Why we invested in Project Hero

The second largest workforce in India, second only to agriculture, is in the construction industry. Over 50 million workers build our homes, offices, schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, railways, airports and more. This industry, valued at $190 billion, is at the foundation of India’s development story as a global economic powerhouse.

With the economy growing at 7–8% annually, there is a huge demand on the construction sector. This has also led to rising scrutiny on how projects are executed. Standards of quality and professionalism are increasing as the industry matures. Against the backdrop of digitalization, construction tech tools are emerging to aid project owners and contractors streamline project management. But there remains a grossly overlooked segment of the value chain — labor.

India’s construction workers earn an estimated $60 billion in annual wages. The workforce is as diverse as any in India. While it includes specialized engineers and architects, the vast majority are informally organized daily wage earners.

Daily wage workers are usually recruited through intermediary staffing agencies. This results in little transparency and a complete lack of flexibility for workers, while preventing companies from efficiently matching requirements to skill sets, availability, and preferences. Workers’ payments are also often unpredictable and without much recourse to address discrepancies. The pen and paper approach to managing these workers precludes them from formal markers around their employment — in turn denying them easy access to essential services such as housing, medical care, and financial services.

On the flip side, project developers and contractors suffer as well. They see unpredictable attendance, poor quality delivery, and high attrition rates — which in turn affect overall productivity on projects.

At Ankur, these woes are familiar. Once we started speaking with workers and operators on the ground, we realized that we had heard similar challenges in adjacent value chains that have since formalized with the wave of digitalization. From the formalization of delivery roles by the likes of Swiggy, Zomato and Delhivery; to taxi operators by Ola and Uber; to sales and customer support by Quess and TeamLease, tech platforms have enabled greater transparency, productivity, and opportunities for overlooked segments of the workforce.

We saw Project Hero coming in with a vision to reimagine the engagement of construction workers with the larger ecosystem. Project Hero is building a tech-enabled integrated platform for sourcing, managing, and enabling services for construction workers. The worker-first platform provides transparency on jobs, addresses skilling needs, helps workers build their career profiles and access relevant products/services from the formal economy. They’ve already enrolled 400,000 construction workers on their platform and deployed 3000 workers onto construction sites.

In our first call with Satya and the team, it was clear that this team, who had spent 5 years operating a construction services business, understood the pain points of the industry. Having previously scaled a company (acquired by HouseJoy), they clearly saw the opportunity to create a win-win solution between labour and employers.

We are excited to partner with Project Hero on this journey to reimagine the norms of the construction workforce.

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