Starting a Global Business - with the CEO of TurboHire


Deepak Agarwal is the Co-founder and CEO of TurboHire, an applicant tracking system that aims to disrupt the talent industry using augmented intelligence technology. It helps companies make meaningful hiring decisions and remove inefficiencies in the recruitment process. Together with four others, they created the company to be a global business from day one. Here, Deepak explains what they have learned along the way to help other organisations manage market expansion around the world.

Tell us about you and your company.

I’m a late bloomer as far as entrepreneurship goes. I worked as a procurement engineer, as a consultant for PwC India, in business development for Infosys - primarily in the Bay Area, and I had a company in the USA for four years. Post a successful exit via acquisition of my first venture, I worked for nine years at a global business school in India. TurboHire came about through observation around hiring processes rather than wanting to be an entrepreneur as such. We use augmented technology intelligence and have built a B2B platform for enterprises that are Talent-led. 
We have found that using this human/machine collaboration, we can dramatically change company hiring outcomes, reduce the time it takes to make a new hire by 75%, the cost by 65%, and improve the quality of the hire by up to five times. It’s also more humane than many existing technologies in the market. 
While the machine does the hard work of structuring, augmenting and filtering out specific criteria, it leaves the choice to humans (the recruiter or the hiring manager). That way, they can find the person they’re looking for based on less tangible aspects, such as how an individual connects with you and whether they are likely to get on with colleagues.

What is the business model?

For us, an enterprise is the buyer, and a CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer) or COO is the user. Therefore, as a human/machine collaboration, we price it based on the number of people in the organisation using TurboHire through a recruiter license model.

What is the value proposition?

In the last 10 years, with the advent of 4G/5G and the smartphone, hiring has become almost completely digital, and organisations are receiving CVs on multiple channels with a huge inflow of candidate profiles. 
That creates a bottleneck, where the recipient is super overloaded. Something that happens to the human mind at that point - you can mechanically read every CV, but you will stop differentiating correctly.
Using augmented intelligence, which combines the best of human and machine input, helps you make decisions more efficiently and cost-effectively. By letting machines generate data-centric insights while humans make the more creative and emotional decisions. 
The efficiency and effectiveness that creates are essential for talent-led organisations who lose on production or revenue, or quality the longer it takes to hire the right person.

Who is the target market?

It includes all organisations that are running on the brilliance of their talent. These talent-led organisations are the likes of SpaceX, Apple, Rubrik, Cognitivecare, Square. For them, the ability to understand the people in their pipeline or their company is as crucial as an airline company knowing its every aircraft through individual flights. Our target segment is talent-led organisations. You can pick out IT services, biotechnology, technology products,  pharma, e-commerce, disease prediction etc. - i.e. it’s for anyone operating on the talent of humans.

What are the biggest challenges companies like yours face when expanding internationally?

There are several. The important thing is to identify whether your company will be transnational or multinational at the start.
An iPhone is the same, wherever it’s sold globally, i.e. it is transnational, whereas a car requires variations in each global territory, therefore being multinational in nature. Knowing this at the start can save a lot of headaches. Fortunately for us, TurboHire is transnational primarily; from day one, we created it for a global market.
The second challenge is the legal and commercial readiness of a company. 
You have to pay special attention to the best way to incorporate international entities and consider whether and when you’re ready to take payments locally or internationally, to meet privacy and other regulations etc. These foundational elements are essential.
For marketing, you might have to look at your communications for local market nuances, and you should do a market analysis of each territory to determine that. From a sales perspective, you should prepare for the kind of sales documents you’re expected to send. For example, in Asia, you need long service agreement documents, whereas you might need a very short one in the US market. Customer expectations are very different in different places, so you should set up customer service to suit the timings and needs of different international markets. 
All these things should be considered at the CEO and the blueprint level. Many companies try first and plan later - that’s the nature of startups, which is okay, but if planned well, these five buckets can be improved as you learn and make it much easier as you go forward with market expansion.

What are your key learnings for the CEOs of other Indian companies who want to make a similar journey?

  1. For other CEOs of Indian companies, I have three pieces of advice:
    Be very sure of where you want to incorporate first because it significantly impacts taxation and other issues. You should be very clear in your head whether international markets will be more important than the Indian/ Asian market itself, and if so, incorporate outside India first. We incorporated in India first, knowing we would sell internationally. When we incorporated subsequently in the USA, we had to change the company's financial model to accommodate transfers, taxation, etc.
  2. Suppose you’re looking to sell internationally, irrespective of where you incorporated first. In that case, the four things you need to talk about amongst your leadership team are: know the nature of your service, what will work in your marketing budget and communication, what you want to do in sales, and what will be your customer service mechanism. You should plan them first and launch them together. If you do it piecemeal, you will waste time undoing and rewinding processes.
  3. If you look at our website, it’s not me - it’s the seven other people who are more important than me. We focused on building a high-quality team from day one, and ultimately it’s how those other seven leaders work that will help us achieve our goals. The first seven to 10 people in the company need to be chosen and onboarded like the instructor who jumps in tandem with you on a skydive out of a plane. Onboard them for the trust you have in them as well as their competence. All other things I have mentioned are good intellectual aspects, but you’re alone working with these people in a startup, so they are the most crucial part of the process. 

If you are considering international market expansion, explore our CEO Whisperer and Fractional CMO services to get your business proposition fit for purpose.