Artificial Intelligence, Natural Intelligence, Beauty & Management! Barkha Sharma from Bash Covers Everything

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It was not long time back when Artificial Intelligence was considered a far fetched phenomenon. Nobody really believed that it could really replace human labour work. Maybe at the back of our heads we thought it could replace humans in tasks that are simple and can be easily automated like data entry, captcha, image selection but nobody would have imagined even in their wildest dreams that it could attempt to revamp an entire function in an organisation. – We are talking about the HR function of an organisation here.

Over endless coffee conversations, Tanay Dixit, Nitin Bagla and Barkha Sharma discussed the uses and applications of machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation in our daily lives and how it could be made commercially viable. It was through the various discussions about workplace HR processes that the idea of Bash was born. HR has been seeing higher friction with technology as compared to any other function but today the hot topic in HR technology is #artificial intelligence.
@Bash targets companies that have an HR function with minimum 10+ employees. The venture uses artificial intelligence and big data to power a virtual assistant that mimics the HR for that organisation. It helps employees in their HR activities, answers their routine queries. For the HR function, Bash assists in processing all essential HR functions and, in turn, improves processes and helps elevate current efforts throughout an organisation. Since SMBs do not want to invest much in the HR function due to small team size, Bash would be a perfect fit that could keep running on its own and offer high return on investments for the firm.

They are currently live with 3 modules, and plans to add 2 more modules in an year, they plan on adding talent acquisition and training to their product portfolio. They also plan on expanding their offerings to more geographies like the US and Europe. In the next 10 years, they see Bash as a fully developed HR bot trained to understand modules across the HR function.

Fully committed to Bash, Barkha who enjoys Indian cuisines and is a complete beach person, likes to read fantasy and sci fi novels in her spare time. Her passion for technology is reflected in all spheres of her life.

Meet this young, beautiful & intelligent (ofcourse we mean natural) Woman Entrepreneur Barkha Sharma from Bash. We wish them all the best for their future and I am looking forward to start using BASH in our organisation 🙂

1. What is the name of your venture?

Bash.ai

2. Who is your target audience?

Our target audience is any organization with a minimum of 10 employees looking to automate their HR function.

3. Where is your venture based (city, state, country) and what are your target areas?

While Bash is currently based in Gurgaon, Haryana, India, we have plans underway of expanding to newer geographies in Europe and the US very soon.

4. What problems does your venture solve? What are your products or services.

Bash uses artificial intelligence and big data to power a virtual assistant to drive HR for businesses. Bash mimics cognitive functions related to the HR function using a rule based AI powered bot. It helps employees organise their HR activities, answers questions related to pay slips, company leave policies and perks, among a host of other functions. For the HR function, Bash assists in processing all essential HR functions and, in turn, improves processes and helps elevate current efforts throughout an organization.

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Currently, majority of the softwares or technologies used in the HR function facilitate only non- employee facing activities (back-end functions). There are limited technologies in place that facilitate or assist the interaction between the HR function and employees, and all the interactions are manually managed, e.g. HR queries, notifications to employees on HR updates etc. Employee experience shouldn’t be compromised and Bash ensures that it improves processes, overall employee experience, in turn making employees more productive.

5. Share the idea or story behind the venture. How did it come into existence?

It was the coming together of a few instances that resulted in the founding of Bash. A particular incident which took place at one of my previous workplaces got me thinking about the need for technological advancement in HR.

It was only during my notice period did I find out about the option of leaving office early by raising a simple request. I approached the HR department to understand how I’d missed this information and I was informed that “everyone knows about it”. This response got me thinking and I realized that had it been a bot in question, I would have heard about the policy during on-boarding.

We built Bash to use conversations and gather information from a chat bot rather than from lengthy HR manuals or poorly designed portals. One of the biggest advantages of a bot is that it would never respond with a “everyone knows about it” when asked a question.

6. How did you identify your co-founder? Tell us some thing about your co-founders.

Tanay Dixit, Nitin Bagla and I have been friends for a while now. It was over endless cups of coffee that we’d pick each others brains about machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation in our everyday lives.

It was through the course of these multiple discussions about workplace HR processes that the idea of Bash developed. The biggest technological breakthrough to have hit HR and recruiting in order to make jobs faster and easier has been ATS (Applicant Tracking System). In HR, there has been relatively higher friction with technology as compared to any other function. Today, however, the dominant theme in HR technology is artificial intelligence.

7. How did you hire your first team members?

Our Chief Product Officer has prior experience with NLP and in building chat bots. My experience in talent acquisition has helped us add structure to the problems we set out to solve. This made hiring the right set of people slightly easier and more streamlined. Having said that, there is huge dearth of the right set of data scientists and coders in India.

8. What expansion plans are you looking in the next 2-5 years?

In the next 6 months, we’re laying a lot of emphasis on adding 3 more modules along with introducing improvements to the current ones. We see the potential in our product making inroads into smaller teams/ organisations – going beyond big enterprises. Small and medium sized businesses don’t invest heavily in HR mainly due to lack in funds. Bash offers immense return on investment.

Over the next 2 years, we plan to add recruitment and training to our product portfolio – making screening resumes time effective and efficient. We also intend to expand to newer geographies by then. A 5-year plan seems slightly far-fetched due the fast changing technological landscape. If we’d spoken about driverless cars 5 years ago, it would have seemed right out of a sci-fi movie.

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9. Where do you want to see yourself in next 10 years?

In the next 10 years, we see Bash having developed into a full fledged HR bot trained to understand modules across the board. We also envision Bash Labs – a small in-house team working on innovative and next to impossible solutions for age-old HR, recruiting and talent acquisition problems.

10. Have you raised any funding? Or have any plans for fund raising?

We have currently raised a small amount of capital through friends and family. We are now focused on building the product further and adding to our customer base. The next round of funds will help us when our goals and assumptions are substantiated with learnings from the current client base. It will give us immense clarity on our product and sales roadmap.

11. What were the problems you faced in the early days and how did you resolve them?

One of the problems a startup like ours faces in its early days is of creating a positive enviroment about the decision to start up.

Another one of the critical decisive moments for us was getting the product team in place. Although, there is an increasing need for a skilled workforce in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning it is always a challenge finding the right talent for AI based roles in India. Having said that, when we did see the probability of product development delays we resolved the issue by reaching out to product developers outside the organization and mitigated the issue at hand.

12. What have been your biggest challenges and learnings so far?

One of the biggest challenges for us has been finding the right talent to bring on board. We ensure that we find like minded folks and smart workers to join our team. So far, we have a great team of developers and managers who ensure product development and business growth is always priority.

Bots and AI is the future we’re leaning towards and I am certain that as more people experience the benefit of bots as assistants, we will see a lot more talent in AI in India. One of my biggest learnings is that if you have the right set of ideas in place for your startup, you’ll need the right team to help you execute it.

13. Are you married, single or in a relationship?

I am committed to Bash.

14. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?

I enjoy buying fantasy and sci-fi novels for my personal library and thoroughly enjoy reading books when I am free from work. I also spend a lot of time listening to music; its a great stress buster.

15. Whats your favorite food & holiday destination?

I love the Indian cuisine and make it a point to try out new flavors whenever I am traveling across India.

The beach has always been my ideal holiday destination.

16. Whom do you consider your idol or biggest motivator?

My greatest idol is my grandfather. Some of my biggest motivators are the people I have worked with in my previous workplaces. I think a lot of what I am today is because of what I’ve learnt from them.

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17. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

The risk taking grit. Leaving a stable job and starting up is never an easy decision for anyone. As Peter Drucker rightly said, “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

18. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

Looking back at my entrepreneurial journey, I would’ve left my job much earlier on in order to start up. Having said that, my corporate experience taught me a lot about HR, its functions and how technology impacts this space.

19. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family and social life?

I guess one never really stops thinking about their work once they start up; your business, product and team are constantly on your mind. However, I try to switch off over the weekends to spend time with family and friends.

20. Anything you would like to say to our readers or upcoming entrepreneurs?

First and foremost, it is important to stay focused on the product and the goals that you have in place.

Eventually, it boils down to executing what you set out to do. Take risks, dive in and take the plunge in the deep end. Be willing to belive in your yourself.

21. Tell us something about your education & family background.

I graduated in Bachelors in Computers and then went on to do my MBA. My educational qualifications taught me the required technical know-how and along with that basic values of persistence and constant iteration which are essential in running a startup. My family has been into business for decades and I think part of my business acumen is in my genes.

22. What is your USP which makes it unique & different from other start-ups in similar domains.

Like I mentioned earlier, what makes Bash different from the other players is that currently a majority of technologies in HR do not facilitate front-end functions. Our front-end chat enables users to communicate with a bot (with ease) which primarily mimics HR in a company.

23. What do you think is the biggest threat to the success of small businesses and start-ups today?

I think one of the biggest threats to the success of small businesses is the risk-averse market that we live in. The market need to start opening up to businesses which are non-familiar and ideas which are new. However, the funding landscape is now opening up in India and we can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for businesses like our.

Speaking of funding, the other huge challenge is that when funds start pouring in companies end up hiring way too many agencies and people to run the business without anticipating how they would sustain once those very funds dry up.

24. Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?

I measure my success with Bash’s success.
25. Please share complete name, address, phone number, email id & website of Your Business & Contact Person.

Complete name: Barkha Sharma

Address: Gurgaon

Email ID: [email protected]

Website: www.bash.ai
Contact person: Vibhuti Jaswal, Public Relations, Bash ([email protected])

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