On October 5 we hosted Gig Work Summit, were the featured keynote was given by Traba co-founder and CTO, Akshay Buddiga. Traba’s journey is a testament to builders centering the customer experience to create solutions that change the industry. In two short years Traba has grown to be a leader in providing light industrial workers in five states with over 60,000 workers on their platform. Akshay shared his perspective on the gig economy and the solutions they build to streamline hiring for their customers. How do they achieve a 98%+ fill rate and fill most roles in less than 24 hrs?
Read the details in the following transcript, which has been edited for clarity, or watch the full video above. Highlights to the keynote can be found here:
- The Rise of the Gig Economy and Gig Work watch here
- Same Day delivery and On-demand Labor watch here
- Building Technology for On-demand Labor watch here
- How HyperTrack Helps Build Solutions with Live Location watch here
- The Future of On-demand Labor and Workforce Technology watch here
- The Role of AI in Workforce and Staffing Technologies watch here
Good morning, everyone. I’m Akshay Buddiga. I'm the Co founder and CTO of Traba. And I'm really excited to be here today at the gig work summit with you all and to share how Traba is reshaping the future of flexible work in the light industrial space. Thank you to Kashyap, Gaurav and the entire team at HyperTrack for inviting me to share my thoughts on the state of flexible work today and where I believe the industry is headed in the next decade.
So this is a photo from Time Square in March of 2020. And as we all know, the world shifted dramatically during the COVID 19 pandemic. It disrupted all of our daily lives and triggered dramatic changes in both the global supply chain and the economy. As well as in consumer behaviors. Essential workers and supply chain food production, distribution and fulfillment were thrust into the spotlight as well to rely on them to keep the lights on for making sure the shelves at grocery stores were stocked to deliver our online orders.
These workers and businesses really helped us get through the pandemic. Many of these workers were part of the gig economy, working flexibly to earn a living after being furloughed from full time roles, or to help support and out of work family members. The flexibility of these roles provided was crucial to many workers as they navigated the unpredictability of the pandemic.
And our experiences with consumers during COVID also fundamentally shifted our expectations and purchasing behaviors – post COVID, the world changed.
The rise of the Gig Economy and Gig Work
"Workers wanted to continue to earn a living flexibly on their own schedule, with the ability to balance work with their life responsibilities."
Workers wanted to continue to earn a living flexibly on their own schedule, with the ability to balance work with their life responsibilities. Working on demand and the gig economy increasingly became a way to earn a primary source of income with an ability to increase financial resiliency and improve economic prospects. In fact, 61% of workers on gig work platforms cited that they complete gig work for their primary income in 2022, which was a nearly 3x increase from 2021.
The Value of On-time payment for Gig Workers
Faster pay also became a central driver for these workers. More than 83% of gig workers say it's somewhat important or very important that they are paid in a timely fashion. 39% of those surveyed said they were paid immediately upon finishing a gig, really driving home the importance of payments as a key value prop for gig work platforms, gig work is no longer about picking up the odd shift here and there. And the number of gig workers is estimated to reach 78 million by the end of 2023.
Consumer and Business Behavior Turn Toward On-demand
Consumer and business behavior also changed. More and more consumers shopped online, and both consumers and retailers expected faster delivery from their vendors. Manufacturers began shifting their production footprint closer to home in order to have more control over their supply chain, after suffering severe delays and shortages during COVID.
As the New York Times reported, shortages are getting more [prevalent], a paint manufacturer that needs 27 chemicals to make its products may be able to buy all but one, but that one perhaps stuck on a container ship off the coast of Southern California, that may be enough to halt their production.
Same Day Delivery and the need for On-demand Labor
During COVID, the time to ship a container from China to the US actually tripled from one month to three months. The changes in the industry have been widespread and fast moving.
With consumer expectations of faster deliveries, retailers have shifted their strategy to convert store footprint to fulfillment space, Macy's converted over a million square feet across 35 stores while Walmart's store fulfilled delivery sales nearly tripled from two years before COVID. Amazon also continued its shift towards a regional network model as it continued to chase the holy grail of same day deliveries.
And companies are opening new manufacturing facilities in the US, including semiconductor chip facilities in New York and in the Midwest. Walmart has vowed to spend over $100 billion dollars over the next 10 years on domestic production.
All of these changes have really fueled the need for a new model, a new way of doing things has connected workers of value flexibility, with businesses in need of on-demand labor in an unpredictable economic environment. And that is exactly why we started in Traba.
How Traba increases Worker Productivity
"We're building the most reliable and high quality staffing solution for light industrial labor."
Traba’s mission is to empower businesses and workers to reach their full productivity and potential. We're building the most reliable and high quality staffing solution for light industrial labor. With Traba businesses that form the backbone of the American economy can tap into a flexible workforce to fill roles in manufacturing, distribution, production and fulfillment. We started in Miami in 2021.
A Technology Solution to Streamline On-demand Labor
The idea for Traba was actually born from my co-founder Mike's past experience as a warehouse supervisor while in a management rotation program at Mcmaster Carr. During his time managing a distribution center in LA Mike experienced firsthand how broken and inefficient the state of the flexible staffing was. Mcmaster Carr experienced fluctuations in customer demand. And when a customer like SpaceX put in a new order, Mike would need to enlist four or five different traditional staffing agencies to try and get the workers he needed.
Lead time to get workers placed were up to a week, fill rates hovered around 50% of worker quality was hit or miss. And workers typically churn within a couple of weeks because there wasn't really any loyalty to the staffing agency. And they didn't have much transparency about the work that they would be doing. There had to be a better way.
After Mcmaster Carr, Mike joined Uber as one of the founding members of Uber Eats, in his time launching new cities in the US and Latin America, he wondered how a seamless technology solution could revolutionize an entire industry and provide a more flexible and transparent way for workers to earn a living. The idea for Traba was born.
So the picture on the left here is from one of our early worker roundtables, where we heard from our early users, where the solutions they were using were falling short and how we could better serve them. The picture on the right is from Miami tech week in 2021. With an early signal from workers and beta customers. We really did love where this was going.
Supporting Businesses with Flexible Labor Across the US
"We are able to deliver a 98%+ fill rate with less than 24 hours notice."
Two years later, we've now expanded across seven different states, five of which are in the top 10 fastest growing states for employment opportunities. Over 60,000 workers have joined the Traba platform, bringing their skills and experience and light industrial work to our customers and earning a living on their own terms. As America goes back to work, and policymakers in Washington push to rebuild American infrastructure.
Traba will continue to support businesses with their flexible labor needs. Over the next year we plan to expand across the US. So how was Traba revolutionizing the staffing industry?
The experience Mike faced as a warehouse supervisor at Mcmaster Carr is a familiar story to countless customers that we work.
Industry average fill rates range from 46 to 70%. It can take a week or more to fill a shift. And they often have hidden costs and overtime fees. Worker quality is typically very hit or miss. In contrast Traba is building a technology platform that reimagines how staffing can be done.
We are able to deliver a 98 plus percent fill rate valued workers with relevant experience working in a warehouse or manufacturing facility with less than 24 hours notice. Businesses only pay for the time work not for posting shifts, our incentives are aligned to deliver the highest quality service. So how do we do it?
Building Technology for On-demand Labor
"We envision how technology can solve customer problems and deliver a 10x customer experience."
Fundamentally we start by envisioning how technology can solve customer problems and deliver a 10x customer experience. We have built best in class technology that our customers really love. Our products deliver a seamless end to end customer experience.
Business customers can manage their shift schedule, build their worker pool rate and review workers, track ETAs to shifts, then shift announcements and handle timesheets and invoices all within our business portal. Workers can find shifts that fit their schedule and experience, build their worker profiles, rate their shift experience and get paid instantly, with a granular breakdown of skills and responsibilities needed for each role on the platform. Along with frequent ratings and reviews, our systems are able to learn over time which workers are the best fit for which companies and roles and recommend those appropriately.
The Importance of Focusing on Light Industrial Roles
Our focus on light industrial roles means we've built a product tailored to these customers' needs. Businesses can specify exactly what skills a worker will need for a role, such as pick and pack, production - labeling, loading and unloading or forklift driving. They can also specify required work attire and any certifications such as an OSHA forklift certification.
The Importance of Automation in Matching Workers with On-demand Jobs
"Automation helps us deliver that 98.3% fulfillment rate with high worker quality. "
On the back end, we've also built operational tools to automate and streamline much of the day to day live operations needed to keep the platform running smoothly. We have built automations for pre-shift confirmation, AI assistant automated backfilling in case of late cancellation and an anomaly detection engine to flag cases where worker payments should not be paid out instantly.
These tools and automations really help us deliver that 98.3% fulfillment rate with high worker quality. Technology lies at the heart of our company, and it enables a 10x experience for our business customers, our workers and our internal operations teams.
Why HyperTrack to Build Location Tracking Solutions
A key enabler of our location based features has been HyperTrack. Early last year, we looked to build our own location tracking system in house. We built our system over a few months before launching it in May, our system worked. But reliability was an issue.
Some shifts weren't tracking properly, while others were tracked but missing large gaps of time during the shift. We also had to spend developer time debugging mobile device issues dealing with React Native limitations without a dedicated mobile SDK.
Building Location Tracking and Workforce Technology - With Speed and Support
"With HyperTrack, we are now able to track 100% of shifts, and we greatly increase the time on shifts that are accurately tracked."
We evaluated several options for software providers dedicated to solving these problems. And ultimately, we went with HyperTrack. There were several reasons why we chose HyperTrack, including their flexible API's, dedicated mobile, SDKs, and solid developer documentation.
Ultimately, the biggest reason was their speed and support, we were able to get near immediate support on any issues we had, including some hurdles in our initial implementation.
They were also quick to take product feedback and build out features that we could really use.
With HyperTrack, we are now able to track 100% of shifts, and we greatly increase the time on shifts that are accurately tracked. Additionally, HyperTrack’s mobile SDKs allow us to better conserve workers phone batteries, and the API's allow us to integrate essential tools into our products, including live maps and ETAs.
Location history also helps us resolve pay disputes and verify time of arrival and shift attendance. So two of the screenshots here you can see is the live map we've embedded into our Operations Dashboard. And on the right here, in the business product, our customers can see location statuses of their workers.
The Future of On-demand Labor and Manufacturing
"In the future, we can imagine a world where AI helps upskill workers and could even help businesses forecast demand more effectively, generate insights from the production data and analyze and recommend more efficient workflows"
So what’s next? At Traba, we believe we're poised to take advantage of tailwinds propelling growth in our key industries. And we're rapidly adopting cutting edge advancements in technology and AI to reimagine the customer experience from the ground up.
Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Local Labor
A new policy focused on rebuilding America's infrastructure, and reshoring manufacturing and production will create many new growth opportunities in this space over the next decade.
COVID really exposed the fragility of outsourcing the entire supply chain, and American companies are taking action to build more robust systems in the face of other geopolitical uncertainties such as US China trade tensions. Many companies originally outsource manufacturing abroad to save labor costs. But as living standards in China and India have risen, so have labor costs. Manufacturing wages in China have more than tripled in the last decade. The labor cost gap between Asian countries and the US has decreased, reducing cost savings of outsourced manufacturing.
On-demand Labor and National Reshoring Initiatives
Reshoring can also help improve operations and other ways. 60% of companies reshoring see quality control improvements and 40% see reductions and shipping costs. Companies that have onshore operations can bring products to market up to 20% faster, and this trend has been accelerated. Construction of new US manufacturing facilities increased by 116% in 2022, and the Biden administration has made revitalizing American manufacturing a key part of its policy plan. Job announcements for reshoring initiatives hit a record high of roughly three to 50,000 in 2022, which was up from 250,000 to 2021, which was up from 150,000 in 2020.
Increasing Efficiency and Productivity with Workforce Technology
With these tailwinds Traba is partnering with our business customers to increase the productivity and efficiency of their workforce. Delivering on our mission will help our customers realize this vision of a revitalized American manufacturing industry. Taking advantage of the latest advancements in tech, including AI will be essential in Traba’s journey.
AI and Workforce Technology for the Staffing Industry
New advancements in AI are quickly finding their way into the staffing experience. Use cases range from more sophisticated role matching chatbots tools for drafting job advertisements and job descriptions, AI customer support to handle frequent interactions, and AI assisted scheduling capabilities for internal workflows.
Generative AI can also help us easily conduct analysis and answer questions like what workers skills are highly correlated with success on picking back roles, or which workers are consistently late in the Miami area, or which neighborhoods in Dallas have the highest commute times for workers and could benefit from additional worker supply. In the future, we can imagine a world where AI helps upskill workers, prepares them for new shifts and helps get them on board at a new location. It could help businesses forecast demand more effectively, generate insights from the production data and analyze and recommend more efficient workflows on the production floor at Traba we're really excited about possibilities of what we can build for our customers.
And we're really looking forward to building the future of work. And I'll pass it back now to Gaurav. To introduce a sneak peek of what we've been working on with the team at HyperTrack.
Please visit https://hypertrack.com/gigworksummit for information on Gig Work Summit 2023, a virtual summit hosted by HyperTrack for the community building next generation tech for gig work and on-demand delivery.