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This HR tech startup uses AI to help India Inc make inclusive hires

Vishal Krishna ( )

Globally, diversity and inclusion play a vital role in the HR department of corporations. Companies spend much resources formulating ideal workplace policies that take into account a hire’s talent and not their gender identity or sexual orientation.


And helping India Inc make sound, unbiased hires is Equiv, a Bengaluru-based startup that was founded by Naren Krishna in early-2017, which is a business vertical of Stellar Software Technologies Pvt Ltd. Stellar also owns Stockroom.io. Equiv.in aims to solve two of the most pressing issues facing businesses and HR executives today – talent assessment and hiring keeping diversity in mind.


“For years, the recruitment industry has been dominated by companies like Naukri.com which, to this day, is still a major market player. Over the last few years companies have been actively exploring other HR tech platforms apart from the traditional job boards to reduce the cost per hire, time to fill, and the quality of hire,” says Naren, 25-years-old.


Naren, founder of Equiv

Equiv’s platform uses data science to enable organisations sieving through hiring platforms find candidates from the LGBTQ+ community to fill positions. It has also launched an artificial intelligence (AI) tool to suggest the right person for the job by using assessment platforms to curate talent, improve candidate experience, and prioritise diversity hiring. The AI tool sits on an organisation’s HR portal when they sign up with Equiv.


The startup has placed over 700 individuals from the LGBTQ community, 83000 women are in the portal, 30 veterans and 2400 persons with disabilities are listed and has received most of its revenues from talent assessment. Over 800 plus people diversity hires have been made.


Naren is also the Founder of Stockroom.io, a platform to hire curated talent who solve code challenges thrown up by corporations.


How Equiv makes a difference

“At Equiv.in, we help companies hire women, differently abled persons, members of the LGBTQ community, and veterans and make India Inc more inclusive,’’ says Naren. He adds that in the era of technology meaningful conversations in person still matter and to that end, the startup also curates and conceptualises flagship events.


These include Women Changemakers, which has been hosted nine times in four cities. Naren notes that the career fairs witness over 1,000 women job seekers; Equiv ties up with over 60 top companies for the same.


Enablers is a career fair held by Equiv for hiring differently abled candidates, while Q-rious is for LGBTQ+ hires, and Frontiers for veterans. Some of the clients the startup has helped include Indeed, ThoughtWorks, Infosys, SocieteGenerale, Microsoft, and Blackrock.


There are more than 10,000 people who have attended these fairs, Naren says. Equiv has placed people in a range of roles in the technology, finance, and marketing domains.

The early days

Naren started Stockroom.io in 2015 when he was in the final semester of college at BITS Pilani. An active person in the startup ecosystem, the most common question he got was, “Can you connect me to a good software developer?”


Understanding that this problem is true even for big companies he started as a technology assessment platform to help companies find top talent through hackathons and coding challenges.


“I was fortunate to raise seed funding from an angel investor in Hyderabad who had put in Rs 50 lakh through which we started our journey,” says Naren.


The early days were a struggle for Naren. But Stockroom now has 62 clients, including the likes of Microsoft and ThoughtWorks.


Then came the business idea for Equiv. “One of our clients approached us with a proposition to organise an exclusive women hackathon. This is how our journey into the diversity and inclusion space began and Equiv was born,” Naren notes.


The entrepreneur runs both Stockroom and Equiv simultaneously.


Over the past two years, Equiv.in has grown to be one of the leading players in the diversity hiring space. Naren claims they are the first HR tech in India to solve the problem of diversity.


He says he can never forget the day he bagged the first gig. Their first client was a Hyderabad-based startup called MySmartPrice. Naren walked in wearing casual clothes clinging onto a bundle of nerves, and walked out with a deal to host a diversity hiring event.


“Needless to say, I was over the moon,” says Naren. Equiv is now swelled into a 16-member team.


Looking ahead

Equiv’s revenue for 2019 is Rs 2 crore and the Founder is expecting to double it this year. The startup has raised a seed round from an angel investor in Hyderabad, and Pre Series-A round from Mancer Consulting Services.


However, Naren says scaling up and facing competition was his biggest challenge. Its business model is to charge a flat fee per hackathon and also operate on a subscription fee model with companies for the assessment platform. For diversity events, the startup gets sponsorships while a subscription fee is charged for the job portal.


Over the next 18 months, it wants to raise more money and scale up to more than 100 clients. Equiv competes with Diversity.com and PowerToFly.


Google,Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple share their annual diversity report on a yearly basis. With startups like Equiv making it easy for them, here’s hoping Indian companies too will make strides in fostering diverse talent in their workplaces.



(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)