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#4 Behind the Screens: Driving digital transformation and raising the bar for background screening in India

In this post, we interview HireRight's General Manager for India, Marcel Solomon, about his experience in the background screening industry, how the screening market is evolving in India, and why he is so proud of his team.

September 16, 2020

#BehindTheScreens in India

Welcome to the fourth article in the #BehindTheScreens series, where we delve into another story from the colourful APAC region that we call home.

Marcellus Solomon was introduced to the world of background screening in 2012 and continues in his mission to drive the industry forward by looking for new ways to elevate the process and quality of background checks in India. Better known as Marcel by his team, he is the Regional General Manager of HireRight India. In this article, Marcel shares more on how screening is done in one of APAC’s largest, most diverse, and fast-growing markets, as well as how he sees it transforming in the future.

Part 1: The story behind the screens

Why did you decide to pursue a career in this industry?

I first became acquainted with background screening in my previous job, where I was responsible for setting up their drug testing business in India. My business partners were background screening providers and after multiple interactions, I came to understand and appreciate the purpose behind screening in such a big and complex market like India. So, when a job opportunity came up with a global background screening company in 2012, I immediately accepted it. Eight years have gone by in a flash, and today, I lead the background screening business at HireRight India. This job brings me a lot of satisfaction, especially as we continue to see the benefits we bring to India’s business landscape. We help companies run screening programmes that not only verify candidate information, but also serve as an extension of their company culture, demonstrating their brand values to attract top talent.

With India driving towards its ambitious $5 trillion economy target for 2024 – 25, businesses and industries within the country will only continue to grow rapidly. As companies expand and look for quality hires to remain competitive in the burgeoning economy, they will need background check services to reduce hiring risks and to help build a culture of trust within their growing companies. There is no doubt that the background screening industry will also evolve alongside the country’s economic advancement. Our team in India is focused on driving this change and raising the bar from our Bangalore office.

 India team at strategy meeting, December 2019

Part 2: Going the extra mile to establish an elevated screening culture in India

What makes background screening in India so different compared to the rest of APAC?

Most people know that India is big – it’s the second-largest country in not only APAC but also the world, but not as many people know just how dynamic the market is. We have over 1.3 billion people dispersed across 28 different states and several thousand ethnic groups that practice different traditions and customs. Language-wise, we have hundreds of them! It’s amazing living in a country with so much culture – but it also makes the screening process a lot more complex.

Background screening processes in India can be laborious as most records are yet to be digitised, meaning checks have to be conducted manually. For example, to run address verification checks, we will have to pay visits to houses physically to verify addresses. This can be time-consuming given India’s sheer size. As such, turnaround times (TAT) in India can be considerably longer than in other APAC markets, as there is a lot of groundwork that needs to be done in a country as big as ours.

With India being the world’s fifth-largest economy in 2019 and also one of the fastest-growing countries due to its booming gig economy, we can also expect an increase in the number of companies looking for background screening services alongside increasing talent needs. This means we need to find ways to evolve processes to meet the needs of this growth efficiently – for example we invest in technology to further automate the background screening process to shorten TAT and improve the user experience.

How would you say background screening has evolved in your market since the start of your career?

Well, first and foremost, the idea of what a background check entails has greatly shifted from a simple professional and personal reference check to advanced and detailed verifications.

In the past, companies either had no screening processes in place for hires or would conduct simple checks undertaken by the HR team. New hires would just have to share two work references and one personal reference. More than a decade ago, companies had thought that these checks were sufficient. Now, companies have added other checks to their lists, such as ID, address, and criminal record history, widening the breadth of what a thorough background screening should entail. Businesses and industries in India have scaled-up, incorporating global enterprise best practices into their HR and screening programmes.

Customers’ attitudes are also changing. Background screening for a huge proportion of companies in India has become more than just for compliance purposes, but also a way to make the right impression, qualifying and attracting the best quality candidates.

Another key driver for screening in India was the prevalence of inflated resumes. With a hyper-competitive employment landscape, it is all about the survival of the fittest, where everyone wants to have an edge in the selection process. This highlights the importance of working with a trusted screening provider who can provide robust and comprehensive background checks and check out employment and education claims; minimising risks to companies as they can be assured they know who they are hiring.

Part 3: The future of screening in India

Which factors do you think are going to have the biggest impact on the future of background screening in India?

There are three main trends to look out for that will impact the future of background screening in the country, namely the Personal Data Protection Bill proposed in December 2019, digitisation, and the impact of Covid-19 on how we live and work.

In today’s increasingly digitised world, the need to protect citizen’s data has grown in importance. The Indian government updated the Personal Data Protection Bill in December 2019, following the first draft in July 2018, moving one step closer to implementing a framework for data management practices and pushing organisations to operate while ensuring compliance. The background screening industry in India will also be influenced accordingly, with checks being conducted within the new legal requirements.

The next trend impacting the future of screening is nation-wide digitisation projects such as data digitisation in the education sector and the introduction of DigiLocker by the government. As mentioned before, Indian records such as education, employment, and addresses are yet to be digitised. The pandemic highlighted the need to evolve the current background screening practices that largely rely on manual checks – as these presented a huge challenge during lockdown. Technology will definitely play a crucial role in closing this gap and elevating the industry’s process to navigating a complex market like India.

The pandemic has also resulted in making “working from home” the new norm, resulting in long-term effects on hiring processes and the associated risks, i.e. appropriate controls, can be a challenge to put in place. As the economy continues to grow and Indian companies provide increasing consulting, outsourcing, and other shared services to the world, it is more important than ever to have independent verification of the qualifications of the hires through background screening, to minimise risk and protect brand reputation.

What are you most proud of when you look at the business today?

Definitely our team and how much we have achieved in this market in such a short time! HireRight’s presence in India has grown rapidly – and with our continuous investment, we have found so many new ways to implement best practice and advance industry standards for background screening in India. We’re known for our level of service – our customers trust that we will always go the (literal) extra mile for them and this is something we want to continue to uphold.

As the benefits of background screening become more evident, we predict that screening adoption in India will increase. We are already seeing a steady rise in background checks outside of the traditionally regulated industries like IT and Banking, such as transportation, manufacturing, and small and medium enterprises.

It is so exciting to think about the opportunities that lie ahead for this market, and we look forward to elevating the background screening experience as it goes from strength to strength alongside India’s economy.

hireright-india-team-2019India team at cricket game, December 2019

About Marcellus Solomon

Marcellus is the General Manager for India, responsible for building a local service delivery model, enhancing customer relationships, and driving HireRight’s growth in India. Having spent more than a decade in various leadership roles, Marcellus’ strong understanding and knowledge of the local market plays a crucial role in mapping out HireRight’s development and growth across India. Read his full bio here.

To learn more about background screening in India, or to get answers for specific questions regarding your business needs, visit the contact us page.

More from #BehindTheScreens series

This article is part of the #BehindTheScreens series which explores the diverse nuances to consider for effective background screening in Asia Pacific. For more stories by the people powering the process, click here.

Release Date: September 16, 2020

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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.