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Cheap groceries and workout videos: UK startup Perkbox expands to Queensland to help SMEs attract top talent

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Perkbox founders

Perkbox co-founders Chieu Cao and Saurav Chopra. Source: supplied.

UK employee perks platform Perkbox is broadening its footprint in the Aussie market, rolling out in Queensland after a successful Sydney launch. And, according to co-founder and chief executive Saurav Chopra, the startup’s adventure Down Under is only just beginning.

First founded in London in 2014, Perkbox is an employee experience platform designed to “help employers help employees live better”, Chopra tells StartupSmart.

The platform is one-stop-shop for managing employee feedback and insights, and also allows employers to offer their workers ‘perks’, such as discounts on groceries and fuel and access to fitness and cooking videos.

Its intended to help employers stay in line with the changing nature of the workplace — whereby people are not simply looking for salaries, but for a company that shows it cares about them on a personal level too.

The startup specifically targets the “underserved market of SMEs and mid-market customers”, Chopra explains.

“Most enterprises and large corporate customers have lots of things to attract talent,” he adds.

SMEs and mid-market employers, which account for about 98% of all businesses, and are responsible for driving a significant amount of GDP, “traditionally lack the cost effective tools and platforms that can help them deliver a good employee experience,” argues Chopra.

By offering businesses an easy way to themselves offer perks and discounts for their employees, Perkbox strives to help SMEs stay competitive in attracting, and retaining, talent.

“People don’t necessarily want more money,” Chopra says

“It’s more about recognising them and celebrating their achievements.”

More than lip service

Having been up and running in the UK market for almost five years now, Perkbox is forecasting total revenues of about £60 million ($112.5 million) in the 2019 financial year.

While most of that revenue is coming from the UK business, the startup’s Aussie arm is “absolutely booming”, says Chopra.

The two-person initial team has grown to 20, and within the next six months, the founder predicts the startup will be up and running in all major Australian cities.

“Our ramp up is much much faster in Australia than we saw in the UK,” he says.

For Perkbox, it was “the natural thing” to expand into countries that are similar to the UK, both in terms of the distribution of SMEs compared to corporates, and in terms of culture.

But there was a third factor too — Chopra was looking for a region with a strong focus on culture and employee wellbeing.

In Australia, “it’s not just about lip service”, he says.

“There was very clear feedback that this is a work culture where people generally encourage work-life balance and care about their employees’ wellbeing.”

At the same time, there’s a talent shortage here, and so companies are motivated to do anything they can to attract strong talent, and keep them motivated for as long as possible.

“We’re seeing already, attracting great talent is hard anywhere, but it’s even harder in Australia”, he says.

From the mothership

Having taken his startup from the UK to Australia, Chopra has some tips for others thinking about expansion on an international scale.

First and foremost, he stresses the importance of nailing product-market fit.

The Perkbox team spent “a fair bit of time” making sure they understood the Sydney market, and where their product sat within it, “which helped us reposition the product”, explains Chopra.

That included identifying those things that worked in the UK but might not translate.

“Sometimes people see growth and think the only way to grow is to grow rapidly — that’s not necessarily the right method,” he says.

“You have to get that product-market fit right before you scale.”

Finally, Chopra is predictably focused on culture.

It’s important to bring good people on board in the earliest days of your startup, and just as important to have the right people heading up your expansion.

“The most important asset to manage is the people that you have to help you launch in those market,” he says.

Those will likely be early hires, who are fully aligned with the startup’s mission and values. Perkbox’s country manager for Australia, Ben Leeds, has been with the business “from day one”, Chopra says.

“The first people who go there should come from the mothership,” he adds.

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].