When it has become the norm to whip out our phones to check online reviews for everything—be it for a new restaurant or the latest Bluetooth speakers, the process for college search and discovery is still done the traditional way. Youngsters whittle down their list of colleges to apply to from magazine rankings or from what their peers are saying. They spend hours on end doing research work, making the whole process tiresome and time-consuming.
Hardik Thakkar and Upneet Grover found themselves in this exact situation when they were looking to pursue their post-graduate degrees. Friends since their days in Infosys, the duo would always discuss ideas and were sure that they wanted to start a company together.
In June 2014, they finally decided that they needed to start something that worked as a social college search platform. They launched Getmyuni last February to help students choose the right college through exhaustive reviews and peer ratings, engaging forums and alumni connect.
Bringing in the peer connect
While choosing colleges for their PG, both Hardik and Upneet struggled to get relevant information from peers and also to communicate with fellow students/alumni to understand the pros and cons of each college.
There was scattered information available on different forums and they mostly had to rely on personal connections to get peer information. Thus they wanted to primarily focus on the social connect aspect of Getmyuni.
The duo started Getmyuni after substantial groundwork. Hardik has moved on from the team, which now has Nirmanyu Arora, who has plenty of hands-on experience with creating products in the edutech domain, Manish Gupta, an MBA in Business Analytics, and Tushar Mehta, a BE from NSIT.
The initial challenges for the startup included the difficulty in sourcing user-generated content and getting students to write college reviews without having to spend money on it.
“As a result we created campus ambassador programmes, strong referrals and in product marketing programmes and were lucky to have a good word-of-mouth going around. We were surprised by the number of students who were willing to help aspirants and hence wrote long, unbiased reviews,” says 29-year-old Upneet.
Breaking the market
He adds that they came up with a new revenue stream where they were enabling brands and companies to reach out to students via competitions.
“We were making enough money to support the business till we finally got the funding of $50,000 from Tlabs. With that funding plus our revenues increasing month-on-month we've been able to scale to a million users per month on the platform, something we are incredibly proud of,” says Upneet.
Apart from classified platforms like eShiksha, HT Campus and the India Today review, there also is CollegeDekho, a platform that helps students connect with colleges. It had raised a seed funding of $2 million from Man Capital, and also raised funding from GinarSoft. CollegeDekho has over 22,000 colleges listed.
However, Upneet believes that the classifieds space is tradition and has been built purely to generate leads. There isn’t much peer information.
“We saw a huge opportunity in the user-generated content space in education, given that there were clear winners in other industries and they all had one thing in common - they had UGC at their core, for example, Zomato for food, Tripadvisor for travel and Glassdoor for jobs,” explains Upneet.
Numbers and future
Getmyuni claims to have over 11,000 colleges listed and over 40,000 student-written reviews on its platform. Since its inception the team claims to have over one million sessions, growing at 60 percent month-on-month.
Their revenue run rate is at Rs 10 lakh. The revenue model of the platform includes generating and selling high quality, verified student leads to colleges that are the right fit, and also ads and student enrollment.
The team is looking for its next round of funding. The aim is to fortify its position as the best college search destination and kickstart sales for domestic colleges.
Getmyuni is also looking to tap into the market for students wishing to study abroad.
“We aim to build the strongest college recommendation tool. We believe that currently a lot of students are being misguided by offline consultants to suit themselves, and if there is a fair portal, which bases a student's background, marks and abilities, using advanced algorithms, to present them with the right set of college recommendations, that product will be a super success,” says Upneet.