Y Combinator-backed Vahan is helping low-skilled workers in India find jobs on WhatsApp


GettyImages 1079714320
Image Credits: Frédéric Soltan/Corbis / Getty Images

The emergence of online hyperlocal services and e-commerce firms in India has led to the creation of about 200,000 jobs for blue-collar workers who deliver items to customers, according to industry estimates.

But it is also the kind of job that continues to see a high attrition rate. This means that companies like Zomato, Swiggy, Dunzo, Amazon India and Flipkart have to replace a significant portion of their delivery workforce every three to four months.

“A small portion of these workers either switch jobs to go to a different delivery company, or they take up a different job,” said Madhav Krishna. “And a large chunk of them end up going back to their villages to work on their farms.”

“There is a cyclical migration phenomenon in India wherein a very large population migrates from villages to cities looking for a job. They work in cities for a few months and then return to their hometowns in time for the next crop harvesting season,” he said.

The attrition rate is so high that it has become a major challenge for companies to keep hiring new people, Krishna said. Additionally, with e-commerce and on-demand delivery space projected to grow four to five times in India by 2025, efficient supply acquisition is a major requirement for growth.

whatsapp vahan

Three years ago, Krishna, who obtained his master’s degree in machine learning from Columbia University before moving to Bangalore, founded Vahan, a startup that is attempting to help these companies find potential blue-collar workers at scale.

Vahan operates a WhatsApp Business account where it informs potential candidates of the available jobs in the industry. Interested candidates are presented with a series of qualifying questions, screened and authenticated by Vahan.

Much of this process, which takes merely minutes, is automated via an AI-driven chatbot, and Vahan (Hindi for “vehicle”) directs the shortlisted candidates to its clients for a walk-in interview and on-boarding. Its clients today include food delivery firms such as Zomato and Swiggy, hyperlocal concierge service Dunzo and logistics company Lalamove.

“There are three things that need to come together: What do people want? What are their capabilities? And the third is, what is available in the market?” Krishna said. “It’s really a matching problem that we’re trying to solve. We are using data and machine learning to solve a complex matching problem.”

Y Combinator (YC) recently selected Vahan to participate in its Summer 2019 batch. In a statement, Adora Cheung, a partner at YC, said, “High mobile penetration coupled with massive growth in data consumption has made it possible for companies such as Vahan to reach millions of Indians via digital channels.”

“Vahan is addressing a space that is severely underserved and is poised for disruption via tech. Their use of WhatsApp is a great fit for reaching the blue-collar audience and their traction proves it. We are excited to back them and see them grow!”

Vahan makes revenue from taking a cut each time its suggested candidates become part of the corporate client’s workforce. For one of the aforementioned clients, the referral cut is about 7.5%, two sources at that company said. The amount also varies based on how long those candidates stick to the platform, they added.

In the last year, Vahan has amassed more than a million users and has helped over 20,000 people secure a job. Each day, around 5,000 users check Vahan to look for a job. “This is all through zero-marketing spend. Job seekers are finding us through their friends,” Krishna said.

The Vahan team

This is why Vahan operates on WhatsApp, too. “Most of the people we’re trying to help, they are not active on any online recruitment platform. WhatsApp is one of the few apps they use heavily,” Krishna said. “We send over 50,000 messages a day on WhatsApp and 95% of them get read. In fact, 15% get read in under 10 seconds,” he added.

WhatsApp, with more than 400 million users in India, has become a daily habit for much of the internet-connected population of the country. In recent years, many companies have built their businesses on top of the platform to use it as an effective distribution channel for their businesses.

For instance, Meesho, a social commerce app, helps millions of people in the country buy and sell products on WhatsApp. It recently received an investment from Facebook, the first of its kind by the social juggernaut in the country. Dunzo, which has been backed by Google, and ShareChat, which counts Twitter as one of its investors, also started on Facebook’s instant messaging app.

As for Vahan, it plans to soon offer skilling courses to its users as they navigate more job opportunities in the future. It also is working with many companies for deeper system-level integrations.

As it sees the platform receive traction, Vahan also wants to expand its offering beyond delivery jobs.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

17 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

19 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android