Talent crunch, and talent shortage: these are two phrases that have dominated the headlines of human resource-related articles in Singapore for years. It’s clear that a lack of skilful workers, exacerbated by the tightening of local immigration policies, is a problem here.
Technology might be the solution to that. Maheshswaran Suresh Kumar once ran two businesses and, like many other local startups, found it hard to acquire talent to bolster the ranks. One particular solution helped him tremendously during this time: outsourcing work to remote workers beyond the island-state’s shores. Tapping on the global “crowd” to find talent made sense to him, and Kumar identified a dire need for it not only in Singapore, but in most developed countries.
Launched in December 2014, talent marketplace Sourceguru was his answer, though admittedly not a unique one. Much like its more established counterparts Freelancer and Elance-oDesk, clients can publish their project requirements on the platform, and service providers – writers, designers, coders, and so on – will submit their proposals and bid for the right to work on them.
Solving a host of difficulties
Here’s where Kumar thinks Sourceguru can go one better than the incumbents. Firstly, it only allows for private bidding to be made, which Kumar believes will prevent counter-productive price wars from happening. Clients are also not required to reveal pricing and deadlines – these can be communicated privately with interested parties.
“Unlike most other sites, we do not run open bidding or contests – this allows for serious freelancers and companies to put up a proposal with pricing and deliverables in confidence to the buyer of the service only,” he explains.
High dispute rates because of either party flouting the terms and conditions are another huge pain that users of the existing platforms face. “When a dispute arises between buyer and seller, they expect you to resolve the issue, payment, refunds, and chargebacks,” Kumar says.
“When buyers and sellers can’t come to an agreement, they have to involve the platform as a mediator. In some instances there are even fees and charges for mediation. We find this unrealistic, as parties are sitting in different countries.”
To resolve this, Sourceguru abides strictly by what Kumar calls “real world business practices.” “When a buyer places a deposit for a service and there is no delivery, then a refund is made. For the service provider, if a buyer defaults even after receiving work, he is protected with the deposit – we then proceed to blacklist the buyer,” he explains.
A third commonly-faced problem lies in the payment process. Many of the current players find difficulty in transferring money to developing countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, which have a massive freelance workforce. In these cases, freelancers often have to jump through many hoops to receive the cash at their side of the world, and sometimes these solutions require additional fees to be made too.
Partnering with Red Dot Payments and Western Union Business Solutions allows Sourceguru to make transactions faster and cheaper than the rest, according to Kumar. “Having said that, we’re still in discussions with top international payment gateways on customizing a solution to this problem apart from the one that we’ve built,” he adds.
Looking to dominate Asia
Roughly two months after its launch, the talent marketplace now has about 12,000 users, the bulk of which are service providers – 1,500 of them are buyers. Of those, around 300 hirers and 3,000 service providers are active. “As for the rest of the user base, there’s about a 65 percent level of activity that we have been monitoring, mostly logging in, updating their portfolio/profile, and navigating the site,” says Kumar.
About 100 projects are currently ongoing or completed. While it is free to post projects and send proposals, Sourceguru takes an eight percent cut of the service provider’s earnings.
Kumar is now looking to quickly expand to other markets in Asia, as well as develop new features on the platform. “We’ve been active in India, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Australia. We hope to tap the Thai and Vietnamese markets as they’ve got great talents there,” he reveals.
Having raised S$2 million (US$1.6 million) in early 2014 from an angel investor, Kumar is now going for a bridging round, before raising series A funding in the second quarter of 2015. The goal: “to be the dominant Asian player in the talent crowdsourcing scene by connecting entrepreneurs, business owners, and talents with opportunities.”
Update (2 March, 1000am): A representative from Elance-oDesk disputes the points made above. He claims that, firstly, Elance-oDesk “does not run open bidding or contests for job posts;” secondly, it only provides “pro-bono mediation services in the rare instances when they are needed;” lastly, it has a global payment system that makes “payments much easier, not more difficult.” He adds:
We offer international withdrawal options for freelancers including PayPal, MasterCard prepaid debit cards, local funds transfer, and wire transfer. We are proud of our payments in Bangladesh where we launched local wire transfer in 2012, and since then people have been paid from oDesk to bank in two business days.
This post Not just another talent marketplace: Sourceguru has a plan to beat Elance-oDesk appeared first on Tech in Asia.