Tarun Bangari is Founder & CEO, JantaKhoj InfoServices Pvt Ltd. JantaKhoj (translates to “people search” in Hindi) provides the first and the largest people search portal in India, offering people search and background check services to businesses and individuals. He talks about how JantaKhoj got started, challenges he faces, and his typical workday.
In addition to his CEO role, Tarun also manages product management, marketing and sales. Prior to founding JantaKhoj, Tarun has worked in various leadership roles in software development, consulting, product management, sales, and marketing. Tarun has PGDM/MBA from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta and B.Tech from IIT-BHU Varanasi.
Q: How did JantaKhoj get started? What is your value proposition to your clients?
In early 2009, I had just quit my earlier job as Vice President of Sales & Marketing at netXccel and was debating whether I should reenter the job market or try my hand at entrepreneurship. I connected with Ajit Gupta, a serial entrepreneur and ex-CEO of Speedera, where I had been a product manager. We looked at various business ideas and eventually narrowed down on people search and background verifications portal. This was an underserved area in India and we thought we can create something new and exciting. We did further market analysis and eventually incubated the start-up in June 2009, after expanding the team with Head-Engineering and Head-Verifications.
We provide the first and the largest people search portal on Indians, covering more than 500 million individuals, that is around 40% of the entire Indian population. Additionally, we aim to provide more detailed background checks, using online and offline approaches, to individuals and businesses, at a reasonable price.
Q: What are the major challenges of verifying someone’s identity and background in India?
The biggest challenge historically has been the lack of centralized databases for identity and background checks. The ambitious, Aadhar Project (National UID Project of India) which is already in the roll-out stage, aims to provide a comprehensive one stop shop for verifying identity. There are two more projects (Home ministry sponsored Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems and Education ministry led National Academic Depository) which aim to create nationwide centralized databases for all police records and education certificates respectively. Till the time, these initiatives are fully rolled out, we have to rely on physical trips to police offices and universities to check the records. Additionally, address checks will still require a physical trip. Employment and reference checks still need to be done through phone, email or a site visit.
Q: What are the operational challenges of physical lookups? Do you need contract workers all over India that do it for you? Do you have multiple layers of verification?
The sheer size of India presents great operational challenges in physical lookups. It is economically unviable for a single entity to have its own workers all over the country. So we have a set of trusted vendors who help us in expanding our physical reach. We do not have multiple layers of verification as such, but periodically we do audits and counter-checks to ensure that the quality and reliability of checks remains impeccable.
Q: How is being an entrepreneur in India different from the US where you have worked before?
This will not be a fair comparison as when I was in US, I was working as an employee with H1-B visa in a consulting firm. So my options were somewhat limited and also at that point of time, even though earlier I had done my MBA from IIM Calcutta, I still had very little marketing and sales experience. After the US stint, I joined Speedera Networks as a product manager in their Bangalore center and continued working in the area of marketing even after Akamai acquired Speedera. This gave me a deep understanding of marketing, pre-sales, customer interactions and Internet based industries. And over these years, India has continued to emerge as a great opportunity for first time entrepreneurs like me. More and more folks are now considering entrepreneurship as a calling and these are indeed very exciting times!
Q: Any words of advice for budding entrepreneurs in India?
Being a first time entrepreneur, I think I cannot hand out any ‘advice’ to budding entrepreneurs as I myself am learning every day. A few points for consideration would be:
- Ensure that you have some financial cover personally. You may not see salary or surplus cash for quite some time!
- Don’t be afraid. Take the jump. The journey is worth it irrespective of eventual success or failure. Either way, you will learn infinitely more than in a regular job.
- Validate your business ideas sooner than later. Learn fast from market. Change course faster.
- Try to hit positive cash flow as soon as possible. In fact, one of the strategic advisors of JantaKhoj went to the extent of recommending being cash flow positive right from Day 1 of the business (unfortunately, we were not able to meet his advice)!
A day in the life:
6:30 - My four and a half year old son is our ‘natural’ alarm clock. The day begins when he moves in to our bedroom in the morning and shares a few minutes of cuddling with me and my wife. As I help in getting him ready for the school, I quickly check the emails and messages on my smartphone. Online order confirmation emails are always a pleasure to see right in the morning. I also keep an eye on any customer service related emails which I need to escalate to either engineering or customer service team members.
7:30 - After having my son board his school bus, I am out for around one hour of morning exercise (outdoor brisk walking or swimming on alternate days). Invariably my thoughts meander around various aspects of the business – how is the working capital situation, how is the website traffic doing, how to close a particularly large B2B deal, is the PPC campaign really holding up well, is the Facebook presence helping with B2B prospects too?
9:45 - I drive over and reach my office. A few of the team members are already in. If there is any significant update, they will share it immediately with me. But on most days, I settle down and update/review the task list for the day. Next I review the emails in detail and try to respond to them or forward them to suitable owners with team. I do some other quick and regular checks – Google Analytics for website traffic stats, AdWords campaigns progress, AdSense earnings, our Facebook page, company’s Twitter account, CRM dashboard for any alerts/reminders. More importantly, I check the offline chat messages which may have come in overnight and either respond to them myself or forward to the suitable owner within team. I try to close the most important tasks/action items in the pre-lunch part of the day. While I cannot fully control the time for customer meetings, still to the extent possible, I try to schedule them in the first half of the day – the earlier slots work best.
1:00 - I prefer to take packed lunch from home as it turns out to be more healthy and time-saving. I have my lunch with my core team and more often than not, we continue discussing and brainstorming over lunch. Post lunch, I may take a stroll to our bank branch to submit customer payment cheques or any other required paperwork.
2:00 – I review the various marketing campaigns and B2B sales pipeline. Every couple of days, I have one-on-one discussions with my sales team members to do a pipeline and leads review, and to see what we can do to accelerate these deals further.
4:00 – I may have a discussion with the engineering team to see how our new initiatives and existing upgrades are going on. Else I may keep on working on customer service issues and interacting with Verifications team to check the status of various verification cases.
6:30 – I head back home. After changing and settling down, I spend some time catching up with my wife and with my son, either watching/helping him draw or just watching cartoons on TV.
7:30 – We generally have an early dinner, after which I clean up and load the dishwasher. I then put my son to bed at around 8:30 while reading a story (or occasionally a ‘story-a-thon’ if we have extra time!)
9:00 – My wife and I go out for a brief stroll in which we exchange detailed daily notes and other interesting news items from work or otherwise. We watch the TV for some time.
10:00 – Quite often, I come back to my laptop for a final daily summary session – evaluating how the day went off for JantaKhoj, what we can do better tomorrow. Occasionally, I use this slot to do further web-based research on specific topics, markets, competitors.
JantaKhoj (translates to “people search” in Hindi) provides the first and the largest people search portal in India, offering people search and background check services to businesses and individuals.
Its tagline, ‘Search People, Research Background’, precisely describes its areas of service. JantaKhoj provides employee background verification services that enable businesses to verify credentials including address, references, education, employment and criminal history. JantaKhoj also enables people to conduct matrimonial, tenant, driver and domestic help verification among others.