We talked to Sriram Iyer, founder and CEO at hrtech.sg, about the HR marketplace and this, is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sriram Iyer: While the three of us (including my wife and daughter) are based in Singapore, our extended family members are back in India. And it’s been over a year since we have met them in person. It’s been incessant zoom and WhatsApp calls that have helped us stay connected during challenging personal scenarios during the past year. To really stay motivated and positive, we have been focused on “counting our blessings” at every point in time considering that the situation all around continues to be unpredictable.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded hrtech.sg.
Sriram Iyer: Prior to embarking on my entrepreneurial venture in 2018, for about two decades, I have essayed some interesting roles as part of the Human Resources teams of large ICT companies. I have managed large cross-border talent initiatives in the domains of Strategic Workforce Planning, Talent Acquisition, Employee Engagement, and Employer Branding. I am a Gallup Strengths Coach, IHRP-Senior Professional certified, and a proud alumnus of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Asia Pacific-focused Executive MBA program.
If you look at the last 5 years, most departments in an organization have adopted tech in a big way and automated their processes. But sadly, in a lot of organizations, the HR function still remains very transaction-oriented; do not have a seat in the decision-making table; are not adopting a Digital mindset which they should ideally be doing. If we take Singapore more specifically, while the country as such is way ahead in its Smart Nation journey and digital adoption, we still lag behind in terms of HR Technology adoption. There is a strong need for the 45000+-strong HR community in Singapore to adopt technology to strengthen the HR gameplay. That was the trigger for setting up hrtech.sg, a Singapore-headquartered HR Technology Market Development & Analyst firm.
The focus of hrtech.sg is to evangelize the adoption of HR Technology and to transform the HR function to play the role of a Strategic Business Partner. As a passionate HRTech advocate, I am also the Program Lead for Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) HRTech Taskforce.
How does hrtech.sg innovate?
Sriram Iyer: hrtech.sg hosts Singapore’s largest and curated HRTech marketplace, with the presence of over 110+ HR Technology product providers (as of Feb 2021) across 7 HR categories: Compensation & Benefits, People Analytics, Talent Acquisition, Talent Development, Talent Engagement, Talent Operations, and HRMS. Our endeavor has been to become the go-to platform for all Enterprise HR teams looking to evaluate and adopt best-in-class technology solutions for their HR challenges.
During this 2-year hrtech.sg journey, we have been constantly innovating to strengthen this HRTech ecosystem in Singapore:
- We have been co-creating the Singapore HRTech Market Map for the last two years (2020, 2019) and now plan to take it online in 2021
- Introduced user reviews and ratings feature for every provider on the platform. As part of our endeavor to enable Enterprise HR teams to identify the best-fit providers for their requirements, we also plan to introduce comparison features.
- We have created a wide range of HRTech related content in the form of infographics and blogs for the benefit of the user community
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Sriram Iyer: The pandemic seems to have had a positive impact on the technology sector as a whole, and more specifically, for the HR Technology sector. While there is definitely a scope for a stronger adoption by the Singapore community, there has definitely been a keen interest amongst the HR community to know more about how Digital HR can transform their businesses. Infect, earlier this year, we published an infographic on hrtech.sg’s Top 10 Trending HRTech Tools for 2021.
The pandemic and the resultant virtual workplace transition have triggered a huge interest in technology adoption in the following areas:
- Talent Acquisition (gamified assessments, video interviews, virtual onboarding, blockchain-based background checks, AI-based applicant tracking systems),
- Talent Engagement (AI-driven conversational chatbots, smart performance management systems, digital employee rewards, data-driven mental wellness, organizational network analysis)
- Talent Operations (payroll & attendance).
Hence, not surprisingly, our HR Technology advisory and consulting business apart from our marketplace has truly been a beneficiary of this surge in tech adoption by the HR teams.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Sriram Iyer: Right from the beginning, our focus has always been to keep costs low at all points of time. We had a manpower lean plus technology-focused approach which has helped us during the pandemic times. On the contrary, we expanded our team end of last year due to the strong growth in business and the expected continued momentum in 2021 and beyond.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Sriram Iyer: Customer Success and CRM are the critical success areas for enterprises of all sizes. We have been focused on it from Day 1 as we have to manage two different sets of clients: first, the Enterprise HR teams which are the buyers of the technology solutions; and second, the product provider segment whom we help in navigating the market and advise on their Go-to-Market strategy. As part of our technology-centric approach, we leverage off-the-shelf, SaaS CRM systems to ensure continued customer success.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Sriram Iyer: Singapore’s thriving technology sector is the result of various factors (including a well-developed IT infrastructure, low taxes to encourage job creation, and a robust regulatory regime), all of which have been the result of the visionary approach of the Singapore government. The government has instituted business-friendly policies with a heavy investment in the tech sector as part of its “Smart Nation” journey. During the pandemic, the government machinery quickly came together to put together one-stop portals for individuals and enterprises to tap the government for support. As of Aug 2020, the Singapore government has supported businesses with a total stimulus spending of over $S100 billion, equal to 20 % of GDP.
As a Singapore-headquartered start-up, we have also been a beneficiary of the Singapore government support including through the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) and Rental Relief Framework. Apart from the financial support, the Singapore government has provided strong confidence to international investors on its long-term potential, which has also helped us implicitly in attracting new HRTech providers into Singapore.
Your final thoughts?
Sriram Iyer: The following are my thoughts.
- The Leadership will now be asking every team to do “more with less”. In such a scenario, the adoption of technology by HR teams for all aspects of the function is inevitable. Hence they should accelerate the adoption of a Digital Mindset.
- HR teams should start with the “problem they are trying to solve”, and not with the solutions as part of their Digital HR transformation journey
- In the “EXPERIENCE” economy, HR teams need to provide individualized, engaging, consumer-grade experiences for candidates & employees
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