Ashutosh Garg, CEO & Co-Founder of Eightfold.ai, grew up in the foothills of Himachal and went on to study in IIT Delhi and then work in companies like Microsoft, IBM and Google. With a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering (AI/Machine Learning) from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an experience in working on personalizing solutions as per individual’s needs in IBM and Google, Garg wanted to make a larger difference in the world.
Inspired by the Buddhist philosophy, the Eightfold Path, Garg founded Eightfold.ai with a vision to empower each individual to pursue the career path of their choosing, gaining the knowledge they need to achieve their goals and aspirations.
For this he along with his team built a Talent Intelligence Platform for enterprises to address talent acquisition and management in a holistic fashion. In an interaction with People Matters, Garg discusses more about the solution and his plans to take California-based startup to every corner of the world.
From IIT, Google, Microsoft to finally starting your own venture, how has the journey been for you so far? What brought you to the world of HR Tech?
I joined IBM research in 2003 and one of the things I started working on was around people understanding. Earlier, people were mostly characterized on the basis of their name and age. But as the world became more complex and understanding people beyond demographics became important, the focus shifted to knowing more about their interests. Then I joined Google in 2004, where I led all the personalization efforts and worked on assessing the likes and dislikes of the people.
After that I left Google in 2008 and started a company named BloomReach, which was in the ecommerce personalization space. Later in 2014, as I started thinking about my own aspirations, I realized I wanted to do something that is more fundamental to our society. As I was reflecting on my next steps in my career, what struck me was that we spent most of our waking time at work. It is only some of us who are very lucky to enjoy those 10 hours of work every day. Individuals mostly face difficulty in identifying where they want to work, what kind of job they want to do and are left mostly with developing their own career paths themselves. It is not always that people find someone to guide them.
Even for organizations and economies, employment is the primary problem. For companies, finding the right people for the right job and for individual, finding the right for their right skills is the top challenge and key element of employment problem.
So I and my co-founder, Varun Kacholia thought why not use AI to build models based on millions of people who are out there and then use that to predict what is the potential of each person. Then we could further define job roles more clearly and understand people’s capabilities more comprehensively.
How does Eightfold.ai address Talent Acquisition and Management in a holistic fashion?
In most organizations talent acquisition and talent management are often treated as separate functions. Organizations are often not able to see how interdependent these two functions are.
The need for more hiring emerges with higher attrition. In India, on an average the churn is 30%. To be able to solve the talent problem, the solution has to be thought of in a holistic way. Each layer of an employee life cycle has an impact on another. There are four types of people organizations engage with potential candidate, candidate, employee or alumni. Presence of an integrated system to entertain the needs of each of these employees ensures that all talen problems are being addressed holistically and not in silos.
Hence, the very first thing we do is we have an applicant tracking system and an HRIS system in place, and then we integrate. With HRIS system we learn about the employees, we learn about the performance and expectations of the employees. By integrating with ATS, we get information about each and every individual the organization has engaged with.
We understand the requirement of the organization for a particular job through a talent network, which includes potential candidate, candidate, employee and alumni. Then power the career website of the organization, taking care of both the job applicant and the employer.
On the career website people get job recommendations not only on the basis of relevance but also firm’s requirement. Let’s say the person fits for two jobs. One has a weak pipeline, the other has a strong pipeline. The system will recommend the job with a weaker pipeline.
We help organizations engage with the pool of talent constantly. This saves the employer time and effort while looking for new hires. Further by understanding different behavioural patterns, and data and insights that we share with them, employers are able to better empower their current pool of talent as well.
What were some of the challenges that you faced in your initial years? How has the traction been so far for you?
Good news is that there is a huge demand for talent solutions in the market. However, while organizations are aware of the need of such solutions, they lack the skill to identify one solution from another. They face difficulty in judging if someone is really using AI or not. They often lack the technical knowledge and need some education around that. But our team’s past experience in the domain and the ability to make leaders see through our solutions and their problems helped us.
In two years, we have 200+ customers, including some of the world leaders in financial services, media & entertainment, technology, consumer packaged goods, insurance, professional services, among other sectors. Some of our clients include Hulu, Tata, DigitalOcean, and Twilio.
We have also partnered with SAP to integrate with SAP® SuccessFactors® Employee Central and SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting solutions, supporting recruiting and HR teams to reach their goals for recruitment, retention and diversity
How much venture funding have you raised till now?
We started with $6 Mn and so far we have raised $55 Mn. Some of our investors include VC firms like IVP, Foundation Capital, and Lightspeed Ventures.
What are your future plans as far as product and expansion are concerned?
We have clients in the US, India, Europe, and South America. With headquarters in Mountain View, California, we have touchpoints in 20+ countries.
In recent times, we are increasing our focus on India and Europe, as we are seeing huge traction in these two geographies. India is the knowledge center and considering our vision, we have to be here. As the Finance Minister announced, India is set on the journey to become a $5 Tn economy. And for that the country needs the right people in the right. To help the economy with the employment challenge and to empower individuals to find the right roles for them in India, we are opening a knowledge centre, named Nalanda University in India.
Further, we also collaborated with the Norwegian government, as they were trying to reduce the expense of its welfare system, which costs the country billions of kroner annually in benefits for over 100,000 citizens, and to improve the efficiency of returning people to work. We provided personalized job matches and skills development advice for each person.
With similar projects across the globe, we shall continue in our mission to help enterprises turn talent management into a competitive advantage while identifying 'what's next' for individuals.