How these college friends are bringing together mentors and internships to get students job-ready
MentorMind aims to tackle India’s problem of educated-but-not-employable youth with its online learning platform that offers students real-time projects, followed by certification from the company.Vishal Krishna
Finding a job is often a Catch-22 situation. Most companies look for relevant experience, but where are freshers to get that experience without jobs? It's why internships are becoming popular - they give young job-seekers relevant work experience even as they apply for their first job.
It was something that Hyderabad-based Luvieen Alva, Suhas Kaul, and Megha Gajjla thought about often when they were in college together. In 2015, they met Mike Victor through AIESEC while they were studying engineering. AIESEC is a youth-run organisation that helps individuals develop an array of management skills with work experience in different sectors. They soon realised this was an area waiting to be tapped. With the idea in mind, they spent considerable time doing a lot of research, market experimentation, and alpha testing. The result was MentorMind, launched in September 2017.
MentorMind is an online platform that sources and co-creates real-time work projects from organisations in different fields for students and freshers.
Companies get their problems resolved and get to test potential employee while students gain valuable experience – a win-win for both! The average programme runs between one and three months. These projects are live lessons with faculty chosen from various corporates.
Students pay for the courses and get certified by the corporate once they finish their mentored internship, or "menternship" as MentorMind calls it. Sometimes, they even get a job offer. Uber, Integer, and IoT Research Labs are among the companies that acquire talent from MentorMind.
“Our experiences showed there is lack of awareness, skill, and exposure for students to the industry they plan to pursue careers in. Corportes lack scaled, structured solutions to access skill-verified talent. Companies are also consistently look at harnessing market opinions about innovation in their product or simply grass-root level consumer behaviour patterns,” says Luiveen, Co-founder of MentorMind.
On the MentorMind platform, each work project is certified by an organisation and helps the user initiate skill development in the given field. Students complete the project –virtually and task-by-task - with the help of videos by experts and people from the respective organisation talking about how to perform them. It functions as a resource hub, and a live chat support for technical and non-technical queries.
“On completion, based on their output, the student receives certification from the company,” Megha says.
The mentored internship can be taken up even when one is travelling as the projects need to be done virtually.
How the product works
Students have to sign up on MentorMind’s platform and browse through the 19-plus industries and 76-plus "menternships" from over 65 companies. They have to pay a fee of Rs 999 to access the learning dashboard.
“This dashboard is what is unique about our platform. It lets the student view the tasks for the project, the expert videos, and live chat support. This fee includes the certification based on the completion of the project and value of the output,” Megha says.
Companies offering a "menternship" can access MentorMind’s dashboard and post an initial meeting to explain the project. Within two weeks, a "menternship" (with tasks, videos, etc.) is charted out and hosted for approval. Once a project goes live, a company can access certified profiles/data solutions, charged for as per a credit system.
The company works on a B2B and B2C model. On the B2C side, each menternship is priced at Rs 999 for students to access learning dashboards and certification. On the B2B side, each company has to buy a set of credits. Each certified profile/data solution accessed deducts credits, which means every profile accessed is paid for.
With about 2,000 subscriptions, MentorMind hopes to close at revenues of over Rs 50 lakh this year.
The first client and the future
“Having built the initial platform, our first company client was a marketing 'menternship' - a startup that was focussed on digital marketing. They wanted to host a 'menternship' to help students gain a perspective on digital marketing,” Megha says. MentorMind’s first key partnership was with Uber, which was looking to hire HR interns. MentorMind curated a real-time project on creating a hiring strategy that students took up as a real-time project. Uber saw 15 students enrol, of which seven were offered the project and five accepted.
On the student side, the startup has partnered with St Francis College for Women in Hyderabad, and is conducting tech "menternships".
The founders have together invested Rs 15 lakh, and raised an initial round of $115,000 through an angel investor from the US. MentorMind was also part of Axilor’s Summer 2018 accelerator cohort.
According to IBEF, India has the world’s largest population of people in the age bracket of 15-24 years at about 500 million, making the education sector a great opportunity. The education sector in India was estimated at $91.7 billion in FY2018, and is expected to reach $101.1 billion in FY2019.
For companies like MentorMind and other startups in the B2B space, including Simplilearn and Edureka, the education sector as a business, on average, takes longer to close a deal with an institution.
MentorMind has over seven educational partners where a MentorMind "menternship" is mandatory as part of the curriculum.
Plans for the next 18 months
The company has a two-pronged approach to meet its objectives:
1) To focus on establishing the B2B side of its business model. For this, MentorMind is working with a number of organisations looking to source talent/solutions and hosting menternships.
2) To expand into newer markets abroad, but the founders did not detail the strategy on this.
The platform has over 4,500 registered students from 40 colleges across Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Vijayawada, and Hyderabad .
“This company can increase the talent pool in this country and help corporate get the skills they need,” says V Ganapathy, CEO of Axilor Ventures.