From Bollywood to Wall Street to clever recruitment

  • HackerTrail uses data and clever technology to source and pre-qualify candidates.
  • Plans to expand to Malaysia by year-end


From Bollywood to Wall Street to clever recruitment


IN THE world of startups, the journey is straightforward for some, but not for others. Mumbai native Tushar Tejuja belongs to the second category. His life in the startup world began in India in 1998, where he ran a startup that involved deals and discounts. He also made commercials for Bollywood on the side.

“The startup that I ran was sort of deals and discounts, privilege card-related startup. This was the pre-Groupon days, so no-one knew about Groupon and what it was. And that was successful for three years but when the dotcom bust happened, the startups scenario started to look quite ugly so eventually we had to fold that down,” he recalls.

Tushar then relocated to the US to do his master’s degree and began a career on Wall Street, working for blue chip companies such as Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Barclays, leading and growing teams within the technology function. His stint at Barclays brought him to Singapore, where he later became the Head of Technology for a multibillion-dollar family office called The Chandler Corporation.

Giving entrepreneurism another shot

However, Tushar never really forgot his dream of doing his own thing. In 2014, he stepped away from corporate life to start HackerTrail, a Singapore-based curated marketplace for IT talent.

“Think of HackerTrail as a recruitment agency without any recruiters,” says Tushar in a recent interview with Digital News Asia, adding that HackerTrail uses data and clever technology to source and pre-qualify candidates, and then connects them with the right opportunity.

On why he gave up the corporate life to go down the startup route again, Tushar explains that the idea was very clear from the beginning. “I thought from a hiring manager’s standpoint that it was really tough to distinguish one talent from the other. Given that I had probably hired hundreds of people during my corporate life in various parts of the world, always in IT, I distinctly knew that there was a problem. People don’t have a consistent solution figured out. So that was the reason or the genesis behind stepping away from corporate life – it was to try and fix that problem.”

The first version of HackerTrail was built from a hiring manager’s point of view, as a result. Tushar and his team then built a new version of HackerTrail in the third quarter of 2014.

“We think a key missing attribute in the recruitment industry is lack of transparency, both for the hiring managers (they need intelligent data on each candidate so they can easily focus on the right ones) and for the candidates (so they can differentiate job opportunities and companies, and see which ones best align to their career aspirations). We use a variety of data points to help both sets of stakeholders get matched,” he says of the current iteration of HackerTrail.

The key features of HackerTrail is that it is location-agnostic, as they source candidates based on their digital footprint. The company also uses a gamified tech assessment engine that can cater to a variety of skills and difficulty levels ranging from five minute to three hour long challenges, and even real-time online tournaments where candidates can compete live against each other!

As for IT talent, the company has a keen focus on talent in Southeast Asia, ranging from developers to infrastructure support specialists to data scientists.

Tushar explains that HackerTrail makes money in three different ways. One is that clients can subscribe to a flat fee model where they pay per month and they can hire an unlimited number of candidates from the platform.

The other way is that the clients can pay HackerTrail on success. “So similar to how you’d pay a recruitment agency, they can pay us on success when they hire the candidate”.

“The third model that we have is, some clients pay us only for the assessment. So they say: ‘listen, we already know who the top five candidates are but we want to know which the best one is’. And we put them through our assessment engine.”

Next page: The only constant is change


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