Sourabh Deorah, Co-founder & CEO, Advantage Club

Digital is the future of HR, and the current pandemic has proven the importance of moving everything online even more. 2020 will be the year of digital innovations not just in HR, but probably in almost every sector. Going ahead, the focus will move from in-office employee engagement to remote-engagement modules. The focus on wellness will also increase in general, because of the importance of employees staying healthy and hence more productive. Also, the world is moving toward convenience and marketplaces. The ease of having all your benefits in one platform is going to be the future and companies which adapt to that will be futuristically successful.

With the entire country in a work from home scenario, it has become harder for organizations to engage with their employees remotely. Advantage Club has been helping companies execute digital awards, recognize employees, run surveys through Advantage Club’s rewards and recognition program. Through their perks module, Advantage Club has over 10,000+ brand partners, who are providing employee offers and safely delivering products/services while employees are sitting at home. Employees can order essentials through their partners and avail benefits as well. Specializing in physical and mental wellness partners, Advantage Club has been curating programs to remove the frustration associated with being hoked up inside the house. “We have also created hobby clubs, which are communities for like-minded individuals to interact digitally with each other. Companies can also host online events through our community features. Not only that, but our movie/series recommendation feature also lets employees recommend and find interesting content suggested by colleagues to watch at home”, quips Sourabh Deorah, Co-founder & CEO, Advantage Club.

Along with this, Advantage Club also has an integrated online doctor consultation on the platform, where employees can get free COVID Consultation by expert doctors. “We also have features like quarantine score to educate employees on how to quarantine better through an interactive quiz. Our symptom tracker can also help employees identify if their sickness symptoms are COVID related or not. Our partners also provide offers on masks, sanitizers, shields, and medicine deliveries”, adds Sourabh.

One-stop Shop for Corporate Perks

India’s largest end-to-end employee benefits, rewards and recognition provider, Advantage Club offers features like an employee discount program, a rewards execution program, and community features like Hobby Clubs, Classifieds. It is uniquely positioned in the country today to cover all aspects of employee engagement under one platform, with all modules in the program customizable according to the corporate’s needs. “We have 10,000+ brand partners providing offers to employees of 250+ organizations, curating the largest employee-marketplace in the country today. We also have unique smart features like personalization basis usage, location-based app notifications, and trending-in-your-corporate. Our customer care is also world-class with both phone and email options available for employees to utilize their benefits”, adds Sourabh.

Previously working with Microsoft in the US, Sourabh along with Smiti, Co-founder of Advantage Club, would get a lot of benefits wherever they spent, courtesy to their Microsoft Benefits Card. Be it dining, shopping, travel, or even renting an apartment, they used to get better perks. “As Microsoft employees, we used to love all the benefits, and the program was decently popular there. We later realized that Microsoft didn’t get these benefits on their own, there was a third-party benefits provider in the US who used to provide perks to companies like Microsoft, Oracle, etc. We also found out that such a program didn’t exist in India”, opines Sourabh.

Smiti Bhatt Deorah, COO & Co-founder

Obstacles and challenges in the business will always be present. Being a successful entrepreneur requires preparedness for any expected or unexpected occasion and making correct decisions every time. One of the initial challenges Advantage Club faced while starting the venture was building a two-sided marketplace, of both brands and corporations. “If you do not have good brands, you will not get good corporate partners and vice versa. To solve the issue, we applied the strategy of approaching brand partners first at no cost. Once we built the brand marketplace of some partners, we started approaching corporations. Keeping brand partners engaged at that time was also a challenge because we didn’t have corporates to consume the vouchers”, recalls Sourabh. By continually sending communications and company updates to keep them patient, till they went live, Advantage Club is now pioneering in the country to start such a concept.

After getting feedback from a couple of corporate HRs in India, Sourabh and Smiti realized that there was no company managing these sort of benefits in India. With the thought process that since Indian employees work equally hard (if not harder) as compared to other countries, the benefits should also be parallel to other geographies around the world, they came back to India to start Advantage Club.

Learning from their Mistakes

In a business that is unit-economics wise profitable, there is always a choice between scaling faster and maintaining the bottom line. Initially, it was difficult for Sourabh and Smiti to prioritize one over the other, but with time they have learned the art of managing both from a startup point of view. “Last year we did a GMV of 100Cr and are on the path to building a billion-dollar business”, adds Sourabh.

Hiring has also come with its learnings. Advantage Club has a robust team which has helped in the company’s growth to this point, but this is also a derivative of the fact that they have made an intense hiring process. “Earlier, if someone would come through a strong reference or if that candidate was someone known to us, we used to almost skip the entire process and hire the only basis the person’s feedback. After facing a scenario in which we hired a wrong person for the role by skipping the hiring process, we realized that not everyone has the potential to work on everything. Talent and experience for a specific domain matter a lot, and hiring a wrong known person also spoils the relationship from a long-term perspective”, opines Sourabh.

Advantage Club believes that preserving a good and strong company culture is predominant to any organization’s success. Having an open-door policy, Transparency is one of the things which is rooted core in Advantage Club’s cultural values. “We have been lucky and blessed to get a wonderful team ever since the beginning. We believe in staying nimble, and amazingly our team has always delivered within timelines and with great efficiency. Our team includes alumni of good colleges and people with very relevant industry experience”, says Sourabh.

An Engineer with a Knack for Startups

An Engineer with a Post Graduate Degree from UCLA, Sourabh comes from a business family, which intrigued him about business and technology. He recalls, “I started coding when I was 12 years old, and very early on started helping my father with some parts of his business. As I grew older, he pushed me away from the business to focus on my studies. But the entrepreneurship bug was always there”. Sourabh started his first venture, Fundoori, where they built hyperlocal deals and social platform for Patiala, mostly aiming towards students from his college, Thapar University. The startup made decent money and was unfortunately shut down as Sourabh was done with his bachelors and moved out of India to pursue his Master’s Degree. “Fundoori set the tone for what I wanted to do in my life. When I went to UCLA, I participated in a lot of hackathons. Smiti and I were also very active in the overall entrepreneurship circle in Los Angeles and attended loads of startup events. I feel entrepreneurship isn’t just something you suddenly wake up one day and decide to do, it is ingrained in your system, and there is a journey through which one gets there”, opines Sourabh.

Entrepreneurs have different backgrounds and philosophies and work in a variety of industries, but what they have in common is that they each have a person whom they look up to that affects and inspires their work ethic. Having worked with Amazon in California on Kindle Devices, Sourabh liked the journey of Jeff Bezos. Being the sole developer in building the core search on Kindle devices, he learned a lot from Amazon. He adds, “Amazon gave me an insight on how a fast-paced amazing culture is built. The idea that you need to create a paramount focus on customer experience and that ideas should fight, people shouldn’t, are both the core thought processes of JeffB and we strongly follow them here at Advantage Club too”.

Believing that the primary role of any entrepreneur is to be a problem solver, Sourabh feels everything they have done so far with Advantage Club is nothing but solving client problems. In a broader sense, Advantage Club addresses issues of employee engagement for organizations, and the difficulties of corporate outreach for brands. “Every feature built on the platform has been created after understanding customer pain points. This is also one of the reasons our clients love us because we try to understand their issues and build solutions accordingly”, says Sourabh.

Achieving Greatness Globally

Initially getting to the first 10,000 users, now Advantage Club runs with more than 250+ corporates, spanning to more than 6 lakh users. “Milestones keep evolving with business growth. Some major milestones for us have been reaching the desired user cohorts, corporates, brands and users, launching rewards and recognition on top of the perks program, launching our flexible-wallet program, raising $2Million total in funding, going global and building a marketplace catering to multiple countries, etc. On top of that, every major client who has launched has been a significant milestone for us, be it a brand or a corporate partner”, says Sourabh.

Keeping digitalization and uniformity in mind, the way Advantage Club is innovating is starting to take ownership of the entire benefits lifecycle of an employee. “Currently focusing on giving a holistic experience to employees and providing a single platform for organizations where they can single-handedly manage benefits, rewards, reports, and many other things under one umbrella, we plan to become global leaders in the benefits space”, concludes Sourabh.

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