For as long back as he can remember, Nirmit Parikh has been enticed by problems. The serial entrepreneur likes nothing better than sinking his teeth into issues till he can find a sustainable solution for them, no matter what it takes.
This February, Parikh launched Apna, a LinkedIn-like
The idea for Apna sprouted when Parikh realised how difficult it is to find the right person for the job, despite the blue and grey collar job sector comprising 90 per cent of the Indian workforce. The 32-year-old decided to go undercover and spent months working in a factory in Ahmedabad and living in Mumbai’s slums to experience the needs of the people he wanted to impact.
“I spent a lot of time just talking to people, trying to understand their needs. I realised that previous similar ventures [that failed to take off] put the employer first and not the job-seeker,” says the
Parikh also recognised the role networking plays in this largely informal sector. A painter would know other painters, for instance. Once a candidate registers and lists their skills on the platform, they are put in relevant peer verticals, where candidates help each other learn, grow and even start new businesses together. “So many people are even learning English from each other.”
The timing of the venture couldn’t have been more fortuitous. By March, the already flailing Indian economy took a big hit due to the pandemic, impacting millions of jobs. “With reverse migration and supply chains falling apart, companies adopted digital hiring solutions and that gave us a strong tailwind,” says Parikh, adding that they have also offered pro bono counselling to thousands of candidates struggling to find jobs.
Parikh, who was born in Mumbai and grew up in Ahmedabad, says he has always brought a creative insight into his business ventures. The 2006 Surat floods led to the setting up of his first company, Incone Technologies at the age of 21. It would pioneer automatic dam control systems, regulating river water levels to monitor floods, in India. “I didn’t even know what venture capital was at that point, but I was convinced I could change the world,” he says with a laugh. His next company, Cruxbot came up in 2012. It creates summaries of websites, similar to those found on the back cover of books. Cruxbot was acquired by Kno and then Intel, catapulting Parikh into Silicon Valley as Intel’s director of data analytics. A year on, he moved to Stanford for his MBA and then worked in operations at Apple for a couple of years.
This experience, he says, taught him to think big and yet sustainable. And it’s a principle he incorporates in
Parikh attributes his interest in science, mathematics and arts to the experimental ambience at home. Today, he draws his strength from his wife Krishna, who is studying cardiology in the US. “We go for evening walks together, even if we are on separate continents. It is our time to relax and just be,” he says.