Founder Stories: Girish Kukreja On Building FlexC

In today’s Founder Story, we feature  Girish Kukreja, Founder and CEO of FlexC!

Read on for lessons he has learned from launching and marketing his business.

1. Please introduce your business and share your role.

Hi, I am Girish Kukreja, Founder and CEO of FlexC, India’s first talent marketplace platform that helps organizations hire and manage their hybrid workforce. FlexC is a two-year-old remote-first organization with 22 people working across the country. 

FlexC began with an aim to disrupt the hiring space, solving the challenges hiring managers face with its one integrated platform with the latest AI capabilities and bringing Talent along with the platform through its marketplace offerings.

2. What’s your backstory, what kind of challenges did you face, and how did you come up with your business idea?

If I have to define my 20+ years of career in one sentence – I have picked up new technology/platforms, created talent using training and project experience, and then crafted a P&L practice out of it. I completed my executive MBA from the Indian School of Business in 2017. That was when I got a bug to do something of my own. 

My co-founder and I have been together for 16+ years and decided to experiment with things. We did try a few ideas like ShopHop, STAR – Stock Trading Analyst Ratings, and AI Chatbots, which unfortunately failed quickly. 

When COVID hit the whole world went remote, after spending over two decades in the IT sector, I observed In India permanent hires take up>95% of the workforce. While in the USA/UK the percentage of the same lies somewhere between 60-65%. 

I felt that this might be a good time for India to mirror workforce models of the developed world where 30-40% of the workforce considers contracting as a career. That’s when FlexC was conceptualized as a TAP- talent acquisition platform. 

We started as a bootstrapped company in 2020. Our peers also supported this idea, and we were able to acquire initial friends as investors. In 2021, we raised our first investment round. 

3. How did you prepare for, and go about your launch?

We wanted to make sure to focus on what problem we are solving and who is our target customer group. Our first launch was to allow organizations to put in demand for contracting and freelancing opportunities and have candidates apply for the same. We have identified 4-5 credible clients who could help us pilot the same. 

Frankly, we did not do a big launch. It was more of getting close-ended clients to test the product and provide feedback on the overall platform we could build and work towards adding features crucial for a better client experience 

4. Since launching, what types of marketing campaigns and designs have worked best to attract and retain customers

This year our major marketing campaigns focused on two aspects: 

1- Introducing our SAP Masters community where organizations can find expert-vetted SAP talent and onboard them right away. 

2- An awareness campaign for our clients that they can go beyond an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to search for talent with FlexC’s AI-powered tool. 

Other than these, I believe the only thing that works to retain customers is delivering to their requirements and maintaining a solid relationship with them. It is where we spend most of our efforts. 

5. What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?

We are a pronged marketplace platform. Organizations, Talent(Candidates), and Agencies(Recruiter Partners) are the three key actors on our platform. Our focus for organizations has always been on products that can grow more from word-of-mouth marketing. 

We did go with references we had in the industry and our LinkedIn articles to attract organizations. For Agencies, we ran an ad campaign on Facebook and an email campaign to get the leads and then called them to attend training sessions to instill a better platform understanding. 

In terms of aspiration, Upwork and Freelancer have always been our close competition in this space, although our target segment was more B2B than B2C/P2P for them. 

6. What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?

We have evaluated multiple tools for marketing. Ultimately we zeroed down to Hubspot for CRM / lead management. We also use Freshworks / Mailjet and a few other tools for email marketing. 

Since we were still small, most of our CRM / lead management was through Google Sheets, etc. But recently we have upgraded to Hubspot to track and monitor. 

7. Who or what inspires and motivates you?

Personally, I read a lot and take inspiration from so many authors, and friends who have been serial entrepreneurs. At heart, I am a stock investor. So understanding business has been my passion. 

Warren Buffet and Rakesh Jhunjhunwalla are my inspirations to say that you need to stay invested for the long term. Hence when I jumped into this journey, I was clear that I would continue on an infinite path than some short-term stints.

8. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with entrepreneurs hoping to launch or who have just launched? 

The first thing is for senior entrepreneurs beginning their journey at 40+ age- If you care about your opportunity cost of salary, rethink your journey as this will put a lot of unnecessary pressure. Plan your finances for a multi-year without a salary stint and make sure your family does not have to compromise on their lifestyle. 

For Idea – make sure client problem-solving and user experience come first, then product and solution. Be clear about what problem this will solve and how improving user experience can solve it better. 

Last but not least, there will be times when market conditions will drive your results more than what you can control. Keep yourself and your company fit enough to survive those conditions.  

9. What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?

No one is perfect. Qualities of a good entrepreneur are knowing their strengths and how to form a team that fills up the weak areas. The team has to bring complementary skills.

The most crucial part is alignment on values – be it hard work, long-term vs. short-term view, customer focus, and personal integrity. These are some of the values which need to be aligned. 

Skills can be acquired but if the founding team’s values don’t align, it will be difficult in the long term to work. On a lighter note among founders, there should be something beyond work that connects everyone. It can make bonding work much better. 

10. Let us know where we can go to learn more!