Ever dreamt of a Web portal that provides visibility to the rich human resources in the inaccessible small towns of India, and also connects them with companies looking for talented youth? We take a closer look at CoCubes.com.
Depinder Deep,a final year student of Engineering in the Baba Banda Singh Bahadur College of Engineering in a Tier III town--Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab, had never imagined that he would be spotted by a tech firm located in Mumbai and be hired on campus! This could never have happened if it were not for the innovative digital bridge of communication created by CoCubes.com, a portal (www.CoCubes.com), which enables colleges and their students, hidden in the interiors of India, to be visible to companies, located anywhere in the country. The platform also allows large companies to easily manage their nationwide campus recruitment process, at a much lower cost, resulting in cost saving and higher conversion ratios.
A solution for greater reach
There are 17,000 colleges scattered across India and most of them are in Tier II-III cities. The CoCubes team believes that this is where the manpower for India's growth is going to come from.
Harpreet S. Grover, founder, CoCubes, says, "Since recruiting companies are mostly located in the metros, there is a need for an online and SMS-enabled interactive platform to connect colleges and companies."
To this, Vibhore Goyal, also a founder of CoCubes, adds, "I see a lot of growth in SMS-enabled platforms both because of the wider reach mobile phones enjoy among the general public, plus the way they can replace computers in small towns, because maintenance is hard."
He cites a scenario to explain the key advantage of the 'SMS' feature that the portal offers: "For instance, a B.Sc student in a city 50 km from Jaipur may not have an Internet connection, but he can type 'Yes' or 'No' on his mobile to confirm his interest in a job posted by some company. And the company can also communicate to this student, on the go."
Campus recruitments: issues galore
Grover shares a few concerns that have so far plagued the corporate recruitment process and by coming on board, how CoCubes can help resolve those:
- A failed campus visit by a company costs upward of Rs 100,000. CoCubes helps prevent this by providing upfront information on the exact number of candidates interested in the company, thus saving a lot of effort and cost.
- Even the biggest firms in India have only a hazy idea of how the initial 10,000 candidates they started off with, got reduced to the 500 that they eventually hired, and which 100 among these 500 are the best ones.
- Finally, the time lag of up to a year--between candidates' getting a job offer and their finally joining the company, leads to declining conversion ratios. CoCubes helps companies by providing tools to remain in touch with recruited candidates, thus keeping them warm.
Campus recruitment agencies traditionally have been operating through an offline model. Grover reveals that the entire industry is a closed one, where consultants have been charging colleges/companies a humongous sum for each company they bring to campus. This premium is because of the existing information asymmetry where companies have little clue about which colleges to go to, whether students are available or not, how good or bad they are, what is the salary being offered, etc.
This is where an open model like CoCubes fits perfectly, because it brings the entire process online. The information that would have taken a company a couple of weeks to acquire, is now available in seconds.
A college also has the option of either making itself visible to every company or only to companies that it invites using CoCube's login/password tool.
Making authentic data available
Since all data on the platform needs to be authenticated, the CoCubes team procures data directly from colleges and only students whose names are on the rolls, are messaged their logins and passwords on their mobile phones. They can then come online and fill their standardised resume and can also
The technology behind the platform
- "It is an entire lifecycle to move from capturing users' requirements to building a product that users find useful," says Goyal, who has previously worked with the Microsoft Research Centre. Thus, to ensure that the portal offers elements of both utility as well as usability, utmost care has been taken to provide a sound technical foundation.
- From dealing with the choice of using ASP.NET or PHP to designing the database for a highly optimised, scalable and user-friendly website, the challenges have been numerous, says Goyal. He adds, "We have taken up these challenges one by one and followed a user centric approach to solving them. We are currently hosted on Level 3 IDC (Internet Data Centre)."
- Other paraphernalia include a dedicated Cisco firewall, three dedicated Dell servers equipped with quad core Intel processors to provide a faster and more enjoyable user experience, and an ASP.NET 2.0 platform with SQL Server 2005.
choose to complement their profile with video footage, but don't have access to the fields containing their academic scores, which are uploaded by the college authorities.
Goyal explains the convenience that the portal offers to companies for evaluating the credentials of students: "Because we capture and classify information under various categories, it helps companies to search and shortlist candidates through a few clicks. Consider a scenario six months down the line: companies can now search easily for all computer science graduates from Punjab who have more than 70 per cent scores in 10th and 12th classes, and in college. For a big company that recruits pan India, once recruitment is done, it can find out how the initial 4,000 students that were shortlisted got to the final 300 who were recruited. Or which 50 of these 300 are the best, and so on. Post that, students can even be segregated into communities based on college, branch, region and interest, and companies can then get in touch with them through newsletters, birthday cards, SMSs and other interesting ways."
Another advantage of having the complete process online is that, in the future, if the same company feels the need to hire more students from the previously visited colleges, it can simply interview the students who reached the final interview rounds during the first visit.
Rich connections through Web visibility
For hiring, small and mid-sized companies that register with CoCubes can make a choice from approximately 35 colleges that the portal has on board. For big firms, CoCubes offers to get on board any college nationwide that it intends to go to, within a mere three days!
Companies also can know how many students are available in a campus and adjust the team size to take interviews. They can find out which of the recruited students are the best and can then keep the candidates 'warm' during the long joining period to ensure maximum conversion.
Grover points out that for colleges, the power of their students being online and available to companies 24/7 is amazing. This also helps in increasing the placement rate of the college. At the same time, the portal helps colleges streamline their internal communication as they get many tools/features, such as mailing, calendar, SMS-enabled services, bulletin boards, and so on. Students also stand to benefit from the online content, video shoots, and from increased interaction with an India-wide peer network.
As regards their revenue model, Grover reveals, "We charge the firms on a per college basis, and we have an annual subscription model for colleges, for taking them online."
A pioneering movement... and the way to go!
Goyal proudly affirms, "We are the first in India to bring all three key stakeholders--the company, students and the college--onto a single platform, resulting
The story behind CoCubes
- Grover narrates the story behind the conception of CoCubes: "One of my uncles is a training and placement officer in a college in Punjab. I saw him spending a lot of time and money travelling to metro cities visiting companies and persuading them to come over for campus placements. He once invited me over for a guest lecture in his college. It was during this visit that I felt there were a lot of competent students in Tier II-III cities."
- "Having graduated from IIT Bombay, both Goyal and Grover got the ideal platform to take off but they felt that if the students in smaller towns are given the right visibility, they would also be able to do well. What they needed was a platform. At the same time, it was very important to have a business model around this basic need. â€œWe (Vibhore and I) had hours of brainstorming sessions to figure out how we could leverage our skills and technology to solve this real world problem. This is how CoCubes came into being," reveals Grover.
in amazing benefits for everybody involved due to a flow of information resulting in operational efficiency."
Although there are other offline players, Grover declares that in the online domain, he does not know of anyone working along similar lines.So far the portal caters only to engineering and MBA colleges, and plans are underway to diversify and bring on board other interest groups as well. As Grover affirms, "This is just the starting point. We plan to move across to graduate colleges and training institutes (that also have to place students), and also to tie up with organisations like Career Launcher, Vault, etc, to provide students with useful content and tests."
There are plans to keep the users/students engaged even when they have moved out of their respective colleges. The team is currently working on whether to evolve into a generic recruitment portal or an online referral model.
Grover adds, "One of the things we are very excited about is the ability to train students online during the time frame (of about 8 to 12 months) between their getting recruited on campus and joining the company. So we are looking for partners here
Creative ways to foster innovation
For Team-CoCubes, 'innovation' is the toolbox that it uses to provide a simple, effective, and if required, an out-of-the-box solution to problems. But how does it foster innovation in the firm? Goyal reveals, "Well, we have kept Saturdays for team discussions. A 'Dream Project' is given to all team members, and they are stimulated to spend time on something they find interesting and to cultivate ideas that help CoCubes achieve its vision!
"The ability to take the simplest route to solve a real time problem is a metric that we use to measure and reward our team members for the innovations that they come up with."
'One plus one can be greater than 11' is what the team believes in. And also that it is not possible for a single organisation or person to know and offer a solution to all problems. As Grover says, "To win, you must play to your strengths and domain knowledge, and be willing to collaborate with an equally
Besides innovations, the focus is also on continual research. "Rather than technology, our research is mostly in terms of content and to be the most knowledgeable about the campus recruitment and training industry. Our people know the inside outside of what is happening where, in different states and colleges. This entails a lot of research," quips Grover.
Looking back with pride
CoCubes has set up a good base in just a year from its inception in 2007, and is currently a part of an incubator at Ansal Institute of Technology (AIT), Gurgaon. Goyal recapitulates the journey so far: "We have seen both sides of the coin, from asking friends and family for capital, to being funded by a reputed set of investors. It is always difficult to start a venture." He adds: "The support from our respective families was a big push. But what has kept us going is the internal steady belief in the idea and our vision. This has helped us cross our lows to getting our round of capital closed.
"To our great delight, the director/dean at AIT liked our concept and showed faith in our idea. Within the first two meetings itself, the team offered us an incubation space. I believe tech-incubators are playing a very important role in sustaining the entrepreneurship wave we see in India."
The firm has formed a sound base, but Grover affirms that the biggest challenge for the team to date is to stimulate a much-required change in mindset among colleges--to accept that going online is a better way of increasing their placement rates.
For fellow entrepreneurs-to-be and enthusiasts, Grover and Goyal have a simple message: "Try looking for solutions to problems that you would encounter in day-to-day life, start with a reliable partner and somebody you would love to work with, and always follow your passion. After all, you have only 'one life to live'."
|Benchmarks achieved so far
- CoCubes has on board more than 12,000 authenticated users (students) across colleges and states. The list of premier clients includes IILM and Thapar University. The company has also signed a couple of big MNC clients (Evalueserve), each of which is going to use CoCubes to recruit talent from more than 100 colleges.
- The most remarkable thing is that all this has been accomplished by a small team of seven people. That said, the firm has raised capital and is looking to scale up its team size.