Entrepreneur of the Week: iRecruiter's Kamal Al Samarrai

The founder of recruitment agency Dawaam has set up his second start-up in Dubai
Entrepreneur of the Week: iRecruiter's Kamal Al Samarrai
By Lubna Hamdan
Fri 14 Jun 2019 12:16 AM

The founder of recruitment agency Dawaam has set up his second start-up in Dubai. This time, it’s a global platform that connects companies to worldwide freelance recruiters free of charge, while lowering the cost of hiring by up to 60 percent in the UAE.

What is your mission when it comes to iRecruiter?

Our mission is to make recruitment or using recruiters accessible to companies of all sizes, with SMEs being our target market… What we’re trying to do is lower the cost of using recruiters and we’re not even charging you for it. It’s completely free for employers to use our platform. We even charge the recruiters. So we don’t charge the hiring company to use the platform.

It also removes the geographical constraints for recruiters because you get to access global candidates. You don’t need terms of business with each one. Because freelancers are all over the world, employers are getting access to global candidates.

[Companies are] paying 10-12 percent in the UAE for recruitment these days; in Europe, they’re paying 15-25 percent. We’re getting the rates down locally to 5 percent of the annual salary; in Europe, we’re going to 7-8 percent of the annual salary. Just to show you how global iRecruiter is - we had a Japanese company here that was looking for a Japanese-speaking candidate, which was then found in Tokyo by a Singaporean freelance recruiter. We currently have over 600 freelance recruiters and over 100 clients.

iRecruiter has seen a surge in job postings, but you’ve noticed that companies take ‘too long’ to hire. Why is that?

The recruitment process in the UAE is so slow. It’s just very slow, unfortunately. It’s indecision in the process of hiring. It’s definitely a cultural thing. No one wants to make a decision on hiring someone. It’s a process where maybe an analyst can have five or six interviews for a position. It’s almost like you’re interviewing for a CEO.

We’re seeing a lot of jobs go on the platform but the rate of completion is not high because it’s taking the companies a very long time – and we can see it from the back end – a very long time to go from the initial job through the multiple interview stages to the offer stage. And we can clearly see that on iRecruiter.

It’s a very indecisive process from start to finish… In the UAE, it probably takes about three months to fill a position. In London, we’ve had a couple of jobs posted and within 10 days to two weeks, [companies] have an offer for the candidate. It’s very, very efficient. We’re getting a lot of jobs on there but they’re just taking a long time to fill.

What is a challenge you’re facing with iRecruiter?

The biggest thing is not enough awareness and it’s something we’re working on, but as we know, hiring sales people and getting them out and running [is challenging] and unfortunately, we haven’t got funding. So we’re doing this all by ourselves right now. It’s all internal. We’re funding [iRecruiter] ourselves.

Why has it been difficult to attract funding?

One reason we haven’t got funding is recruitment in this part of the world is not attractive enough. We don’t have the [artificial intelligence] AI words thrown in there, we don’t have some crazy new technology angle to it and we’re not an e-commerce or retail [business].

What we’re trying to do is take an old recruitment [model] and make it more efficient and effective, and people don’t see that here, because recruitment in general is not considered an attractive industry here.

Truthfully, in this part of the world, we’ve kind of given up. I’ve approached most [investors] and been shut down pretty quickly. They don’t even want to hear the model, because once we mention recruitment, they’re just not interested in it. People say maybe it’s the platform itself, but we’re generating revenue, we’ve got clients and users. So it’s just the fact that it’s in recruitment.

In the uae, it probably takes [companies] about three months to fill a position

Slowly now, we’re building our revenue and growing and starting to look [at investors] from London and the UK. The VCs I’ve had a couple of early stage chats with there are more interested and understand the recruitment industry a lot more. The recruitment industry itself is about $450bn annually, and about $350bn of that is agency work. It’s a huge market.

People talk about addressable markets; this is a huge addressable market, yet no one wants to, in this part of the world, no one really wants to invest in it, because it has to be somehow related to AI or e-commerce or the ‘in’ words at the moment; the trends.

Most people hate recruiters, but we’re trying to add a whole new level of recruitment, making it accessible to all. We’re a global platform. We’re not limited to geography or market or industry. What more could an investor ask for?

What is your plan when it comes to AI?

You can’t have recruitment done by AI – it can be used at a certain stage of the recruitment process in order to optimise it – but in the end, when you sit in front of someone and you interview them and understand their responses to questions, there has to be a human touch.

Anyone can get a machine to write a CV right now and screen them and get them through, which is fine, it’s brilliant, and I’m all for that and we’re going to have an AI component patched on eventually for interviewing, but what we’re saying is instead of the human recruiters going out and finding and interviewing candidates – and instead of you and the employer going on and posting a job post on LinkedIn and getting 1,000 job applicants on there and paying for that job post – come on to our platform, use a freelance recruiter, get three or four CVs that are suited for you for that position, and choose the fee you are willing to pay, which your budget has.

That is so much cheaper than using a recruitment company, because these are freelancers; guys that can put in the cost as they decide. Like I said, we’ve got recruitment down to 5-6 percent. The AI in the background can scan and select CVs and do initial interviews – I know some platforms doing that. But when it comes down to it, what are you paying for? You still need someone to speak to this person and get through. Instead of doing all that, these [freelancers] are speaking to the right people, getting you two or three candidates instead of using AI at that late stage in recruitment.

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