As we start a new year, we are happy to announce a new column on Rodinhoods called VIP Interviews. We will showcase those founders and start-ups that are an inspiration with the work they are doing. We believe all of us at Rodinhoods can benefit from this series and learn a thing or two from the journey of the showcased start-ups.
The first start-up featured in this column is CoCubes, a platform that helps companies recruit the best talent from colleges. Among the pioneers of employability assessments in India, CoCubes conducts over two million assessments for 600 clients.
Let’s hear the story of how India’s leading assessment and hiring platform went on to get acquired by Aon Hewitt. In conversation with founders Harpreet Grover and Vibhore Goyal on how CoCubes aims to ensure that everyone in India gets an equal opportunity to build a career.
Q: How did you identify this gap between campus and corporate?
Harpreet: In 2006, my uncle—a placement officer in a Punjab college—narrated the difficulty his college faced in securing placement visits by recruiters. A majority of the 30000 odd colleges in India are located in Tier II and Tier III cities. These colleges are not sought after by recruitment companies in spite of having great talent. Corporates are looking to hire the best talent that fits their requirement. Thus CoCubes – a platform that would connect colleges and companies – was started to bridge this gap. Students from less reputed colleges but with inherent skill set can certify their capability through assessments and have an edge over others. The assessments help corporates evaluate a large number of students and create an automatic filtration criteria.
Q: What is the background of the founders? How did you two meet?
Vibhore: We always wanted to do start out on our own and had considered multiple ideas over two years. Finally CoCubes was what clicked due to the impact it creates on lives and in the society we live in. We were former roommates at IIT Bombay. Harpreet and I left our jobs at Inductis and Microsoft respectively to start CoCubes in 2007.
Q: What would be the 3 MOST important aspects to keep in mind while building a platform business that creates value?
Harpreet: One critical problem any entrepreneur has to solve is the initial traction. In our case, colleges asked us “How many companies do you have?” and companies asked us “How many colleges do you have?” We got around this chicken-and-egg situation by running pilots for companies to attract colleges and giving premium access to colleges for that period. Sounds simple, but it took us a while to figure that out. The learning here is to find a way to own at least one side of the market – either the demand or the supply.
Vibhore: There is another question that every entrepreneur has to face, and that is, “Am I too early in this market?” This is an important question because of the huge impact it has on the end outcome of building a successful company. For instance, could e-commerce have taken off in 2000? I doubt it, because not enough people had internet access and credit cards then. The effort of a lot of entrepreneurs went down the drain, because the market was not ready. The same entrepreneurs would have succeeded in 2013. So it is important for you to understand if your market is mature enough to adopt a new model or you could spend years building a successful company.
Harpreet: If you were to ask us about one thing we did right, it would be building a team and unique work culture. Our team believes in the company as much as we do. They put in more hours than we do, and takes care of clients as if it was their own company. A passionate team which believes in the end goal is a must for platform business in India today.
Q: What were the mistakes or temptations you made that nearly destroyed you?
Harpreet: In hindsight, we should have used the VC capital judiciously. We should have invested more in creating new offerings for clients and improving the current offerings.
Q: What was the value proposition that Aon Hewitt saw most in CoCubes to make this acquisition?
Vibhore: Aon would offer behavioral and leadership assessments and CoCubes offered cognitive, technical and vocational assessments. As #AonCoCubes, we now have a unique positioning as providers of comprehensive assessments across employee lifecycle for:
- Roles ranging from blue-collared to boardroom
- Skills ranging from plumbing to programming
Basically, we are now a one-stop shop for assessments across employee categories, life cycle, skills and modes of delivery.
- Innovative offerings like remote proctoring, pre-assessed candidate pool, continuous RoI improvement
- Aon has gained access to new client segments: colleges, sector skill councils.