This Former Microsoft Employee Launched a Jobs Site—but You Don’t Need Internet Access to Apply

Sean Blagsvedt's company is helping bridge the digital divide between wealthy employers and low-income applicants in India.

Babajob CEO Sean Blagsvedt. (Photo: Babajob.com)

 

Jan 20, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Esha Chhabra is a journalist who covers social enterprise, technology for social impact, and development.

Seven years ago, Babajob—a Bangalore-based jobs site aspiring to connect the city’s underserved and unemployed with potential employers—began the way most start-ups do: in the founder’s home.

Sean Blagsvedt, a former Microsoft employee and an American expat, had been working in Bangalore for several years. He heard of the disconnect between wealthy urbanites looking for maids, cooks, chauffeurs—a common luxury in middle- and upper-class Indian households—and individuals who could fill those roles. Generally, these types of jobs were publicized simply by word of mouth and based on who you knew.

At the same time, he came across development research by the World Bank indicating that income diversification, or changing jobs, was one way out of poverty. Blagsvedt, his stepfather, Ira Weise, and fellow Microsoft employee Vibhore Goyal decided to fuse their technology skills with a grander vision of social impact. The result? A jobs site that overcomes hurdles of digital connectivity, literacy, and poverty.

Babajob debuted with a basic online portal, a type of Monster.com for the informal Indian job market. Blagsvedt realized, though, that many slum dwellers and lower-class applicants wouldn't be able to fill out their profiles online—so he did it for them. Babajob invited job seekers to come in, provide their details, and take a profile photo. A staff member then plugged in all the information on a computer for the applicants.

The idea took off. To date, Babajob has reached 2.8 million job seekers in the country, raking in more than 200,000 applications per month.

Previously, the company sent out texts to job seekers asking them to text back if interested, but Blagsvedt quickly learned that SMS was not the answer for Indians with limited literacy levels. To combat this, the company launched a Missed Call for Jobs line. The job seeker calls the line and promptly hangs up, a common way to communicate in India to avoid calling charges. But the number is noted, and a Babajob employee calls that person back to collect details over the phone.

“It’s an amazing service for anyone in India using any phone to connect to better jobs for free, and it does so without requiring literacy in any language or an Internet connection,” Blagsvedt said.

Last year, the company offered another telephone-based service, RapidHire. Telephone calls from screened candidates are directed to employers within minutes, connecting the two parties before an in-person interview is arranged.

“It’s truly different than anything else in the world as a real-time hiring solution,” Blagsvedt said.

He is also keen to partner with the United Nations to bring jobs to more working-class Indians. The Business Call to Action—a U.N. global initiative to involve businesses in fulfilling development goals—reached out to Babajob, asking if the company would like to participate. Babajob agreed to commit to the endeavor and has pledged to reach more than 15 million low-income job seekers in India by 2016.

The benchmarks, Blagsvedt said, have pushed the team to expand more aggressively, with a special focus on female job seekers. Women make up only 29 percent of Babajob’s active job seekers.

Asked if he’s likely to take his company beyond the subcontinent, Blagsvedt replied: “With over a billion people, India is a huge market, and we have plenty to do here in the next 12 months.”