelligence in every step of the recruitment process to increase the value users would derive from the platform. 

Realizations and Discoveries Along The Way

Taking the learnings from the MVP we developed the first version of our complete product; and throughout our main goal was to make the life of our users easier. 

In order to develop a product that focuses on the needs of the user (i.e. the recruiter), we had to first understand the challenges faced by them. Therefore, we spoke to over 100 recruiters to gather detailed feedback in order to make the most efficient product in the market. We also studied the ATS market in depth and learned that most platforms failed at one basic pain-point – i.e. they did not help recruiters ‘understand’ a candidate’s profile perfectly.

As we studied the problems that were most commonly faced by recruiters and realized why those problems arose, we had one answer in mind: Augmented Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence, by itself, had two key advantages:

  1. Matching resumes with the requirements stated in the job description
  2. The discovery and rediscovery of candidates

What is Augmented Intelligence?

Truly understanding a professional through a profile/resume is a problem that involves deciphering ‘layers of meaning’. And so, the TurboHire solution stack was built with several layers to solve the hitherto unsolved problem of deeply and meaningfully understanding a candidate profile/ CV.

Smart analysis can save a lot of time

Document Ironing

Candidates make CVs using a variety of document editing software and they do it iteratively. They use various document features such as columns, fonts, tables, text boxes, fonts, and styling. The CV goes through multiple rounds of file-saving and conversions. The outcome is a Document which is high-fidelity for reading by human eyes or printing, but is significantly jarring for machines to read.

TurboHire uses several document libraries and elements conversion tools (for columns, tables, textboxes, wrapped text, and so on) to convert any document format and any document type into a machine-readable format through a process called “Document Ironing”. 

Profile/ CV Reading

Resume parsing is a term commonplace to recruitment softwares. But to be able to truly parse a document such as a resume, requires a truly intelligent system. Candidate CVs are rich with information and TurboHire believes that 5% of that information has 80% of decision-making potential than the remaining 95% of the information verbiage.

TurboHire algorithms trained over a variety of Candidate CVs and Formats, extract the most important of this information on the paradigm of – ‘Who did What, Where, When, How, and How Long’.

This structured data then becomes the bedrock of applying Augmented intelligence.

Proprietary Augmentation Datasets and Algorithms

TurboHire has worked extensively to build several large big datasets that can power its patented algorithm:

  1. Education Database – TurboHire has collected a database of academic institutions from around the world, the degrees they award under various disciplines as well as their reputation indices. This database and the degrees have been further semanticized.
  2. Company Database – TurboHire has also made a database of business corporations from around the world on what work each company does, and what is their corporate brand and peer group. TurboHire has also built semantic information on each of these corporate entities.
  3. Capability and Skill Framework – TurboHire has done primary research and development on the linguistic analysis of how candidates describe themselves and their work, and understand it by a machine algorithm to identify what each candidate is good at. More importantly, this is a learning framework and with the infusion of little data can be made to expand very fast to identify developers, architects, nurses, nutritionists, opticians, engineers, and so on.

The TurboHire platform is a layered amalgamation of the above capabilities where augmented profile/CV information is presented in a highly user-friendly and well-designed web browser-based application for the recruiters.

Victories – Big or Small – Matter

Using AI and ML algorithms in our software helped us enable recruiters to hire much faster than before as it entirely removed the manual process of screening of candidates. Additionally, the screening process became free of hiring bias and other human shortcomings such as limited information and contextual disconnects. The automation of the sourcing, screening, and interviewing processes gradually became our selling point. 

Our launch into the market was officially marked by our first paying customers back in 2019. Back then, we were solely targeting medium-sized organizations while accepting shortcomings, meeting requirements, and continuing to develop and improve our product further. Our customer acquisition process was a slow but steady one. We learned from our initial years to never underestimate the importance of expense and time in R&D-based projects.  

TurboHire’s phenomenally easy to use feature for Job Marketing with the ‘Just-Drop-Your-Resume’ framework, the AI-matching of candidates and jobs based on ‘similarity’, and the convenience of Automated Interviews made sure that we gained enough recognition in the talent market by mid-2019. Being recognized by customers in the market is one thing, but you know you’re in the market for real when you are recognized by your competitors. That was one of those moments when we as a team realized that we’re on the right track.

Interviewing doesn’t have to be in person for every step

We Rose From A Fall…

With the onset of Covid-19 in 2020, like all startups, our company too suffered a slow-down. The lockdowns all over the world resulted in us suffering through some financial losses which affected our growth. However, we demonstrated to be one of those companies that “thrived to survive” during the pandemic. 

Who knew 2020-21 would prove to be such a productive year for us? 

A list of 7 of the most awesome things that happened to us in 2020:

  1. Gained a large-sized organization in our client base: ICICI Bank
  2. Angel investors: Venkata N. Peri and Prashanta Gupta
  3. Partnership with Tata Consultancy Services and Microsoft for Start-ups
  4. Top-20 AI-based start-ups of 2020 by CIO Review
  5. Raised a Seed-round of US $1 million led by Pentathlon Ventures
  6. Top 30 startups to watch in October 2020 by Inc42
  7. Ranked #17 in a global list of AI-based startups by The Startup Pill

The one thing that truly helped us in the fight against the downturn caused by the pandemic was the credibility of our product. Testimonials from our customers were a key driving force in encouraging us to keep developing our product to cater to every need of theirs while fighting off every hurdle that came our way.

Best AI-based recruitment tool. TurboHire solves the three most critical parts of recruitments like Sourcing, Screening, and Candidate Engagement”

– Vishak Bharadwaj, Strategic HR Partner, Monocept.

…The Present TurboHire, That Is

From once targeting only medium-sized enterprises, we’re now on the lookout for organizations that are solely talent-led such as Apple, SpaceX, Rubrik, Square, and Cognitive Care. These are some of the companies that are known for their Talent Acquisition and Talent Management practices to generate true value for their businesses.

While our product is in itself industry-agnostic, as a business we target industries which focus on talent-based hiring and which enable our growth and traction – specifically, industries such as technology, IT & ITeS, biotechnology, e-commerce, pharma and healthcare, disease prediction, and so on. When the powerful capabilities of our product combines with the driving force of our client company, the real spark happens. 

Startups like ours usually face various challenges when thinking about a global expansion. To start with, we had to ensure that we are legally and commercially ready for international business before marketing ourselves in the global market. For example, some basic but determining factors are being compliant to accept international payments and meeting local taxation and regulatory requirements.

Another important aspect of expanding globally is to first identify whether your company is multinational or transnational.

For example, an iPhone is a transnational product as it is the same wherever it is sold. However, a car is required to have different variations in different countries, therefore making it multinational in nature. When we built TurboHire, we consciously built it as a transnational product. This ensured that the various teams that have contributed to the growth of TurboHire have created a product that is credible in the global market from day one. 

When it comes to Marketing, one has to analyze the market of each global territory to determine the requirements. For Sales, appropriate documents that are expected from a company should be prepared beforehand. For instance, the Asian market requires extensive hyper-detailed service agreements, whereas the American markets are comfortable with short precise ones. 

Keeping the above points in mind, the expansion of a company in the global market has to be considered at the CEO-level in order to be successful. 

We Are Revolutionizing The Way Hiring Is Done

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in companies to incorporate Artificial Intelligence in most work-related aspects as has nothing else before. This is the reason why AI-based startups are seeing success even during such trying times. 

Companies are going through a technical revolution that calls for automation of common functions to ensure efficiency. The high productivity levels of remote-work models that have been maintained are a result of this revolution. In a time when almost all companies have no other option but to adopt remote work, automation has somewhat made things easier. Personally, I think the SaaS industry has benefited the most from this. 

In the talent space, the focus on the automation of hiring processes has been higher than ever before. Most recruitment agencies or platforms are now turning their attention to AI-based tools to reduce human labor – and consequently to reduce time, cost, and effort; while improving the quality of hire. 

A concept that came into an extended existence because of an obligation is now proving to be highly beneficial. We have served more than 100 customers now and they have repeatedly assured this to be true. A 78% cut in time-to-hire and a 65% cut in cost-of-hire after using TurboHire’s talent acquisition methods is proof of how effective AI has been in the aspect of remote hiring. 

During a time when remote hiring and remote working models are being adopted by all kinds of companies, augmented intelligence in the recruitment process has made the life of recruiters significantly easier. In fact, these trends have been beneficial for everybody – recruiters as well as candidates. A practical example of this can be seen in our own company, where we have more than doubled our workforce since the start of the pandemic. With the absence of locational constraints, we were successful in sourcing and onboarding great talent while working remotely. 

Remote working has been one of the benefits of a stressful pandemic

A Final Note

The pandemic somehow made us better in a lot of ways. TurboHire has now become a mid-enterprise-worthy product with a steady flow of MQLs and SQLs. Our customers have provided us with promising references that would help us gain new customers. With an optimized digital marketing strategy, we are now demonstrating value while premium pricing remains in place. 

But as always, we have continued to keep our users as our top priority. TurboHire’s developers concentrate on designing a product that is a holistic recruiting solution for its users. And when customers recognize and appreciate this effort – it is the most heartening of all things.

“Most firms in the US market that I have worked for are mostly about transparency – ‘who is doing what’. The analytics and strong database that TurboHire has been able to capture for recruiters with reports such as how many resumes are being looked at, the hiring time, the hiring cost, and the progress of the team have been really helpful. As a leader, being able to keep a track of the hiring progress has empowered me. This has been possible with the transparent analytics that TurboHire has provided me and my team.

Shala Burroughs, TNF Capital

For us, the experience we can provide our customers and the positive feedback we receive from them have been our greatest motivational factors as well as drivers of our growth. And it isn’t only our customers who are appreciative of what TurboHire has to offer but we have been blessed to consistently receive recognitions from G2, Orbis Research, CIO Review, Inc42, Analytics Insight, Best Startup Asia, and many more. 

Personally, I feel motivated to concentrate on our product and process like never before with wonderful things such as these happening over the past few months. We have been diving deeper into data science to assist the ever-developing TurboHire software. Our sales have been happening remotely too, which cuts huge amounts of time and cost; And with the ongoing constraints, our team was successful in developing and introducing automation in the invoicing and payment processes as well. 

I can proudly say that the TurboHire team has done exceptionally well and is gaining more and more confidence every day. Right now, we are focusing on global markets following our launch in the US earlier this year. We have somewhat gained sizable recognition from various global enterprise clients. And this positive response from the international market has further empowered and aligned us with a significant Series A funding round in the near future.