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BetterPlace – Making Blue-collar Workers Future-Ready

Pravin Agarwala

Blue-collar jobs have always remained the underdogs in an economy where creating wealth and value to customers rules supreme. Yet, the blue-collar economy is actually what drives the business as those who are part of it are indispensable to running the backend operations of many a business, including that of one’s home. The challenges that a blue-collar worker faces are plenty, right from a lack of respect amongst employers to poor skill-levels and unattractive wages.

It was all of this and much more that went into the idea of creating BetterPlace, an enterprise that focuses exclusively on the blue-collar workforce with a view to make life easier for those working in a slew of industries, right from manufacturing to mining and farming to app-based delivery services. At CXOToday, we found the idea innovative and decided to get more from its Co-founder and CEO Pravin Agarwala during a brief chat.

Foundation of BetterPlace

The whole sole purpose of BetterPlace is to make the lives of blue-collar workers better with the help of technology. “There is a lot of data on the two sides, employees as well as employers, which goes unleveraged and keeps people unaware of the opportunities they can tap on,” says Agarwala while pointing out that BetterPlace is a tech platform that aims to manage the whole lifecycle of such workers across the country.

BetterPlace started its operations in January 2015 but associated with its first customer, Housejoy, only in September 2015. Though it took them 6 months to pick up the pace, but once it did, there was no looking back. At present, it is catering to customers with names like Zomato, Swiggy, Ola, Accenture, etc.

Evading the Challenges

Blue-collar workers are mostly employed in the informal sector which means they are largely disorganized. They do not get paid big salaries and even those do not reach them on time, causing a very high rate of attrition in the absence of any special skills. They work long hours and overtime is not often commensurate with the efforts. Attendance management is poor leading to conflicts and most importantly there is no focus on skilling them up.

BetterPlace began with the idea of making a difference across these challenges. The company began their operations with background verification but realised that trust isn’t the only issue that these employees faced. Consequently, the company went for a slew of services ranging from onboarding, attendance management, human resource management, health checks, banking solutions and most importantly into training and re-skilling.

Agarwala recalls that the ride was far from easy. It was a different market altogether though we believed that technology was the key to alter things, given that there was hardly any innovation worth noting in the industry. “We believed that only transparency in processes can make the segment better, be it around on-boarding or training, technology would bring in this factor to the process,” he says.

For instance, unlike white collar professionals, the blue collar ones are spread spatially which used to act as a hurdle for their training and upskilling. The BetterPlace solution led to digital trainings of the employees in evading the spatial and language contours.

Another problem that BetterPlace tackled was that of attrition. “If you wanted a certain number of staff on the rolls you ended up hiring double of that as you aren’t sure about how many of them would stay put and how many would leave. The solution was to provide a happy and respectful work culture and this is what we managed to do.”

In the final analysis, the debate between automation and workers is something that the world would see playing out in the future. However, Agarwala believes that far from killing jobs, technology would create several new ones. “And, all that one has to do is be adoptive and prepared to walk the pace of change. India is a service economy where the human touch remains central. So automation can only do so much. For the rest, we need humans to make the difference.”

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