When Meenakshi Jain's domestic help took leave, she chanced upon an idea that is now her growing start up. Helper4U helps job givers connect directly with job seekers in the domestic space and makes it easy to identify profiles in this unorganised sector. We spoke to Meenakshi to understand how she noticed the market gap and how did Helper4U emerge. Tell us a little about your family and professional background. My father was in the military, so my childhood was spent hopping cities across North India. I completed my class XII, graduation, post-graduation and MPhil from Delhi. M Phil was from Jawahar Lal Nehru University. We moved to Mumbai in 2010. I am a trained teacher, corporate trainer and Instructional designer. I have had a corporate career for the last 15 years before turning entrepreneur. My two last jobs were with NIIT and TIS. How did the idea for Helper4U germinate? My maid of many years had to take a few days off suddenly and I was in the middle of a very hectic week at work. I had no way to get a replacement for her at a short notice. I had no way of knowing who was available for hire from the vast pool of maids floating around in my colony. So I decided to create a directory of maid in my colony and put it online so that one could hire “as soon as” the need arose. Slowly the idea expanded into a business. What is the philosophy/vision for Helper4U? The idea is to directly connect the job seeker at the bottom of the pyramid with the job giver. This will in the long run enable better employment opportunities for the bottom of the pyramid and make life easier for the employer, especially in the domestic sector. When did you launch Helper4U and how does it work? Helper4U was launched in July 2014. Its a simple process. Job givers go online and search for candidates as per their requirements. They can see all details, except the mobile number of the job seeker. If they find any profile they would like to hire then they pay online to view mobile numbers of the profiles in that category, for a limited period. Subscription charges vary, depending upon the probable salary. Current subscription starts from ₹275. Subscription charges vary by categories, so a job giver may pay multiple times to view mobile numbers of different categories of helpers. SMEs engage us for shortlisting candidates and coordinating interview in return for 30-50% of a month’s salary. The job seeker does not pay anything at any stage. Registration for a job is simple, over a phone call or using Whatsapp. How has been the response so far? People find the concept innovative, interesting and useful. Ladies from other cities have managed to get a job through us even before arriving in the city. Some domestic workers have got better job opportunities after registering with us. Helpers have managed to get more offers. We are constantly improving based on feedback from customers. How large is the database now? We currently list approximately 2200 job seekers and 700 Job givers across Mumbai and Pune. What was the best and the worst advice you received when you were starting up? Best advice: Don’t expect to hit gold mine straight away. Be ready for the long haul. Worst advice: You should hire top management straight away if you want to be able to do anything at all. What are some of the biggest challenges you faced in the last one year of starting up? Getting people to work for us in slums to register job seekers was one of the most challenging part of creating the database. What is your team strength? Apart from the core team of CEO, CTO and a Board member, we employ three call center staff members, one Operations Supervisor and part timers. Any memorable anecdotes about employees or employers you would like to share? A job seeker was so amazed and thankful that we did not charge anything for getting him connect with employers that he offered me a Mango Bite that he was carrying for his kid. It was such a touching gesture and showed us how difficult it is for these people to even reach a prospective employer without spending money. Among employers, right when we started out, a young girl in Delhi used our site to schedule interviews of housemaids for her mom in Mumbai. That was when we realised the power of what we were creating. Money no bar, if there is one thing you could change/enhance about your business right now, what would it be? Customer engagement through technology will give us a major push and I would like to invest in that. What's next? One, go live in multiple cities in the next year and to become the preferred training partner for people from bottom of the pyramid. We have already started life skills or campus to corporate kind of training for the segment. What advice would you give to young women entrepreneurs in the city? Don’t be influenced by the current hype about startups. Be ready for challenges, rejections and failures. If you fail, learn from it and start again. You can download the Helper4U app on iOS and Android phones. Currently the service is available in Mumbai and Pune.