Nitin Rao

Babajob: Meets Facebook Meets BoP

From The Times of India:

When Bradley Montgomery relocated to Bangalore from California, his primary concern as a single parent was to hire a domestic hand not just to cook and clean, but also to tend to his son Aaron (11). His mother chanced upon and within days, Montgomery hired Celine D’Silva.

The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times have also run articles on this unique form of social networking: Babajob. and are a combined effort to provide the best social networking and job site in India and eventually worldwide. It’s based on the simple idea that everyone deserves to get a better job–even if you can?t read English and work in another’s home.Most people find jobs through people they know–namely their extended social network–and most employers–particularly when hiring employees that work in the home, would like to hire a person who someone they trust can vouch for.

Babajob and Babalife are an attempt to digitize this process to efficiently ?get the word out? and importantly provide an incentive for the folks in between an employer and employee to connect people together.

Right now is limited to jobs in Bangalore that generally pay under Rs 10,000 (about $250) per month.

While the concept is laudable and innovative, I sense that there could be enthusiasm ahead of time.

For one, the Babajob concept might work well for a restricted segment of employers. Indian homemakers are known for negotiating hard – even with laborers. I suspect that a small group of people might be comfortable with paying the premiums that market forces will drive towards this convenience.

The concept might not target the poorest of the poor, but to be fair, it does not claim to, either.

Laborers are often disillusioned by their experience with failures in government employment centers, and will need to open up to this idea.

Just as Facebook, MySpace and Orkut are among the many social networking websites that have popped out, Babajob can expect a number of variants of its concept.

Even as the New York Times rushes to conclude that Internet revolution reaches India’s poor, I wonder how the house painter Manohar Lakshmipathi, that they use an example of a user, will be able to differentiate between Babajob and similar websites.

In a context where middlemen have cheated vulnerable people looking for jobs, Babajob will need to develop means to establish its brand and credibility.

I find the Babajob idea exciting, and driven by the right motivations, but believe that looking at these gaps can help built a more robust product.