Dec 02 2021

“Employee Experience” focus powers Darwinbox into Gartner Magic Quadrant

“Darwinbox debuts on Gartner Magic Quadrant, making it the youngest entrant and the only one to emerge from Asia.”

by  Sriram Iyer, Founder & CEO, hrtech.sg

Darwinbox makes its debut into Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Cloud HCM suites for 1000+ employee Enterprises, making Darwinbox the youngest entrant to the Gartner MQ since its inception in 2016. In fact, Darwinbox is also the only Asian-origin player that currently sits on the Quadrant and even retains its position as the best-rated solution by customers on Gartner Peer Insights platform with an average rating of 4.8.

In my discussion with Chaitanya Peddi, Co-founder and Product Head at Darwinbox, he speaks about the company's growth so far, and its debut in the Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ)

Chaitanya Peddi, a true subject matter expert of both HR and Technology, heads Product & Engineering at Darwinbox. His years of experience as an HR consultant has empowered him to understand the specific needs of the HR Tech market and build a world-class product that not only optimally automates and simplifies HR processes for enterprises but also enables HR to be a game-changing strategic function. An XLRI alumnus, prior to Darwinbox, Chaitanya worked as an HR consultant with Ernst & Young and consulted global firms on organization design and performance management. Having worked in product development at Verizon and combined with his consulting experience, Chaitanya commands a rare vantage point in the HR tech space.

Here are the excerpts from the Q&A session that I had with Chaitanya recently.


In the post-pandemic workplace, what are the key drivers of digital transformation?
Chaitanya: Digital transformation had already started to show its presence in the pre-pandemic world of work. If anything, the COVID outbreak brought about its massive adoption at scale. Be it companies pivoting to digital workplaces or organisations investing in employee upskilling, it fast-tracked virtually everything. In a way, the pandemic caused a real breakthrough for all things technology. 

In the post-pandemic workplace, the key drivers for this quick jump continue to be our need to stay connected and to make the workforce more productive and efficient, but it’s the increased focus on ‘experience’ that is fueling the digital transformation that we see today. Be it Employee Experience (EX), Customer Experience (CX) or User Experience (UX), organizations are prioritizing ‘experience’ across all areas of the business. Overall, users, be it employees or customers, are in the driver’s seat and they demand experiences based on their preferences and behaviors. Technology, which has made data-driven insights into the latter reality, lends a competitive advantage to companies too. 

Speaking of EX specifically, with movements like The Great Resignation taking the world by storm, it is quite evident that employees are looking for more than a transactional relationship with their employers and co-workers. Organizations need to embed the experience in the flow of work. This means identifying moments of truth for an employee along the entire lifecycle and creating meaningful experiences that speak to them on a holistic level. In fact, the improvement of employee experience is a critical factor in the org’s success because the better the EX, the happier is the team. And happier employees are more productive, more committed and create better customer experiences as well. 


What are some of the key trends that you are witnessing in the HCM space, both globally and in APAC?
Chaitanya: In APAC, and in fact, on the global level too, we are seeing a similar kind of trend take over.  Be it day-to-day collaboration and communication, career development and growth, engagement and wellness, the workforce is looking up to HR to support them. They are looking for a holistic ‘employee life experience’, not just employee experience. And this trend will continue in the times to come too with employees wanting easy access to work, workforce, and workplace, wanting it in real-time, wanting it flexible, and wanting it NOW. Employees are empowered more than ever before and are ready to walk out if they aren’t offered these things. 

So, from an organizational POV, the key trends are inclined highly towards providing employees with that core employee life experience that helps them realize that they are taken care of, they are a part of a culture, their talents are recognized, and their skills are developed. This translates into a lot of innovation at the technology level. AI and ML, which have been a cornerstone of digital transformation, will have a key role to play in HR as organizations lean into it further for personalized experiences, predictive insights, increased automation and efficiency across a range of activities.

Another trend that will continue to gain steam in the coming months is Self-service Delivery as democratization of HR becomes a must-have for businesses. Not only managers, but employee empowerment through ESS tools will find adoption at scale. Given the changing user expectations on ‘seamless experience’, deep embeddedness of tools and tech in the flow of work will become mainstream. From a technical standpoint, interaction between the HR core and the smart service delivery layer (Workflows, Tasks, Forms and Surveys, Helpdesk, Notifications, etc.) will solve day-to-day business use cases. Marketplaces, wherein cloud providers can create and publish extensions to HRMS, for enterprises to have a plethora of extensions to hand pick and choose basis on the business requirements from will find wide adoption too.


Gartner MQ report draws attention to Darwinbox's Technology Foundation as one of its key strengths. How has technology proved to be your key differentiating factor?
Chaitanya: Oh, absolutely. I’d say our focus on everything being simplified to everything being optimized has led us not just keep up but stay ahead of the trends in technology. Since our inception, we have provided our users a seamless UX, comprehensive range of features, business intelligence through data and analytics, along with smooth integrations with third-party applications.

To give you an example, we identified early on that there was a gap between work apps and daily-use apps. Enterprise tools had a reputation of being unengaging and complex to use. As the only enterprise software that touches every employee in an organization, all the way from the boardroom to the shopfloor, we built Darwinbox (HRMS) to be mobile-first with a consumer-grade experience. Gartner recently recognized us on its Magic Quadrant for HCM suites for 1000+ Employee Enterprises with a special mention for our lightweight mobile application.

Further along, introducing something so intuitive and convenient as a voicebot, integrating with Whatsapp for higher adoption, and something so topical like Touch-free Attendance with geolocation and facial recognition technology during COVID-19—we’re proud to boast some of the first for the industry. These are the kind of ideas that we love bringing to fruition. 

I would say that our technical foundation and its effective technical execution has always kept us future-ready and a class apart from the rest.


Darwinbox has retained its position as the best-rated solution by customers on Gartner Peer Insights platform with an average rating of 4.8. What is the secret sauce?

Chaitanya: I wouldn’t say there is so much a secret sauce as there is a constant effort to do right by our customers—all 600+ of them with over 1.3mn users worldwide! All our greatest ventures to make improvements and enhancements to Darwinbox have been grounded in this very principle. Today, the principle has evolved into a model we've implemented in making countless critical decisions; an outstanding number of which have yielded great results and have proven critical to us being here today.

Along with building innovations and advancing existing features on the platform, we have focused on technology adoption as part of our core DNA. It is important to us that the users get the most out of their experience using the application and we believe that our healthy adoption stats are a strong precursor to superior value realization and better ROI.

Gartner picked up on it too and quoted “good value, compared to other vendors in this magic quadrant”, in the MQ report.


What is next for Darwinbox as a product? Does Darwinbox have aspirations to go beyond the Asia Pacific?
Chaitanya: We have some grand plans for the future.

We have bolstered our focus on effective use of AI and ML in HR with a newly assembled specialist team, alongside multiple infrastructural investments, who are constantly at work identifying opportunities and innovating on how to better leverage data across employee lifecycle to enable better decision making and to deliver more personalized employee experience (EX) at scale. Further, leveraging Machine Learning and AI to curate a robust ontology-based skills cloud with industry-specific layers will help organizations to assess skill gaps better, enable smarter choices in internal mobility and benchmark more accurately and, as a result, recommend personalized learning and development experiences.  

We would be working on making data more democratised by allowing users to view and access data for their span such as Managers accessing Talent One-View for their direct and indirect reporting span. We believe that this will help people get a bird's eye view of information and make operations easier to perform.

We are continually investing in making the platform more secure and compliant to several global data security, localization and regulation requirements. Additionally, we have recently added senior leaders to the Design and UX team and are investing in building out more capability within the team. Our aspiration, overall, is to create a platform that enables HR to be truly strategic, employees to be engaged, and organisations to be successful. The Asia Pacific or beyond then is just a geographical attribute. 

Sriram Iyer is a Human Resources practitioner with around two decades of experience in the areas of HR Technology, Workforce Planning & Strategy, Talent Supply Chain, Employee Engagement, Talent Branding and Acquisition & Client Management. Based in Singapore since Jan 2012, he has strong exposure to the JAPAC region and has a knowledge of the cultural nuances of the region. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, he has also played leadership roles with NCS (Singtel Group Enterprise) and Nasdaq-listed Cognizant Technology Solutions in Singapore, running large scale talent initiatives across regions. He is a proud alumnus of National University of Singapore (Singapore) and Symbiosis Institute of International Business (India).

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