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November 27, 2008

The friendly way to get a job

BANGALORE, India – Building a social network so you could then create a job website on the back of it smacks of the tail wagging the dog. But this is exactly what the team behind and did. Realising that the way employers liked to hire people was through recommendation, they came up with a pretty innovative way to take what was essentially a real world social phenomenon and take it online. was created as a social network, with a heavy emphasis on mobile access (but a strong online element as well) where users are encouraged, much like Facebook, to build out their network of friends and acquaintances. Using this as a backbone, the team then created Babajob, where people could use their social connections on to introduce employers to employees.

What’s more, social networkers are incentivized to build out their network, and to recommend people. Users who recommend people, either directly or through one of their acquaintances are rewarded with cash or mobile credits. The employer pays the bill, thus helping to maintain the sites and helping those who need it to use their connections to earn extra cash.

Without mobile access, this system simply wouldn’t work. The team uses a rich SMS-based user interface to help engage users and the site itself allows photo and video sharing and privacy settings are flexible so, like Facebook, users can set who sees what. Many of the users this site appeals to have never seen, or used a computer. But the majority do have a mobile though. By enabling them to connect, they can not only improve their lives through the network effect, but also through finding new jobs for themselves.

The whole things started when ex-Microsoft employee, CEO Sean Blagsvedt, was co-running the Advanced Development and Prototyping team at Microsoft Research india. While there a colleague, Aishwarya Ratan presented a study by Anirudh Krishna (2003) Escaping Poverty and becoming poor: Who Gains, Who Loses and Why?.

The study tried to explain why families in India get in and out of poverty. Two key events happen, the first when something happens to the key earner’s health – typically resulting in a dive into poverty, whilst the second relates to improving employment. It was the latter which led to the creation of The most common way for locals in India to get a new job was through word of mouth, which Babajob and try to recreate.

I love this idea for its simplicity, but also for the implementation. The focus isn’t on unleashing new, unusable technologies to users, but instead focussing on what is available to them. On top of this, that it’s based on actual real life happenings makes it even more accessible. It’s only in Bangalore right now, but I hope it goes global. It deserves to.