In conversation with Sean Blagsvedt from BabaJobs discussing what are the business essentials to create impact in this sector.
BabaJob is a marketplace that connects the vast number of job seekers in the informal sector with better opportunities. Sean Blagsvedt, CEO and founder, spoke to us about visualizing a system of metrics to figure out the type of impact BabaJob has on the informal job market.
Impacting the Informal Job Market
Meghna Rao: Job listings show up in newspapers and online job forums. What makes BabaJob unique?
Sean Blagsvedt: Let’s say someone is looking for a driver in Bangalore. Sure, our job listing service is free and you can browse through it, but our business is to provide hand-selected, screened candidates. If you pay us a small fee, we’ll show you who we have, present a market wage and tell you the number of applications that are available. Tell us your specifications and we can find someone who speaks English, find someone who’s native to Bangalore, find someone with a native driver’s license, whatever. We push your needs out to a set of candidates and drive telephone calls to you in real time. That’s the service that costs money.
Meghna Rao: How do you convince a customer that your service is worth paying for?
Sean Blagsvedt: You have to be really transparent about what you’re offering. If you’re hiring a nanny in Coimbatore, chances are that our database might not be able to handle the request. We let our customers know this immediately. This creates a fair amount of goodwill.
Meghna Rao: Did you make any mistakes in visualizing your customer‘s needs?
Sean Blagsvedt: We made a lot of mistakes while visualizing the business at first. We began with 26 different categories for job seekers. That’s way too many. I mean, there are so many different hiring needs from Flipkart to beauticians to Domino’s… There’s a modicum of revenue and those different directions can be difficult to handle. You have to walk away from those revenue opportunities if you want to do well.
Measuring Progress with Tangible Goals
Meghna Rao: How did you develop your business plan and establish tangible metrics?
Sean Blagsvedt: A lot of impact businesses start out with a social goal. ‘Oh, I want to get poor people hired.’ You start with a system, see some positive numbers, get excited about the traction… but it wasn’t really until about 2 years ago that we began to try and align a numerical structure with our social goals. These eventually became our key metrics. Secondly, your metrics can not be abstracted from the money. Sure, we can look at the number of job seekers signed up with us and feel great. Is that making us money? It’s almost an ideological barrier when you look at it from the poor person’s side. When you switch it to the other side and start asking: “How many people are hiring from our site?”, it becomes a business.
Meghna Rao: Have you evolved your metrics?
Sean Blagsvedt: Definitely. We’ve noticed ourselves asking bigger questions about each of our customers. Who is hiring? What type of people are hiring? What is the quality of the job posting? We noticed ourselves evolving from independent, household hiring to having a preference for large, returning companies. You need to focus on what makes money.
How to establish and measure metrics linked to business
- An infinitely chaotic market means an infinite amount of ways to make money. Focus on one (or, if they’re easy enough, a few) revenue streams. Let your customers know what you are willing to offer.
- Untapped markets lack the support of previously successful businesses to measure your growth against. Create a list of simple, tangible metrics that you can measure against over time.
- While social metrics are important, they are hard to support financially, lack tried and tested measurement formulas and are often the secondary result of a profit-driven business move. A complementary revenue goal is required to drive the growth of your impact business.
- Speak the language of your customers. Working on a rural agri-tech enterprise? Talk about products sold, not farmers reached.