The Weekend Leader - Karthik Sridharan's Journey from BITS to Flexiple Co-founder

BITS Pilani Graduate Builds a Rs 22 Crore Turnover Tech Talent Enterprise With Two Friends, Inspired by Father's Vision

Usha Prasad   |  


Vol 14 | Issue 51

It's quite unusual for a father from a middle-class family to advise his engineering graduate son to not just look for a well-paying job in an MNC, but rather to start his own business or travel to Japan to learn martial arts.

That's exactly the story of Karthik Sridharan, a 32-year-old BITS Pilani EEE graduate and Co-Founder & CEO of Flexiple Tech Pvt. Ltd. in Bengaluru, a company that specialises in hiring tech professionals.

Karthik Sridharan started Flexiple with Hrishikesh Pardeshi and Suvansh Bansal in 2016 (Photos: Special Arrangement)

At Flexiple, they offer a complete set of tools to streamline the hiring of engineers automatically. Their platform includes a network of pre-screened talent, a system for assessments, and AI-driven talent search. This helps in efficiently finding, assessing, and hiring the best in tech.

Initially, they looked at the Indian market, but quickly moved to focus on the US due to the higher salaries that attract top talent. This led to their growth in the US market.

Starting with just a small team and a few interns, Flexiple has now expanded to around 40 members, supporting over 100 companies to hire top tech professionals.

Starting with a turnover of Rs. 95 lakh in 2017-18, Flexiple has become a key platform for tech firms needing top tech talent, both in India and the USA. They have been growing by 2x to 3x annually, reaching over Rs. 22 crore in turnover in 2022-23.

Flexiple has two main services: contract hiring and full-time recruitment. They add a 20 to 25% margin to the freelancers' monthly rates before billing clients. In the full-time hiring segment, introduced this year, they earn 8% of the employee's yearly salary.

Karthik credits his father for planting the seeds of entrepreneurship in his mind. When he was having a tough time finding jobs due to limited campus placements at BITS Pilani, his father, Sridharan, advised him to start something on his own.

Karthik's father Sridharan advised him to start something of his own while he was seeking a campus placement at BITS Pilani

“My dad, knowing I admired Samurai, suggested I learn martial arts in Japan. He was very encouraging and off-beat,” Karthik recalls. His mother, Suguna, a high school teacher, also played a big role in his life, especially in shaping his Maths and Science skills.

“She too backed my decisions. When you have such supportive parents, it doesn’t become difficult to make unconventional choices,” he says.

His father who began his career with Godrej in Hyderabad, worked hard in the FMCG sector, and later joined Procter & Gamble. He retired early in his 50s as a Category Head

Karthik recalls that, in contrast to his father's difficult early life, their family life was pretty stable, much like any middle-class household, without many luxuries. “We would go for an outing or a movie once a year, but we always had our basic needs met,” he remembers.

He also points out that his father gave up his professional ambitions to ensure continuous education for him and his elder sister, Shruthi, who is now a doctor.

Karthik's education journey began in Mumbai at Poddar School, continued at Shishya High School in Chennai, and then he shifted to Kota for 11th and 12th at Bansal Classes, famous for IIT-JEE and AIEEE coaching.

Post-engineering, he joined JP Morgan, working in Mumbai and London for three years, gaining valuable experience. Later, he chose to come back to India, succeeded in CAT, and joined IIM Ahmedabad in 2015.

Karthik and his friends from IIM Ahmedabad, Hrishikesh Pardeshi (33) and Suvansh Bansal (33), started Flexiple in December 2016 while they were doing their Post Graduate Program in Management.

Instead of going for regular internships, IIM Ahmedabad's Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) allows students to work on their startup ideas.

After working through several business concepts with Hrishikesh, Karthik decided on Flexiple, and later, Suvansh joined their team.

Karthik (centre) with his two co-founders, Hrishikesh (extreme left) and Suvansh

Karthik presented his Flexiple idea to CIIE and was given the green light. He then travelled to Bengaluru to meet potential collaborators and further his entrepreneurial aspirations.

After finishing their course in March 2017, the three co-founders of Flexiple - Karthik, Hrishikesh, and Suvansh - shifted to Bengaluru full-time.

They decided to bootstrap, investing Rs. 25 lakh from their savings, rather than seeking venture capital. CIIE provided them with a Rs. 30,000 monthly stipend for two years post-MBA.

From this stipend, they paid Rs. 20,000 towards education loans, managing their new venture with just Rs. 10,000 in hand.

Initially, Karthik worked from his co-founders' flat in Koramangala, as he was married and lived separately. Later, they used co-working spaces like 91Springboard and worked remotely during COVID.

Now, they have their own office in AKR Tech Park, Kudlu Main Road, Bengaluru.

Karthik believes that not taking funding at the start and building their team gradually helped them grasp the business basics better.

The initial software products of Flexiple didn’t meet customer expectations, leading them to use Google sheets for connecting freelancers with companies, which started bringing in revenue.

As they grew in the contract hiring area, they also started hiring for permanent roles. Their first client was a Bengaluru tech start-up, Creo, which Hike Messenger later bought. “We didn't realise at first that the US was our main market,” says Karthik.

Regarding their hiring process, Flexiple has a thorough screening method. “We don’t vet talent 100% before suggesting them to clients,” Karthik explains.

Flexiple has now expanded to around 40 members

“Instead, we provide an assessment platform and work with clients to create a detailed talent profile. We have now also started hiring fresh graduates in our full-time hiring division.”

Flexiple mainly focuses on the US market, followed by India, and has a growing number of clients in Europe. They are planning to expand to the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Karthik is not only a successful entrepreneur but also a talented swimmer. He represented Tamil Nadu at the national level during his high school in Chennai.

When his family had to move to Delhi, they were ready to let him stay in Chennai for swimming, but Karthik chose to go to Kota.

While his family supported his business dreams, his partners Hrishikesh and Suvansh had to face some objections from their families. However, they were firm in their decision.

Hrishikesh, the CTO of Flexiple, studied Computer Science at NIT Trichy and previously worked at Adobe and Amazon.

Suvansh, the COO, is a Mechanical Engineering graduate from Delhi College of Engineering and worked at Maruti Suzuki India. He met Karthik at IIM Ahmedabad.

Even with market ups and downs, Karthik is positive about Flexiple's future growth. At present, they are keen on managing independently, satisfied with their bootstrap funding and not seeking external investment in the near future.

Karthik with his pet dog, Rocket

Karthik got married to Vandana in April 2017, just after graduating from IIM-A. Vandana, previously a property consultant at JLL, is on a break to care for their one-year-old son Dhruv. Karthik is also very attached to his five-year-old dog, Rocket.

After his father retired, they returned to Chennai, where his parents studied Yoga at Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. His father now lives in Coimbatore and teaches yoga.

All the co-founders of Flexiple have settled in Bengaluru with their families. - ©TWL

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