It is that time of the year again when students are busy focussing and deciding on what course their life and their career will be taking. For many, unfortunately, the task isn’t that easy or simple. It is, in fact, one of the biggest paint points for millions of students and their parents across India.
Having lived through this problem and finding the solution in a mentor, Prateek Bhargava, and his mentor and career coach, Prikshit Dhanda, started MINDLER in July last year.
A Delhi-based startup, MINDLER works as a technology-enabled eco-system for career planning, development, and mentoring of school students in the eighth and 12th grades. The platform blends artificial intelligence and machine learning with strategic human interventions to help students and parents choose the ideal career path.
“Prikshit and I have literally lived the career guidance model and have had the perfect mentor-mentee relationship for the past 15 years now. We believe that having the right career advice at the right time can be a defining moment in one’s life,” says 29-year old Prateek.
The duo had also observed that choosing and pursuing the right career is one of the biggest pain points for parents and millions of students across the country. Career decisions in most households are largely driven or influenced by parents, relatives, and teachers.
Today, however, with increasing career options, high competition and increasing complexity, parents and students face a huge challenge when it comes to finalising and pursuing a career. After recognising and researching these issues, Prikshit and Prateek conceptualised MINDLER to offer a holistic programme to students to facilitate their career decision-making process.
Building a multi-dimensional platform
The platform follows a five-step multi-dimensional career assessment battery, which has an algorithm-driven, semi-automated career planner, tracker, and course correction mechanism. Prateek adds that it is a scientifically advanced process that has been developed with the expertise of psychometricians, career experts, counsellors, and industry experts.
“Enabled with strong research-based tools, our team of experts provide students proper guidance and counselling at each step. The experts track the student’s entire journey through monthly and quarterly interventions to undertake necessary course corrections,” says Prateek.
Further, to help students get advice in a more personalised way, MINDLER has also developed a Mentor Connect App, which connects students to mentors from premier colleges across the country.
Prateek adds that they decided to build on this platform to answer the question - How do we reach millions of students across the country who have this need? The answer he says lay in a well-researched and technology-enabled platform that could semi-automate the counselling experience.
The team found ways to reduce human bias in the decision-making process and, in effect, made human interventions in the process more informed and empowered.
MINDLER starts with a scientific assessment of the student’s profile, which evaluates each student on over 56 dimensions, and generates career recommendations that fit the student’s style, interest, personality, aptitude, and emotional quotient.
The entire model is designed to expose students to the kind of career opportunities they can aim for and to increase their awareness levels about the opportunities at their disposal.
This is then followed by activity-based expert sessions where career experts help students in the most unbiased manner. Armed with research and technology, the career experts help students design their detailed career plan.
In the next step, the experts help students track their entire career journey through regular interventions. Career paths are dynamic and our experts collaborate and assist students at every step.
Breaking the barriers
One of the biggest challenges when setting up MINDLER was executing the mammoth research the team had planned. The process, which involved collaborating with different stakeholders such as schools, students, career experts, industry experts, academicians, psychologists, psychometricians, and advisors was also a key challenge.
However, the team that they have built has all the required networks, which has allowed them to ace this challenge. “We surpassed our internal targets and collected over 4.8 million data points from over 10,000 students across the country,” says Prateek.
Moreover, to offer real-time assistance, MINDLER also offers India’s first mentor connect app, which allows students to connect with mentors from premier colleges across the country. The app, which works in a gamified environment also empowers mentors to gain leadership experience and guide students in the most unbiased manner.
The team of experts
The core management team of MINDLER comprises professionals from premier institutes like IIT, ISB, Harvard University, and leading psychologists and psychometricians. The board of advisors include global and national authorities on their respective subjects, and industry experts.
Prateek, CEO, MINDLER, holds a double MBA from ISB Hyderabad in Finance, Strategy, and Leadership and MDI Gurgaon in Human Resource Management. He has over eight years of experience in the domain of strategy consulting, business strategy, and education.
Strategy officer Prikshit has professional training from Harvard University, and is an experienced MBTI and FIRO-B professional, IPR specialist, and recognised career counsellor and coach. He has mentored and trained over 500,000 students across the country.
Savinay Patlolla, CTO, is an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, and has over four years of experience in the education technology space, and has mentored and trained students for engineering and medicine programmes. Rohan Gulati, CPO, is an MBA from Monash University and leads the design and product development side of the business. He has over seven years of experience in the education space.
The team also has Prof. Dr NK Chadha, the Chief Psychometrician, who is a pioneer in the field of Psychometrics in India, and is the President of Indian Career Development Association and President Elect, Asia Pacific Career Development Association.
Testing the market
Currently, over 10,000 students have adopted MINDLER assessment across the country. “Post completing and validating our findings, we made our entire online platform live for schools and students in April this year,” says Prateek.
MINDLER earns its revenue model via B2B – sales through schools and institutions; and B2C – sales directly to parents and students through online channels and through strategic partnerships with players in the education sector. The team works on a per-student revenue model.
Over the last one month, multiple schools piloted the product offerings, and the team is now in talks to integrate the same in the school eco-system.
A survey by the Government stated that close to 23 crore children are studying in close to 13 lakh schools across India. In 2013, there was a 13.67 percent growth in student enrolment from Classes 1- 12. According to an IBEF report, the Indian higher education system is one the largest in the world with over 70 million students enrolling in less than 20 years.
While platforms like Simplilearn, UpGrad, and Greatlearning are working towards skill training and development, over the past few years, the need for career counselling tools and platforms is fast growing. The other platforms that help in career assessment and planning are iDreamCareer, mapmytalent, and nurturemytalent.
Funding and future
MINDLER started with a seed funding of $150,000, and have also received a grant from CIIE at IIM Ahmedabad and Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. The team plans to raise $1 million and are in discussion with investors.
“We plan to utilise the funds towards creating awareness about our product, strengthening the entire technological set up, and augmenting our manpower resources,” says Prateek.
The team plans to convert their assessments and product offerings into multiple languages so that every section of society can get access to our career planning tools, products, and services. This will enable MINDLER to reach out to those sections of society where the demand is still in a latent stage.
“We are also developing a product offering, which will be designed for students at the graduate and professional levels. This will increase our addressable market base exponentially,” says Prateek.