writes copy 10 May 2018

Background screening service HelloVerify eyes growth amid Indias digital boom

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As India’s internet access continues to surge among the billion-plus population, data is becoming the new oil. Whether online commerce, ride-hailing, mobile payments and banking, or more, someone needs to verify that people are who, and what, they say they are.

That’s an opportunity where  HelloVerify, a verification and  background screening startup that recently graduated Y Combinator in the U.S., is looking to make its mark.

The startup isn’t like  most other YC grads. For one thing, it is from India — one of just 30 from the 1,000-plus YC network — while it is five years old, hasn’t raised VC capital and is profitable. The team came to the well-respected program to boost its network and learn more about startup scaling and monetization.

Founders  Karan Mirchandani and Varun Mirchandani (two brothers) started the business primarily as an analog checking service, but as India’s digital ecosystem advanced, so the nature of its work developed. The company works with services to help verify their customers using a mix of offline registrations and online repositories, including social media. Today, online insurance, e-commerce, ride-sharing, flight booking  and real estate web portals are among its fastest growing segments.

“In 12-24 months, our data business will leapfrog [our legacy focus] and drive this business to multiple-times more revenue,” the  Mirchandanis told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

Already the numbers are notable.

Beyond a staff of 300 people,  HelloVerify said it has carried out over two million background  checks, with over 80 “large” customers among its clientele, such as Tata, Infosys and Prudential. Annual revenue, the brothers said, is currently at around $3 million.

In addition to digital growth, the business is poised  to accelerate thanks to Aadhaar, the government-backed single identity platform for Indian citizens.

There have been controversies — particularly around weak security and the rollout in some states — but the system stands to massively boost the ease in which background checks can be carried out by providing a central lookup system.

“Aadhaar  is focused on an audience of one billion people. It’ll be linked and connected to different databases which will be available for background screening. That, in turn,  moves background screening away from traditional ways to make the process faster and more affordable,” CEO  Karan Mirchandani  explained.

Currently, he added, background checks typically take 24 hours to be processed. That’s a massive improvement on six to eight days when HelloVerify first went into business, but the founders see the potential to make it instant, or near-instant, once the Aadhaar system is fully established.

Already, the company is automating parts of its processes — including the solicitation of information and documents from individuals — but it sees the potential to add much more efficiencies through code. Particularly as the volume of tasks they are given increases.

“What started in IT is now speeding across airlines, shared economy, and more — from  white collar to blue collar. The  usage of background screening likely to happen more and more, for example,  checking pilots, drivers, tenants, nannies, etc,”  Varun Mirchandani explained.

In anticipation of that growth, HelloVerify is looking to raise capital from investors for the first time. The founders describe their goal as “a typical” Series A aimed at “taking the tech to the next level” and giving it a cash pile to go after  aggressive growth.

Having already seen the benefit of mentoring at YC — where they also took the standard $120,000 investment check — the brothers are keen to open doors and networks with strategic investors that provide more than just capital.

“[YC gives] a different flavor you wouldn’t get in India, in terms of access to investors, platforms and people.  It's been a huge learning curve. It takes you at least five years ahead of the rest,”  Karan said.

“Our objective is to go deeper, deeper and deeper to become India's biggest online background checker,” Varun added. “With how big background screening has become in U.S., I believe the opportunity in India may be x10 based on population and added complexity.”

Certainly, Walmart’s $16 billion investment in Flipkart and Amazon’s continued efforts in the country, where it has deployed some $5 billion, are a testament to the growth potential that HelloVerify sees.

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