NEW DELHI: A ride-hailing unicorn laying off 1,400 people, travel and food delivery firms letting go of 350 and 1,100 staffers respectively and a B2B e-commerce platform terminating 3,000 contractual staff without prior notice.
It was such news of the staggering number of layoffs and individual stories of loss, just a month after the lockdown in April, that prompted two entrepreneurs — Suyash Jain and Rajat Agarwal — to start a social initiative to help job seekers. And thus on April 27, ‘Covid-19 Free Job Forum’ was born — an online job database to help those affected by layoffs due to the pandemic by connecting them with potential employers.
“Everybody believes that no hiring is happening amid the lockdown, this is the issue we thought of trying to address,” said Jain, who is with a B2B e-commerce startup. “I basically created a Google Form with the title ‘Register yourself for Job Opportunities’ consisting of information like name, number, mail id, field of job, city, last company name, last salary. I posted this out on Facebook and rotated among our networks,” he said.
Within 24 hours, more than 100 job seekers filled in their details and the number crossed 600 in three days, much to the surprise of the duo. At the same time, they started approaching HRs one by one who were hiring during Covid-19.
According to Jain, what differentiates their initiative from job portals like Naukri or Shine.com is the free access to a live database of details of job seekers that firms can tap without having to go through the cumbersome process of checking individual CVs. “The main value proposition we are giving to HR’s is that they can filter out candidates according to their requirement without initially checking the CV’s one by one. The initiative also bridges the gap between what is demanded by HRs and what is provided by job agencies,” the 30-year-old said.
After nearly two months, what started out as a random thought to help those rendered jobless, the ‘Covid-19 Job Forum’ has more than 10,000 registered job seekers and 500 firms using the database, where jobs are updated in real time. So far, more than 500 people have been hired through the initiative.
However, despite the initial uptick, the number of job seekers’ registrations started going down as candidates started becoming sceptical of data security and random sharing of the spreadsheet also did not elicit much confidence. “The majority of them thought that we were just doing a collection of databases. As a result, we started sending mails to various HRs as well as job seekers using our original identity as well as shared our LinkedIn profile link and personal contacts. We also created a company page on LinkedIn, which did not share any job updates like other pages, but rather acted as a marketplace or bridge between job seekers and job givers,” said Agarwal.
While Jain handled the marketing and PR department, Agarwal connected with the HRs of different firms whenever they used to get spare time from their own jobs.
An analysis of the data reveals that Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi top the cities that have seen the maximum layoffs, with personnel in sales, marketing and business development being affected the most. Those who have registered with the forum include fresher-level employees who used to earn between Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 to even employees who were part of the higher management and co-founders of startups, having a salary of Rs 20-30 lakh.
Among those who benefited from the initiative is Jitender, who was shocked when one day he was sacked along with 25 others of his team at a Delhi-based IT startup firm. “I was given my termination letter by the HR without any explanation. We were just told to leave. It was an emotionally tough time,” the 28-year-old said.
“I tried many job portals and then found the Covid-19 job forum. Initially, I didn’t expect to land a job through it but decided to give a try seeing its unique name and different approach. But after one month, I got a call from a company for an interview and managed to get the job even though at a much lower pay scale,” he said.
Twenty-nine-year-old Arshad was on cloud nine when he received a call for an interview from a Delhi-based firm just 10 days after he registered on the platform.
“Life came crashing down when on April 20, I was given the pink slip along with 30 others without any prior notice or severance package by a tech firm where I was working as a data analyst,” he said.
The lockdown also left final year students in the lurch as campus placements got postponed with several firms putting their recruitment drives on hold. With uncertainty and a bleak year looming large, 23-year-old Subham Jain got to know about the initiative when the Google Form landed in one of his WhatsApp groups.
“I was looking out for anything and everything, starting from internships to data entry jobs. After filling the form, I got in touch with a few firms and landed a job as a graphic designer for a startup,” said an elated Jain, who hails from Agra.
To cater to the overwhelming response of their forum, Jain and Agarwal have now hired five interns to connect with HRs and also reach out to college students whose offer letters were withdrawn at the last moment even though they do not have any plans to monetise their initiative.
“We have planned to take it on a higher scale and from next week will provide resources to job seekers on ways to improve their resume as well as career advice and support for finding the right job for one’s skills. Even if few people are able to get jobs, then nothing is better than that,” Jain said.
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