CEO INTERVIEW: PeopleStrong - The new code of work!
New Success Stories - People Strong
PANKAJ BANSAL, CEO and Co-Founder
Please share with us briefly what you do.
I currently work in the capacity of the CEO at PeopleStrong, an entrepreneurial journey that my colleague Shelly Singh and I started in 2005 with the vision of creating the first publicly listed HR company in India.
Currently with our varied team of HR and Tech specialists, Machine Learning scientists and business leaders we are writing the new code of work for over 800 thousand users and 300+ enterprises across Asia. Work Tech, HR Tech, and Jobs are subjects closest to my heart and in my individual capacity, I support initiatives in these areas. I am an active member of CII’s National Committee on Skills & Jobs, and a non-Executive Director at Wheebox, and a board member for Sheroes, the internet of women.
I am also the Co-Founder of Work10M (Work for 10 million people), a fund focusing on the new world of work and workforce.
What were you doing before this?
Prior to establishing PeopleStrong, I worked with Aricent Group, a global innovation and technology service company (erstwhile Hughes Software Systems), where I was part of the founding team of the company’s business process outsourcing (BPO) division. I also worked with the engineering giant, SPML Infra Limited, and Housing and Urban Development Corporation and founded the HR Fund.
Describe your product. How does it work?
PeopleStrong offers a complete suite of HR & Work Tech technologies that helps organisations transform their people productivity and experience agendas. Our products are in Talent Acquisition, Workforce Management, Talent Management, and Productivity.
The secret sauce would be the emphasis on employee experience. This may be on the brochure of every provider but we believe we brought it to the next level with perceptive application to how our users (employees) would interact with HR systems.
No one would want to spend 20 minutes applying for their leave. It should be something one could easily complete in seconds so they can go back to their work. The user-centric design of our apps allows employees to complete their HR transactions with 2 clicks or 1 swipe. On top of that, our products are powered by a strong machine learning engine and a robust platform that helps us provide a next-gen “connected” experience to all our users.
What are the key benefits?
Our suite of products help organizations acquire talent, manage human capital & engage talent based on our mantra of being ‘open and connected.” This means that we are able to integrate well with any other systems that companies wish to use.
For example, we do not provide video interview solutions but we integrate with providers in that space so users on our system can trigger off video interview links and receive feedback, all through our system as the central cockpit. This provides a seamless experience for users without the need to open 10 tabs on their browsers.
Other key benefits include:
o Highly efficient Talent Acquisition engine (40% higher productivity)
o Engaged employees (almost 50% increase in employee engagement)
o Higher productivity especially in a diverse distributed set up (25% better people productivity)
Who are your closest competitors?
As we cater primarily to large enterprise companies, we are often referenced together with the likes of SuccessFactors and Workday. However, I would see us as being truly unique due to our first principle - to place emphasis on employees (the users) and not HR.
Our ‘Open and Connectedness’ and highly configurable single source code allows our myriad of customers and users to use PeopleStrong systems to their current workflows and processes, not the other way around.
Who is your first customer and how did that happen? What were they using before this, and why did they switch?
Strictly speaking, our first customer was in the RPO space as that is how we started in 2006 - as an RPO business. But we eventually evolved into HR Tech as well as assessment. Specific to our HR Tech business, our first HR Tech customer was one of the largest BFSI brands in India – Aditya Birla capital. They were using a legacy ERP system and wanted to deliver a unified experience to over 20 K people spread across 1000+ locations. By bringing this diverse workforce from 11+ Business Units, it’s been an amazing journey of over 4 years now and we are really proud of what we have been able to create together.
We also work with the likes of Citibank and HDFC in India and implemented projects that is 78,000 employees strong. Our HR Tech is well received by organisations with employees over numerous locations as it helps them to empower their employees to conduct any HR transactions wherever they are. For our SEA expansion, we are targeting industries such as manufacturing, BFSI, Retail and FMCG as we have many experiences and case studies in these areas.
What motivated you to start this business?
Coming from an HR background, I was able to see many tech solutions but they were not solving the full breadth of the challenges and problems faced by the HR department. In some cases, a solution may end up creating another set of problems.
My co-founder and I were asking ourselves why isn’t there a tech solution that could be deployed easily into an organisation and integrate seamlessly into their current technology stack, achieved via Single Sign-on and API. That led us on this journey and in doing so, achieve our biggest objective to bring joy, energy & meaning to work and to build an HR enterprise from Asia that can go public.
What is your biggest sacrifice to make this work?
The achievements of the organization have been applauded, but along the way, I have lost on some relationships and that to me is the biggest sacrifice I have made till now.
How did you get funded?
We have been an organisation funded right from Day 1. Our seed funding came in through our set of angel investors who believed in our vision of transforming HR. We received our first institutional investment in 2011 when Lumis Partner and HDFC Ltd. invested in us. About 3 years ago, Multiples Equity a billion-dollar PE Fund led by Renuka Ramnath invested in us in one of the largest HR tech transactions in APAC to date.
What has been your most successful form of marketing?
While over the years we have invested a lot in our Brand through common above-the-line and below-the-line marketing, what has worked best for us has been taking the time to build great relationships with existing and potential users. This can be seen in our Net Promoter Score of 42. Virality driven by our users is so authentic and impressionable that we get many referrals from that source alone.
Describe a typical workday:
I follow a strict schedule to remain productive.
I religiously exercise & meditate in the morning
Check on customer reviews
Enjoy an early lunch
And follow the day with team meetings & troubleshooting.
What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?
Given our 15 year-history, there have been many moments that have made proud. If I had to pick a recent one, it would be our implementation exercise for our first client in Thailand - TRUE Corp.
With 22,000 employees, TRUE Corp is the leading telco in Thailand. They are shifting away from another system to us. Due to business requirements, they wish for the system to go live in 6 months' time.
People in the enterprise HRIS space would know that implementation is usually much longer, sometimes even taking years! We managed to help them go-live in 4 months!
What’s one productivity hack you can’t live without?
Rise early and start early.
More about Pankaj:
Ø Favorite book: Bhagwad Gita
Ø Favorite Film: Do Aankhein, Barah Hath (Bollywood Movie)
Ø Favorite Music: Classical Hindustani Music
Ø Favorite author: Ghalib
Ø Favorite Gadget:
Ø Last holiday: retreat with self in a secluded Ashram
Ø When you are not at work, where can we most likely find you?: With friends listening to old Bollywood music
For more information :
Alternatively, kindly contact :
Adrian Tan, APAC Practice Leader - Future of Work Tech
E:email@example.com / T:+65 9852 3746.