Article: HR Technology: A dark horse in the startup landscape?


HR Technology: A dark horse in the startup landscape?

People Matters in an interaction with Prithivi Shergill, discovers the challenges and opportunities in the HR technology ecosystem and what it takes to run a successful HR technology startup.
HR Technology: A dark horse in the startup landscape?

India is the emerging hub of startup activities. Much has been talked about tech startups – in e-commerce, products, services and in consumer, healthcare industries. However, in recent years, the HR technology startup ecosystem has taken off and driven by factors such as massive funding, consolidation activities, unfolding technology and a burgeoning domestic market. 

According to a report published by Tracxn, a startup intelligence, and market research platform, over 200 HR technology startups were founded in 2015 with increased investor activity both regarding funding and number of rounds. A total of $65 million was invested in last two years.

People Matters spoke to Prithvi Shergill, Advisory Partner with Tomorrow and Smarten Spaces, to understand the HR Technology ecosystem and what it means to organizations, HR professionals and technology enthusiasts. Here are the excerpts from our conversation:

On his new venture:

Shergill’s last assignment was with HCL Technologies for five years as CHRO and Senior Corporate Vice President. He recently transitioned to work independently as an Advisory Partner to new ventures in establishing their business in enabling workforce and workplace intelligence.

He shares, “With the evolution of technology and its application maturing, there is a need to engage and empower HR professionals and their teams about the opportunities to implement the right technology - and also new startups to understand the talent challenges to create value for human capital and the business. I see this as a meaningful opportunity to invest back in the community that has made the first 25+ years of my career so meaningful. I decided to work with independent ventures as an Advisory Partner which are on the journey to revolutionize the workforce experience in the workplace.”

One of the ventures, Tomorrow, aims to set up an incubator for the companies who are invested in building digital technology using AI and behavioral analytics that engage and empower people. I now serve as their Partner to share expertise and experience in building the product and service roadmaps, go-to-market strategies, enabling sales and organizational capability 

On emerging HR Technologies

According to Shergill, HR professionals need to understand the ABCD of what the future holds - Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cloud and Digital, which have now emerged as de-facto technologies used in shaping the technology architecture in the HR function. 

Artificial Intelligence: The most significant change in the functioning of HR has brought by AI. AI’s ability to mimic human capabilities such as learning, problem-solving, and perception can augment not only the HRs but organization’s capabilities. According to a survey by IBM, 46% of HR professionals believe that AI will transform their talent acquisition capability and 49% think it will transform their payroll and benefits administration.

Big Data: Leveraging big data has the potential to increase the quality of talent, by allowing us to translating intangible and qualitative information into insight by adding quantitative and unstructured qualitative data for consideration. Tracking metrics to be shared as descriptive analytics provide the foundation for predictive and prescriptive analytics which leads us to make better decisions over time and lowers risk.

Cloud: Cloud has become a necessity to enable access to information anywhere and at any time. A recent survey conducted by MIT Technology Review explores the motivations, benefits, and rewards that result from migrating finance and HR systems to clouds. The report presents- 46% reported that collaboration has improved. Also, 42% say they are motivated by improvements in productivity and performance. 

Digital: In an era where talent has already gone digital, Digital HR is now a survival and transformative imperative for organizations. Digitization enables HR to move up the value chain more effectively.  Experience leads to efficiency and effectiveness so the need to transition processes and services to an automated platform that augments intelligence is becoming mission-critical. 

Shergill shares, “AI, Big Data, Cloud, and Digital, are the foundation that opens the opportunity areas for technology startups to grow with. Ability to design and improve user experience and the user interface will be a differentiator for HR technology companies.”

Advice for new age HR startups:

“Technology that will improve the experience for HR professionals and for people in the organization by transforming the way they do work will exponentially upgrade process efficiency and effectiveness. Companies that can demonstrate this will dominate the market. Offerings should help create business outcomes by enhancing passion, proficiency, performance, and productivity. Technology architecture should have a clear line of sight to measures of success that reduce cost, improve revenues and increasing profits.”

 He further shares, the new age entrepreneurs that have the ability to harness collective and individual capability across cross-functional technical and functional expertise will sustain the organizations they start.  Great ideas are everywhere - it will be people who can institutionalize policies, processes, programs, and practices that multiply talent agility that will deliver a significant value of the ideas, decisions, and actions they take. 

Food for thought:

HR technology ecosystem in India is still at a nascent stage. According to a KPMG report published in December 2016, 63% respondents expected more significant value-add to their business from technology implemented. We are witnessing a lot of activities- the emergence of startups, consolidations, exits, funding, etc. There is an arsenal of products to manage people–payrolls, engagement, recruitment, wellness, learning, etc. However, the challenge for HR professionals or organizations today is not finding an excellent technology software but finding a technology partner or vendor who can help in the transition and ensure the business case, basis which investments are made are delivered

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Topics: Technology

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