SUMIR MEGHANI, CEO OF INSTAWORK - INTERVIEW WITH WBM TOP 100 INNOVATION CEO
Sumir Meghani, Co-founder and CEO of Instawork has been selected by the Judges of World Biz Magazine's Annual Awards to be a recipient of the Top 100 CEOs in Innovation Award 2022. This selection follows a stringent process that evaluated over 40,000 nominees to select the exclusive list of 100 winners. Charles Brown will appear in the Top 10 of the 100 winners.
Sumir Meghani is the Co-Founder and CEO of Instawork, the leading flexible staffing platform that connects local businesses with a network of more than 1.5 million hourly workers. Sumir’s expertise on the evolving labor market has been leveraged by leading industry conferences and has been featured on CNBC, Fortune, The New York Times, Washington Post, CBS News, and more.
During Sumir’s time at Groupon, he regularly met with local businesses and the same conversations surfaced about how challenges in finding quality workers could cripple their business.
He co-founded Instawork to solve staffing shortages for local businesses and support skilled hourly workers, creating economic opportunities in a number of industries, including food and
beverage, hospitality, retail, and warehouse logistics in more than 25 cities across the country.
Instawork was named a “Top Business App” by Business Insider and one of the “Best Apps of the Summer” in 2021. Instawork was also recently named one of Built In’s 2022 Best Midsize Companies to work for in the Bay Area and a Top Workplace by Energage.
Sumir is an accomplished speaker on topics and trends related to the hourly workforce, including future of work trends, changes in labor supply and demand, and developing growth opportunities for skilled workers. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Business School.
Share with us about some of Instawork's recent key successes.
Instawork’s mission is to create economic opportunities for local businesses and professionals––a mission that has never been more important. Businesses across numerous industries continue to struggle with finding the adequate staffing necessary to meet the increased customer demand, as the nation begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Instawork is a force multiplier in helping businesses recover more quickly as it connects them with skilled hourly professionals looking to get back to work.
The past two years has been one of exponential growth for Instawork, achieving 8X growth. Since August 2021, Instawork has seen a 48% increase in new workers using the app and a 37% increase in businesses leveraging the platform to address their staffing needs. The app had over 100,000 new users in just six weeks.
Instawork has built a rich database of the hourly professional universe including historical employment, certifications, education, training, personal/professional connections, and dozens of other relevant data points. Using predictive algorithms with machine learning, Instawork is able to identify the best Professionals (Pros) and on-board them seamlessly and quickly into the platform. This creates a non-biased, fair, and fast experience for Pros to get access to shifts that will increase their earning opportunities and also ensure our business partners (Partners) experience great outcomes.
Instawork’s key aspect of flexibility also ensures Pros don’t fall into the typical 50% no-show rate. Pros are encouraged and inspired to utilize and further their experience and skill sets to connect with businesses that need their expertise.
Instawork’s business has accelerated dramatically over the past 15 months as it adapted to the significant labor market shifts created by COVID-19, quickly expanding its marketplace to help address an imbalance of labor supply and demand. Instawork currently supports a number of industries, including food and beverage, hospitality, retail, and warehouse logistics. Active Instawork Pros across the U.S. create a profile, find a shift that matches their skills and interests, and often start working in under 24 hours. Shifts available via Instawork have grown 8X in less than two years, with thousands of new Pros building profiles in its marketplace each day.
Under my leadership, Instawork announced a $60 million Series C financing to accelerate its support of a number of industries, including food and beverage, hospitality, retail, and warehouse logistics, bringing total funding to $100 million. The new funding will allow Instawork to continue rapidly expanding into new markets, job categories, and industries, while also investing in more training and development initiatives to help hourly professionals advance their careers.
"For the most part, legacy staffing solutions fall into two buckets: staffing agencies and web-based job boards that look to attract job seekers. The former lacks the advanced technology necessary to scale, and the latter lacks the flexibility and human touch to ensure jobs are filled with high-quality professionals with the right experience for each opportunity. Instawork is bridging the gap between these two models by integrating its technology with its service teams for better, more consistent work outcomes."
Share some insight into the importance of innovation at Instawork.
Instawork is fundamentally unique in that it combines high-tech with a high-touch approach for convenience, quality, and reliable staffing that both companies and professionals can rely on. The platform seamlessly matches workers with the most number of open shifts aligning with their skill sets, schedules, and level of safety comfortability. Now more than ever before, work flexibility is crucial for workers in the world’s new hybrid landscape, as individuals seek additional revenue streams, work that fits around parent-child remote school schedules, and location flexibility.
For the most part, legacy staffing solutions fall into two buckets: staffing agencies and web-based job boards that look to attract job seekers. The former lacks the advanced technology necessary to scale, and the latter lacks the flexibility and human touch to ensure jobs are filled with high-quality professionals with the right experience for each opportunity. Instawork is bridging the gap between these two models by integrating its technology with its service teams for better, more consistent work outcomes.
Through Instawork, Pros can easily register to share their unique work experience and skills, and access a variety of available short-term and long-term job opportunities that match their qualifications, interests, and schedules. The platform provides insight into each opportunity, including workplace reviews and hourly pay. Businesses that rely on Instawork Pros range from nationally-recognized organizations, such as Marriott and Sun Basket, to retailers seeing massive supply chain disruption and local hospitality businesses that need to staff service roles quickly. These businesses are consistently matched with reliable Pros to fill available shifts and deliver valuable services.
An ongoing priority for Instawork in 2021 and 2022 is the health and safety of our Pros, Partners, and the broader communities we serve. This has resulted in the integration of extensive health and safety protocols such as contact tracing, especially amid the ongoing and continuously fluctuating COVID-19 pandemic. Instawork seeks to prioritize worker support with programs such as shift leads, open forums for Pros to swap advice on specific jobs, in-app training modules on warehouse skills, and the ability to seamlessly switch shifts. Ultimately, Instawork listens to Pros collectively on the platform and seeks to put the worker first and in control of their own participation in the workforce.
Instawork is also all about choice, enabling Pros to work as much or as little as they’d like, while enjoying the flexibility of choosing jobs that best suit their schedules, skills, and needs. Many Instawork Pros already have full-time “day jobs,” and are looking to supplement their income while potentially sharpening important skills and/or learning new ones.
While the gig economy and COVID-19 has brought attention to the value of flexible work environments and remote employment, it has also shined a light on what hourly professionals are looking for: job flexibility, work/life balance, and career growth. Instawork is leading the industry by providing these workers the opportunity to work on their terms so they can better care for their families while also continuing to develop professional skill sets and experience. Instawork Pros also have the opportunity to have an impact on their work environment as well as dynamic pricing tied to peak days or more demanding jobs.
Instawork has been spearheading the staffing of various industries, offering workers flexible open shifts with wages ranging from 30%-118% higher than state minimum wages, allowing them to earn wages that are better reflective of their experience. Many Instawork Pros work enough shifts to be the equivalent of a full-time job (some earning upwards of $50-$60k annually or more), and many Pros have stated that income through Instawork has allowed them to spend invaluable quality time with their families while increasing their economic opportunities.
"Ease of use and the ability to immediately see desired outcomes are two of the most important aspects of our digital marketplace for both our Pros and Partners. A business can easily become an Instawork Partner and quickly find the workers they need for anything from an evening seating at a restaurant to a large multi-day event."
How does Instawork stand out in the marketplace?
Ease of use and the ability to immediately see desired outcomes are two of the most important aspects of our digital marketplace for both our Pros and Partners. A business can easily become an Instawork Partner and quickly find the workers they need for anything from an evening seating at a restaurant to a large multi-day event.
The ability of our customers to trust in our product is paramount. Through Instawork, they know the workers that arrive to a shift are ready to work, dressed appropriately, and have the necessary skills to perform as expected. Instawork Pros are rated based on their performance at other previous jobs, eliminating concerns for our Partners that staff will be late, won’t show, or won’t be properly prepared for their shift.
Instawork uses a two-way rating system between our Pros and Partners, allowing them to rate their experiences. On average, our Pros have a 4.3 star rating (out of 5), and our Partners have achieved a 4.7 star rating (also out of 5). These ratings combined with the quality and reliability of Pros filling shifts have led to our Partners experiencing increased revenue, with some exceeding their annual revenue goals in just a few months. This is a relief for many business owners working to recover from the devastation of COVID-19, particularly in hospitality.
Both Pros and the businesses we partner with have expressed appreciation for the impact Instawork has had in increasing economic opportunities, especially after such a turbulent two years. One business shared how Instawork has helped meet and exceed their financial goals for the year:
"With Instawork, we had the staff to meet our yearly revenue goals in 2.5 months. Many days the majority of the staff scheduled is from Instawork. In fact, they’re the ones training our full-time staff! I am grateful and would not be able to run this operation without your team.” - east coast business.
Pros also frequently comment on how Instawork has provided them opportunities to increase their income:
“This app allows you to create your own flexible schedule for the week that fits your availability, and still bring home a paycheck equivalent to a 40 hr full time employee with the benefit of working in different locations!! With this app, I can also see days of work in advance! Such a great app for those who lack full time childcare, single parents, part time students, or anyone just looking to make a few side bucks!!” - iOS app review, August 17, 2021
“I just got this app but i’ve already been pleasantly surprised with the amount available! There are many opportunities within this app and it’s perfect for young growing professionals whose ideal work has a flexible schedule, a platform to network on, and a sense of independence!” - iOS app review, August 16, 2021
“Since I already have a part-time job, I was looking for something that could bring me a little extra cash every now and then. I love how easy it is to book a gig. The process of signing up isn’t confusing or complicated and the app works great for my iPhone. I like it.” - iOS app review, August 15, 2021
Share with us some details about Instawork's CSR initiatives.
Our mission to create economic opportunity for businesses and skilled hourly professionals is evident in almost every aspect of our company. All-hands meetings begin with a reminder of our impact on local communities by reviewing stories from local businesses and workers who use the app. Employees are also encouraged to pick up shifts in order to gain insight into the experience of Instaworkers. The team takes pride in knowing our work has a direct impact on the success of local businesses and the surrounding communities.
"Instawork’s fill rates are the best in the industry, with the vast majority of worker matches happening within 24 hours. This speed of shift fulfillment combined with the quality of more than one million Instawork Pros is better than businesses can find anywhere else on the market."
What improvements do you envision for your industry?
Food and beverage and hospitality industries were hit the hardest by COVID-19, with businesses closing and furloughing the majority of their staff. As of the July 2021 labor report, hospitality was still down 1.7 million jobs, with evidence pointing to a large number of hospitality workers leaving the industry altogether. These industries are forced to rethink how they staff their businesses, especially when restaurants are reporting that pre-COVID, they would receive hundreds of applicants for an open position, now during the ongoing pandemic, they may receive one or two applicants at most. With slim margins and increased customer demand, businesses are struggling to successfully navigate this “new normal.” In order for hospitality to fully return to normal, the industry will need to meet new expectations from skilled workers in the field and better leverage the power of technology to ensure they fill their open shifts and meet increased demand.
Ecommerce and light-industrial businesses are set to exceed growth projections in 2022 as consumers still rely heavily on product and food delivery to their homes, especially with COVID variants fueling continued consumer caution. These businesses need increased staffing at unpredictable rates, depending on daily demand. Instawork enable these businesses to scale their staffing needs quickly. If they experience an uptick in orders, Instawork quickly connects them with skilled hourly professionals looking for steady shifts, allowing them to easily grab shifts as they become available.
Instawork’s fill rates are the best in the industry, with the vast majority of worker matches happening within 24 hours. This speed of shift fulfillment combined with the quality of more than one million Instawork Pros is better than businesses can find anywhere else on the market.
The pandemic has provided businesses with the unique opportunity to re-evaluate their staffing strategy in order to best attract and retain skilled and reliable workers. Businesses need to balance their operational needs with the new desires for flexibility, higher wages, and career growth of the hourly workforce. Instawork’s vision of the future of work has revolutionized how our Partners find staff for their businesses while managing new worker expectations, providing businesses with peace of mind knowing they can easily staff their events and dial up or down their staffing based on their unique needs.
What makes a good leader?
Under Sumir’s leadership, Instawork utilizes a well known strategy from General McCrystal’s Team of Teams called empowered execution. This ability allows every team member across the organization to act with authority, enabling them to take action without approval. They joined the team because we think they have the right experience and skillset to take the organization to the next level, so we empower them to act accordingly. When employees are given this freedom, they are more careful about making the right decision and take pride and responsibility in the outcomes. This is particularly important as startup culture doesn’t typically have a longstanding playbook to follow for success, you are often evolving as the organization and team scale.
A good leader is humble and humility is a key component of our team’s success. Everyone is readily available and accessible, including our Co-founder and CEO. He meets with every new hire that joins the team and offers his personal contact information to ensure he can easily be reached, encouraging everyone to shoot him a text with great new ideas, ways to improve upon a process, or the latest score of his beloved Detroit sports teams.
Mentorship is another quality of a good leader that has contributed to our rapid growth. We encourage all team members to find a mentor they can meet with regularly and that can help them grow and challenge them to constantly think bolder and bigger. Our CEO serves as a mentor to a number of members of our team. We are privileged to have some of the brightest minds in the business as part of our Board of Directors, network of advisors, or part of our team directly. If someone doesn’t have a mentor they can go to for advice, managers and other Instawork leaders will work to connect team members with industry experts that can serve as a great resource and mentor for additional coaching during their tenure with the company.
About Instawork - Flexible staffing for today's local workforce
Instawork is the leading flexible staffing solution for local, hourly professionals. Its digital marketplace connects businesses and qualified professionals across the U.S., filling a critical role in local economies.
For more information about Instawork, visit: instawork.com