SP Jain alumni’s startup catalyses connections between students and employers
NCR-based Board Infinity is an outcome-oriented career coaching platform that aims at increased academia and industry interaction.
Choosing the right career is extremely important if you want to lead a happy life. Nothing contributes more to job satisfaction than matching your occupation with your character traits and motivations. Put enough thought into it, and you will increase your chances of making a good decision.
That’s the reason why Sumesh Nair (29) and Abhay Gupta (27), both alumni of SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, started Board Infinity in 2017.
Sumesh says, “People lack vision, clarity and focus when it comes to planning their own career. This lack of clarity leads to a herd mentality. So, no one focuses on career planning. They realise a little late in life that this is not what they want to do.”
The founders realised the gap and found one of the fundamental problems was that students were not able to avail quality advice/feedback about themselves. Open platforms have limitations; there is information overload, the information is not curated and the credibility of advice/answer is questionable.
Working to bridge the gap
Coming from Tier 2 backgrounds themselves (they hail from Thiruvananthapuram and Kanpur), the founders say: “Pedigree shouldn't affect one’s career outcomes; talent and hard work should. Fundamentally, it would require a little shift in thinking as we tend to equate pedigree to talent. But that’s not true. There are hidden gems in every college in this country.”
During Sumesh’s stint with PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Abhay’s time at Future Group, they got a lot of requests from students who were complete strangers on LinkedIn and Facebook to help them out with their careers and jobs.
Sumesh says, “We realised that almost all these students lacked two things - a great way to get actionable feedback which they could use to improve upon and the relevant people who could give this feedback.”
They decided to help bridge the gap and took the plunge to set up Board Infinity in August 2017 after a few successful pilots. The pilots involved deep surveys with working professionals and students. The findings were mapped with opinions from advisors, and a business model was developed.
Board Infinity is an outcome-oriented career coaching platform. It helps students with career discovery, goal clarity and focused preparation towards building a career in their preferred roles/sectors.
Students are coached by industry professionals from premium Indian and global institutes on a personalised basis. The coaching is focused towards the end goal - getting a job that suits the student the best as well as market conditions.
“So, we do not have a typical career counsellor but a coach who has been there and done that in that particular role/company/sector. Usually, the mentors are people working with companies/industry the mentee wants to enter,” Sumesh says.
Introspecting on the market reality
Before starting Board Infinity, Sumesh was a management consultant with PwC US Advisory. Prior to his Marketing MBA in SPJain, he has worked in analytics consulting for three years for clients in the US and UK with a few niche companies including Mu Sigma.
Abhay was a Future Group young Leadership Program employee; he used to handle two categories of HomeTown (Furniture Business) pan-India. Prior to his Operations MBA from SP Jain management institute, he worked as an entrepreneur in facility management for four years.
Speaking about the challenges of setting up Board Infinity, Sumesh says, “Usually career-related confusions and questions are answered by an established uncle/parent/friend in the family, some friend/senior who might have done well in their careers. Few people understand that career building is a truly personal process; what worked for one person doesn't necessarily work for you.”
He adds, “We are trying to see how both, an inside-out (introspective approach based on interests and competency) and an outside-in ( market reality) approach can lead to better career decisions for an individual.”
The platform has four different interfaces for students, coaches, companies and college administrations. Students get access to coaching sessions, personalised content, tests and job openings through the platform. Coaches can share their availability, schedule sessions and guide assigned students. Companies get extensive information on applicants who are focused on particular sectors through the platform, helping them reduce their overall cost and make better hiring decisions.
The initial platform was built by a set of friends; now Board Infinity has a seven-member team which includes coders and designers. They partner with mentors on a time-to-time, and have over 150 on board. The startup claims to have coached over 400 student customers in different career coaching programmes as of November end. It says close to 1,500-plus career coaching sessions/touch points have been organised.
Since incorporation, the focus has mostly been on management students.The revenue model is two-stage – they charge a per-student nominal career coaching programme fee and take a platform access charge from companies. The students/colleges are charged on the session basis. The ticket size ranges between Rs 600 and Rs 4,500 with an average student signing up for two sessions.
The market landscape
The higher education system in India has undergone rapid expansion. Currently, India’s higher education system is the largest in the world, enrolling over 70 million students. In less than two decades, the country has managed to create additional capacity for over 40 million students. According to an IBEF report, the sector witnesses spending of over Rs 46,200 crore ($6.93 billion) in 2017.
There are many startups gaining traction in educational counselling and career guidance. These include Career360, Careerfunda, YoungBuzz, SarvGyaan Vidyarthi, shiksha.com, iDreamCareer, Meracareerguide and others.
Sumesh says, “There are close to 40 million students in the higher education segment in India, with less than 10 percent employable. There are quite a lot of reasons for the same, including access to quality resources/coaches to improve employability.”
Speaking about what sets them apart, Sumesh says, “We focus a lot on personalised career advice and our target market (students in the higher education sector who lack access to good career coaching). But most importantly, our value proposition doesn't end with career coaching alone. We also provide job opportunities to these candidates through our pool of recruiters.”
In the pipeline
Currently bootstrapped, Board Infinity is developing smart algorithms and self-help tools for a person to manage his/her own career.
“These algorithms and tools will address questions like what career can one take, how does one get there the quickest way, who can help one get there and what all resources does one need to get there,” Sumesh says.
The startup may be focusing on the student market as of now, but the founders believe that the need for career coaching doesn't end there.
“Individuals require actionable coaching during their entire career journey at various stages. We will be focusing on the wider market soon,” Sumesh signs off.