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Job hunting? These IIT-ians can help

Last updated on: November 18, 2009 19:40 IST

Job hunting? These IIT-ians can help

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Manu A B in Mumbai

A photographer, poet, a mountaineer and co-founder of CoCubes.com, 27-year-old Harpreet S Grover dons many caps. He joins the growing league of IITians who have quit their jobs to become entrepreneurs.

Harpreet Grover joined hands with Vibhore Goyal to start CoCubes.com 'to connect colleges with companies, making the online hiring process faster, simpler and efficient'.

For Harpreet and Vibhore, who gave up high-profile jobs to start the venture, there was tremendous pressure to win against all odds. It was a complete turn of events for them, as they had to cut down on expenses drastically and even turn to roadside dhabas for dinner.

The journey from being employed in a well-oiled corporate setup to jumping into an uncertain world was scary but challenging. Getting funds and parents' consent was equally difficult. After rustling up their savings of about Rs 300,000 each, they somehow convinced their parents to believe in the idea and support them.

Very early into their venture, things went haywire. They ran out of money and were on the brink of closure after an angel fund backed out at the last moment. They, however, did not accept defeat.

They borrowed money from their families and worked harder. Their efforts to make the right connect between employers and students paid off. Today, CoCubes.com has an impressive list of colleges and corporates using its online hiring process.

"Employers can cut down cost by up to 30 per cent with online hiring. For students, it gives them an equal opportunity irrespective of where they are based. The data that is uploaded on the web site is authenticated by the college, which makes the process credible and useful," says Harpreet, who has worked with 50 corporate clients like Patni, Evalueserve, TCS BPO, Sapient. CoCubes.com has a database of 60,000 students that includes engineers, MBAs and graduates.

Harpreet Grover shares the excitement of being an entrepreneur and how he plans to make campus recruitment a hassle-free experience.

Tell me about how you became an entrepreneur, the difficulties you faced in setting up your enterprise?

The passion to do something different on our own was always there. We even thought about launching a company selling fresh juice. But I got a job as an analyst with Inductis and worked for two years. During an interaction with my uncle, I realised that many companies are finding it tough to connect efficiently.

Although many students have access to the Internet and mobile, campus hiring has not changed. Many students in Tier-2 cities lose out on good employment opportunities as they cannot connect with the right companies.

Companies still spend a lot of time, money and energy on hiring and yet do not find the right candidates. "I discussed this with my friend Vibhore Goyal and Manish Mirchandani, who are also from IIT-B. They too were excited about the idea to use technology to drive efficiency in online recruitment," says Harpreet. It, however, took some time to convince parents and get started.

Most people find finance a major constraint to start a venture. How was it for you?

Getting funds was not easy. Vibhore and I started off with our own savings of about Rs 2 lakh. We then got angel investment from our ex-manager Amanjeet Saluja and then were set to get a large round of angel funds but talks fizzled out at the last moment. We stayed afloat and finally raised funds from Ojas Venture Capital in March 2009.


Image: Manish Mirchandani, Vibhore Goyal and Harpreet S.Grover (L to R).

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What kind of sacrifices did you have to make?

We all lead a frugal lifestyle. For the first two years we didn't take a salary, although now we do take salary. My father wanted to quit his job once I got a job. But when I decided to quit, he had to continue working.  Now he is happy that I am doing a good job with our venture.

Did you ever feel this venture may not work out?

There was a time when we had no money in the bank, we did not know how to pay the salaries and there was feeling that we may have to fold up. But fortunately I had the support of good friends. My batchmates at IIT-B, Vibhore and Manish Mirchandani, who is director (Technology), were there with me to share all the responsibilities. It is easy to give up, but to sustain and keep running is a great experience.

How many companies have registered with you? What is their feedback? Are they satisfied with the online recruitment process?

We have worked with over 50 corporates. Our clients are satisfied with this process. It gives them enough time to check the candidates' profile, spend time with candidates online and stay in touch till the time they join the firm.

We charge Rs 150 per student. We also charge the companies depending on their requirements.

What are the advantages of registering with CoCubes.com?

While students have changed in the last ten years, campus hiring has remain unchanged. We believe now it is possible for a firm to stay connected to a college and student 24 by 7 through technology, engage and then hire as and when required.

We help the colleges manage and increase placements. Colleges can generate login/passwords to invite companies to campuses. Our technology makes it easier, faster and cheaper for students and employers.


Image: CoCubes team.

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How many students have registered? What is the profile of students?

We have registered over 60,000 students from 450 colleges. There are an equal number of MBAs, graduates and engineers in our database. After a client requests students from a certain college, we get their data in two days. We provide a platform through which colleges can interact with its students through email and SMS, get their resume and video profiles online, invite companies to view them online.

The college registration process is simple. We sign a memorandum of understanding with the college and give the college representative a login. The college uploads an excel file with student information and our system automatically mails/SMSes the login/passwords to all the students. Students upload their resume and create their video profile. So the whole process is authenticated by the college.

What do you think about the employability of graduates?

Companies have set a number of parameters. If some of them do not fit the bill, we advise them on what courses to pursue and this will be mentioned in the updated resume. Thus candidates know what exactly they should learn -- to be 'employable'.

How is the recruitment scene now? How did the recession hit hiring?

Hiring was hit badly. But it has picked up in the last one month. The ITeS and banking sectors are doing well. This recession helped us in making more companies listen to what we are saying.


Image: CoCubes team.

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Who are your competitors? How different is your site from other job sites?

There are placement agents who directly go to the colleges and provide offline services but we believe that the value add is minimal. Then there are popular online portals provide a 'company to individual' connection whereas CoCubes brings colleges and all its students onboard. We provide a 'company to college' connection. We have separate logins for training and placement officer and for all students of college interested in placement.

How do you see the company's role in the recruitment area growing in India?

We have a bigger role to play as the number of colleges, students and jobs is rising. Our aim is to reach out to more colleges and more corporates and make hiring simple and cost effective.

Is this a profitable business? What kind of revenues do you expect?

This is a profitable business. We hope to break even next year. I would not be able to share revenue figures at this point.

How important is money for you? How many hours do you work?

Money is very important for any business. But it is not the only motivation to work. We would like to be known as people who made an idea work and redefined online recruitment in India. We work for 15 hours a day, 7 days a week. One day, we work from home and rest of the time from office. From seven people in 2008, we are now a stronger team of 20 members.

How difficult is it to attract people to work in a startup?

It is very important to have great people to work in a startup. To get and retain good talent we compensate them well and offer them Esops. You need to find people who believe in your idea and are willing to work hard.


Image: Connecting companies to colleges.

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How did the Indian Institute of Technology help in making you an entrepreneur?

The IIT sharpens your skills, supports open thinking, channelises your energy in the right direction, teaches you to always look at basics, and enhances your problem solving capabilities. The education has helped me get an advantage that a person with 20 years of experience in this field does not have.

How important is innovation for an entrepreneurship to succeed?

Innovation is extremely important for any start-up. This innovation need not mean something new, it can be a newer way of doing things.

Tell us 5 things that entrepreneurs must do to succeed?

It is important to have a good co-founder. He must have the ability to change plans to meet market realities. Talented people make a startup succeed. He must have the ability to convince investors and, of course, have fun!

What are your future plans? Five years from now?

Our vision is to bring all 17,000 colleges across India online and provide equal opportunities to students. Five years from now, a good majority of Indians should get jobs through CoCubes.com and stay on the platform as they grow in their careers.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I love mountaineering, but that takes time so that is out for the time being. I spend time with my family, go for short trips and enjoy being a photographer.  I like to spend time with Vibhore and Manish.

How do you sum up your experience as an entrepreneur?

Awesome! It has been a great journey so far.


Image: The IIT advantage.

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