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AI Is Pivotal In Making The Right Hires:  An Interview With FastNext Co-Founders - Akhyansh Mohapatra & Naveen Benny 1

AI Is Pivotal In Making The Right Hires: An Interview With FastNext Co-Founders – Akhyansh Mohapatra & Naveen Benny

ANSR, which helps multinational firms & Fortune 500 companies set up their global capability centres (GCCs) in India, recently announced the acquisition of FastNext. Fastnext is an enterprise recruitment platform that uses AI to match candidates to jobs. It uses deep learning models trained on industry patterns to understand the dynamics of the industry and make accurate skill and organizational fitment predictions. Fastnext also serves as a talent sourcing platform and indexes more than 300mn people across the globe. 

ANSR has helped set up over 60 GCCs so far and recruited over 70,000 people since inception. The acquisition will help automate the recruitment process and help drive efficiencies and help clients in areas such as talent acquisition and management.

Today, we interviewed Fastnext founders – Akhyansh Mohapatra, now Co-founder & Product Lead at Talent500, and Naveen Benny, now Co-founder & AI Research & Analytics Lead. They believe success has something to do with curiosity, generosity, and most importantly — passion.

Hailing from Bhubaneshwar, Akhyansh is a serial entrepreneur. He has built and scaled multiple products/companies from scratch. While studying at IIT Madras, he co-founded Quabl, a collaborative learning platform for advanced undergraduate courses. Over the years, Quabl evolved into Fastnext, as we know it today. Akhyansh is extremely passionate about product design, product strategy, UX-led UI, growth marketing and enterprise sales.

Naveen is a seasoned entrepreneur with several years of experience building B2B SaaS products primarily in the cutting-edge Computer Vision and NLP space. He started his career at Mu Sigma after graduating from BITS Goa and then later moved to Freecharge. Prior to his entrepreneurial stint with Fastnext, he worked as an independent AI consultant with both start ups and Fortune 500 clients designing and building large scale Deep Learning systems. 

Enjoy the interview!

Talent500: How did you come up with the idea for FastNext? What problems did you see in the market?

Akhyansh: There was a huge disparity between candidates at the top of the funnel and the bottom of the funnel for any job across companies of all sizes. Companies end up hiring from the small pool made available to them by their recruitment partners instead of hiring the best from an exhaustive candidate pool.

To solve for this, we devised a two step approach where: one, blow up the top of the funnel and make it as exhaustive as possible by indexing the big pools such as LinkedIn, Naukri, Stack Overflow, Github, etc.; and two, automate the initial screening process by using AI on this massive pool to mine highly relevant candidates for available jobs.

Talent500: What was the hardest part in the early stages of the company’s growth?

Akhyansh: Long drawn sales cycles. Working with small and mid-sized companies was easy because we were directly pitching to the founders but these were relatively small-ticket.

Enterprises were always super-interested in giving Fastnext a shot and loved our promise but the enterprise sales cycle can be rough and extremely long drawn. They sometimes go on for months!

Talent500: What were your goals when you started out?

Naveen: Generally in the AI space, there is a lot of hype around the technology itself rather than the problems it can solve. And recruitment is one such area where AI has made quite a stir…but unfortunately, without an actual pragmatic solution that solved the problem. I think recruitment is at the heart of any company’s growth but the processes are broken. They are often unorganised and extremely manual with recruiters having to waste hours evaluating thousands of candidates for a single position. 

Given the amount of data and the advent of Deep Learning, there is now an opportunity to solve problems that weren’t possible earlier and we wanted to use these to build something that could solve some of these challenges. Our idea was to evaluate the fitment of candidates to roles based on their previous organizations – in terms of both, quality and relevancy using public data points and thereby, make the whole recruitment process more accurate, unbiased and scalable. 

Talent500: When did you first get the sense that FastNext was developing a significant audience?

Akhyansh: We scaled to about 22 startups 8 months after founding in 2016. From there, we started selling to bigger companies. Even then, while the traction was great, the sales cycles were long-drawn. We were able to onboard sizable companies such as Quest, Exilant and Mobiliya.

Talent500: What does the future of recruitment & AI hold? Where is the industry headed?

Naveen: Today, we see that there are several companies trying to solve some of the challenges in the recruitment space using AI. The different areas that new products try to influence with AI include fitment, relevancy, efficiency, inclusion and diversity, talent management, and retention. Most products are yet to mature, I’d say, and there is still a long way to go. There is no clear winner as of now and we expect this to change.  

We were very glad to talk with Akshyansh and Naveen about their venture and unpack what role Fastnext plays in the future of recruitment. For more updates and interesting articles on recruitment and job search, follow Talent500 on Linkedin.

Sharanya Rao

Sharanya Rao

Content Marketing Strategist at Talent500. Innately curious about things in general. A strategic planner who loves to make lives easier. An optimist holding on dearly to a glass half-full.

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