❌ Failed startup

Jobridge: How to Lose $20,000 Building an Offline-Online Job Board

Jasmeet is an Indian software engineer who a few years ago decided to build new revenue strategies for his business directory and decided to build a job board with a unique offline-online model. But their idea was too ahead to the time and, due to a bad business model, they had to shut down.

India
Web Application
Business Model

Jasmeet Singh

January 15, 2019

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Hi Jasmeet! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?

Hey! I am Jasmeet. A software engineer by qualification and an entrepreneur by passion.

I started my first company, an IT service company located in India, around 10 years back (the company still survives and helps me pay my bills).

Few years after my company started, I started working on a few ideas with friends. Some ideas clicked, some failed but the experience gained in trying new things was immense.

Around 2 years ago, I discovered Quora and started writing answers related to entrepreneurship and startups there.

I noticed, my readers there loved the experience and the stories I had to share. Quora also got me hooked to writing and I started my blog. I have been actively writing on Quora and my blog since then - sharing stories, experiences, and learnings from my entrepreneurial journey.

Along with writing, I also started training working professionals and college students in digital marketing.

In the next few months, I am taking an exit from my current company. Yes! The same I.T company that helps me pay the bills. I want to take up writing full time and train people on entrepreneurship and digital marketing.

But let’s get into the failure story of Jobridge, one of those businesses that I build that didn’t click and failed.

Jobridge was one of the first job portals in India that helped job seekers start working in Indian industrial cities. The company mixed an online and offline business model to provide memberships to jobseekers and sell job postings to companies. All paid job seekers got vacancy notifications before anyone else and their resumes were sent first to the employers.

I was a co-founder and my job consisted in creating the business plan, marketing strategy and close sales.

The real USP of the portal was the ability to even cater to those who were not internet savvy.

But soon we decided to grow the business by creating franchises in cities like ours. We approached small business owners in these cities and pitched them the following model:

They could create a Jobridge franchisee, becoming the front face of the company in the city. They would have to get us paid job postings and jobseeker registrations. In exchange, they would get a commission on every sale closed by them. We were in charge of handling all the back-end operations.

The investment from their end was very minimal. All we asked was some branding in their existing shop and someone who was trained enough to work on the web-based system built by us for franchisees.

What motivated you to start Jobridge?

The Job market is an evergreen market. Our city was declared as a SEZ Industrial area by the government which led to around 300+ industries setting their industrial units in the city.

We saw this as a huge opportunity to get into the job market. We already had a business directory for the city so starting a job portal seemed rational. The gap we noticed in between job seekers and industries looking for candidates was the lack of awareness about the jobs posted by companies. The famous job portals in bigger cities were yet not popular in our city because of the lack of internet reach. Jobs posted in newspapers only got covered for a day.

So, we were motivated by the objective of bridging this gap with a model in which jobs were posted by us on our job portal and the paying job seekers got notifications about the job posting via SMS on their mobile phones.

Moreover, by that time, we were looking for more revenue streams for our online business directory. Our business directory was already famous with local business owners. However, we struggled to get any paid memberships from industries. Creating Jobridge seemed like a logical step to move ahead.

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How did you build it?

The first version of the portal was launched as an extension of our existing business directory. It was only when the concept gained a little of popularity when we moved it to a separate domain name.

Initially, we outsourced our web development work - it was a complete disaster. Our explanation to the agency we hired for the job was totally ignored by them. We ended up with a product which was nowhere near to our expectations. This problem delayed us one or two months.

So then, we decided to build it ourselves. The team included me handling business planning and sales, my co-founder who handled the design part and operations and 3 employees who handled programming, operations and sales. We used LAMP, HTML, CSS and Codeignitor Framework.

The first step when creating Jobridge was building a basic job portal with working features for employers, employees and admins. This took us around 2-3 months. The launching site was really simple, with only the most basic functionalities.

Once the portal was in place, we started improving the design and building new features such as a membership panel and an integration with SMS. So, it took another 3 months before our web-based system was ready.

As we did this, we started training our operations and sales guys to handle job seekers, sell to industries and get some franchisees onboard to help us grow at a faster pace.

Our pricing strategy was simple:

  • Posting one job cost $10
  • Jobseeker premium membership cost $15
  • Franchise owners has to pay a one-time fee, which cost $200
  • We kept a 50% commission from each sale made by the franchise (from both job postings and premium jobseeker memberships)

I enjoyed every single moment of building Jobrdige. The business model was unique and the market was challenging. But I enjoyed every moment of experimenting new ideas and winning/losing with them.

Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?

In order to launch Jobridge, we used bulk SMS, newspaper and hoardings for brand awareness. Bulk SMS helped us reach job seekers in bulk but hoardings and newspaper had little or no effect on industries. These had to be approached personally.

It took a lot of hit and trial using the above three methods to build an advertising and marketing promotion strategy. But they were our main attraction channels.

To reach employers, we used cold calling and door to door marketing with the help of our sales guy.

One strategy that worked pretty well to get job postings on our portal was looking at job postings advertised in newspapers and calling the employers to explain our business model. It took us some time to get them onboard and there were times in which we had to give them free vacancies to build a relationship with them. But with time, the flow of job postings got better.

And one strategy that worked well to get premium job seekers membership, was bulk SMS and word of mouth. Our premium services and costs were reasonable so the word quickly spread.

Which were the causes of Jobridge failure?

As our premium job seeker base grew, we realized we were spending too much time handling our job seekers. For a very low price, they were expecting more features. Our office was just a few blocks away from them (as we were in a small city) so they would just walk in and ask us about the status of their job application.

That was when we decided to increase our prices and many people start paying it. But now job seekers requested us more things and expected us to provide them the same services offered by recruitment agencies.

The same happened with employers. They expected resumes to be delivered to their office showing statuses of each of their application. I think the direct face to face interaction we had with customers created an unrealistic expectation on us.

Soon, the operation cost started beating the revenue because of all the support we now had to provide to employers and job seekers. This is when we realized our model was turning unsustainable. We had to either go offline and turn into a placement consultancy or go 100% online and turn into a job portal. But both of them already existed in the market.

We had lots of doubts on what to do, until we reached a point in which salaries were regularly delayed and we were not getting paid. So, we decided it was time to shut down. We did this by giving refunds and shutting down the job portal.

It’s always sad to close a venture. Our biggest regret was not grabbing an opportunity and taking it to the next level. We tried too many things in too short a time frame.

I believe the biggest complexity we had at Jobridge was generated by our online - offline model. I learned the hard way that you can either be a job portal or a placement consultancy.

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Which were your biggest mistakes and challenges you had to overcome?

A big obstacle we found was selling to industries. These were so used to placement agencies coming to them and charging 8.3% for employees sent. We tried to explain them our process which was a unique model that involved the offline and online world. However, they kept confusing us with placement consultancies. They paid us the small job posting fees and then expected us to give services of placement consultancies. For this reason, is that we had to spend a lot of time educating clients and explaining them our process.

Jobridge was a concept ahead of its time, which is always a challenge. For us, explaining and educating our customers took a lot of time. Sales only happened after a lengthy process of educating customers.

We also had some disadvantages. We were in the business space and no one from the team had any experience with it.

Which were your expenses? Did you achieve some revenue? In the end, how much money did you lose?

We spent around one year working on the project. Our expenses included:

  • Salaries (one marketing executive, one support executive, one developer)
  • Portal server fees and web development fees
  • T.A/D.A of employees and for us
  • Ads and marketing cost

I don’t have the exact number of lost money, but I believe it was something between $10,000-20,000, without including the salary of the two founders.

If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

If you could talk to my former self before Jobridge, I would tell him that all that glitters is not gold. I would recommend him to spend more time on market research and less on sales.

Which are your favorite entrepreneurial resources?

Entrepreneur is one of my favorite websites. It has all the right business advice for startup founders written by some of the most successful people around the world. My other favorite website is Medium’s entrepreneurship section.

As for books, Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin is one of my favorite ones. I have recently read it and I love it. The way Rand explains simple concepts of running a startup is quite insightful and interesting. It is a must read for all startup owners.

Another book is The Other Side of Innovation, which I read a few years back. The book has some interesting concepts on how businesses should approach new innovative projects. The biggest takeaway from this book for me is that every innovative project should be approached as a new venture with separate teams, budget and plan. Most of the innovative ideas fail because founders share existing resources.

Finally, my favorite tools are Teamwork, Canva and Jira. They are all team management tools. I use them to manage my teams across the world and in different projects.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can check out my blog LessonsAtStartup. Here is a blog article in which I write about startup failure.

I frequently write on Quora and different news platforms such as Bplans and Shout Me Loud.

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