‘Employability’ is one of the biggest areas of concern in today’s world. While there are several initiatives that ensure students get a great education, there still is a great gap in the market. Research shows that India's challenge would be to make its graduates employable.
In fact, over 80 percent of engineering graduates are not only unemployed but are actually unemployable according to corporates, who find that they lack the necessary skill sets. It was to combat this problem that Anubhav Jain and Dhruv Bhushan, friends from their IIM days, started StudyBud, a platform that focuses on providing company-specific products to educational institutions.
From pre-assessing every student’s aptitude and technical skills to learning modules which provide complete knowledge and skills pertaining to the campus rounds, StudyBud looks into all aspects of employability. Students can use the platform to attempt over 10,000 questions and take mock assessments.
The performance is continuously monitored over 50 metrics using the Admin Interface by the college administration. It also provides recruitment assistance in its associated companies to the students. StudyBud gets involved with college administration, acting like a part of their internal team, and uses technology to solve their employability related issues.
Speaking of how they got the initial idea, 32-year-old Anubhav says,
“We were running a startup in the classroom training and employability skill development space for almost two years when we realised the need to scale and grow. We had been constantly receiving good feedback from our students and there was a time when we had to say ‘no’ to multiple colleges because we could not sign up any more new clients as our bandwidth did not allow us.”
However they found that the students faced a few challenges while preparing for campus recruitment, especially in understanding the requirements of companies coming into the campus.
The team decided to incorporate the feedback and build a product that not only helped combine the monotonous training sessions into a quality learning module for students, but also used technology to help them prepare in a more targeted and focused way through targeted learning and company-specific assessments
Anubhav adds that they spent nine months building their company-specific assessment engine and convinced a college for a pilot in February 2014.
“Our biggest validation came when during the campus recruitment by a company, the accuracy of prediction of our company-specific assessment was found to be more than 84 percent and then we decided to make this our primary offering,” says Anubhav.
Working through the bureaucracy
However, the ride hasn’t been easy. The biggest challenge the team found was in working with a fragmented industry and the widespread corruption. Anubhav adds that most educational institutions in India are run in a highly bureaucratic way.
There are multiple layers of decision makers, or people who impact the decision making process. This leads to practices which hamper the quality of offerings and the ultimate result is failure for students.
This is why they reached out to the value chain from both ends — the students who were the end users and the top management who were the single point decision makers.
Building the team
The next task at hand was to set up the team. Anubhav and Dhruv have worked together since 2008, and have co-founded over four startups. Anubav met the CTO, Sunil, through a common friend. The business development team — Kalyan, Praveen, and Prasanth — all have multiple years of experience in educational sales and have stayed with the duo primarily because of their belief in the product.
“But the most important of our team members is Anil Sir. We met Anil Sir during one of our sales pitches for KIT Kanpur. He liked the idea so much that during our first meeting, he spent three hours understanding our product and providing us with valuable inputs to add to our offering. An IIT Kanpur graduate, he has a passion towards technology-driven learning and we knew from that day that he was the right mentor for us,” says Anubhav.
Bridging the skill gap
Over the past couple of years, startups focusing on bridging the skill gap have been fast growing.
There is the ex-Tiger executive-founded Great Learning, which focuses on skill development. There is also WAGmob, recently acquired by EdCast, which focuses on sales force training. Ronnie Screwvala and Mayank Kumar have started UpGrad, which focuses on skills training and follows a similar industry mentorship model. There also is Simplilearn.
StudyBud claims to have grown from 2,000 students in 2014 to 8,000 students by the end of 2015 and claims to have doubled its user base in the past six months, having reached 20,000 students as of June 2016.
The team claims to have a revenue run rate of Rs. 1.2 crore in this year, with the last two months being cash-flow positive. “We have been growing at more than 15 percent month-on-month in the last six months and are expected to reach the milestone of over 50,000 students by the end of 2016,” says Anubhav,
Their revenue model is B2B2C — they sell directly to educational institutions, with students as the end user. A typical association with a college is worth Rs 3 to 5 lakh depending on the number of students.
Currently bootstrapped, the team plans to reach over 100 college associations, 500 corporate tie-ups, and 50,000 students in the next six months to drive faster revenue growth. The team is currently developing an Android app and plans to launch the same sometime next month.
“We are currently recruiting for the Chennai, Pune, and Lucknow regions and will soon be present in all the major education hubs of the country,” adds Anubhav.