L-R: Vineet Shrivastava and Selva Kumar from Blue Skys, Alex Au, Debbie Fordyce and Ethan Guo from TWC2
On 3 May 2023, TWC2 was excited to meet with the founders of Blue Skys, a startup for the recruitment of foreign workers to Singapore with much reduced cost to them. Blue Skys intends to connect workers directly with employers through digital technology, firstly by permitting employers to list their job vacancies and secondly by helping to match job applicants to the positions available.
As a digital portal, there is no reason to limit their reach to just Singapore. There are a handful of countries as part of their initial launch, which include Bangladesh and India, where they expect to have offices or representatives to act as contact points for potential workers.
TWC2 believes that this should be the way to go. There is a crying need to strip away the multiple layers of intermediaries, whose roles only burden prospective workers with ridiculous costs. Blue Skys is thus a venture we hope will succeed, because it can bring real change.
Founders Selva Kumar (CEO) and Vineet Shrivastava (Advisor) both have professional backgrounds related to the construction industry; they bring with them a personal knowledge of the workings of this industry. This should stand them in good stead.
This article is published with the prior consent of Blue Skys.
TWC2 normally does not publicise our meetings and discussions with employers, employment agents, international brand principals or similar parties. While we have many such meetings, we recognise the commercial sensitivity of such discussions and we respect the confidentiality of the conversations that we have with them. We therefore need to state here that this article about our meeting with Blue Skys is being published with their prior consent.
However, Blue Skys had no prior knowledge of the contents of this article, and this is not an advertorial. Blue Skys is not a donor to TWC2 and there was no consideration involved. The views here represent the frank opinion of TWC2, based on the impressions we got from the meeting.
And, having been in the construction industry, they realise that this sector tends to have a bad rep even in countries like Singapore. They’re motivated to doing something to clean up the nasty parts of it.
During the meeting, we were shown their website and heard about their mobile app. We were not able to wander around inside the app because it would require a registration and login which we didn’t have.
We learned that workers will be given logins to the app after they have made payment to confirm their registration. The app will then enable them to load their qualifications and other information, and keep them informed of job offers. Blue Skys spoke about additional features including video interviews and document retention. Essentially, it behaves like a closed system that allows only the employer and worker to participate but excludes intermediaries, and yet has the capabilities to support the various stages of a recruitment journey. Our understanding is that Blue Skys’ model does not admit employment agents; workers recruited through the system are treated as direct hires.
In the course of our discussion, we saw some areas that could do with more work. We would hasten to add that this was not unexpected at this stage of development.
One area was related to how workers could pay their initial subscription to join the app. Apps generally require digital payment channels or credit cards, and asking for these would not be realistic. Yet, as we opined to Kumar and Vineet in the meeting, without an easy way to make a payment, however small, workers simply can’t join.
Post-meeting, they confirmed with TWC2 that workers can use their POSBank debit ATM card (which is a Mastercard) to pay remotely. Otherwise, they can go to Blue Skys’ office to pay in cash. That may solve the issue for workers in Singapore looking for new jobs, but a different solution may be needed for every other country where they plan to operate.
It may be worth asking: is it worth the trouble to build in a comprehensive payment system when the intent of Blue Skys is to charge only a small sum to workers? Might it be simpler to make it free to sign up, but then to find other ways to verify the identity and skill-claims of the worker? Perhaps logins can be made to expire quite quickly if the user is non-responsive, thus preventing a build-up of phantom users?
Another area where we came away with the feeling that more work might be needed was how Blue Skys could convince enough employers to participate. A critical mass is needed to make the platform a vibrant job marketplace. We had the feeling that while the founders were well connected to the bigger construction firms, the fact remains that in this industry characterised by layers of subcontracting, more of the hiring is actually done by subcontractors. The blue collar worker which Blue Skys hopes to serve is far more likely to be an employee of a small contractor than a big construction firm.
The question then becomes this: why should subcontractors want to recruit via this platform? What advantage does Blue Skys offer that will motivate them to turn away from the present mode of hiring, often involving illicit agents? We had a feeling that Blue Skys had work cut out for them on this front. They may need a far greater understanding of the thought processes and expectations of subcontractors before Blue Skys can win their business.
TWC2 wishes Blue Skys success. There is a crying need for radical disruptors in the migrant worker recruitment scene. The concept behind Blue Skys is good, but as always with start-ups, there will be a lot of work, quick learning and nimble adaptation ahead. We are confident that Kumar and Vineet are on the right track.