[Startup Bharat] IIT Kharagpur alumni’s edtech startup is helping students make the correct career choice
Each year, over 13 million youngsters in India look to join the workforce. Of these, barely 10 percent are employable, says a report by WeForum.
The reason, found five IIT Kharagpur alumni, was that most people never gave much thought to choosing the right education and career depending on their aptitude and skills.
“We saw many of our friends and college mates in premium institutes like IIT taking course or career decisions without much thought,” says Muhammed Ammachandy.
Awareness is clearly lacking on the importance of proper educational guidance, and to bridge this gap, Muhammed Ammachandy, Daleef Rahman, Muhammed Salih, Sajid Muhammed and Munavar Fairooz started vLead Eduventures in Kozhikode in 2017.
“To start with, we decided to focus on career development, and in the first three months, we did a thorough study of the various career development solutions available across India and the world. We realised there was no scientific mechanism to help students make career decisions that were the best for them,” says Ammachandy.
The co-founders then launched LCAT, a platform to help candidates decide on their career path based on skills and aptitude. The platform has scientific career assessment, and offers detailed post-assessment counselling by trained career experts. Before a counselling session, information on aspirations and likes and dislikes is collected from students as well as their parents.
How does the platform work?
The LCAT platform uses a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) with psychological and psychometric evaluations by experts. It has three categories – Rise (for students in Class VIII and IX), Sail (for Classes X, XI, XII) and Redesign (for college students and recent graduates).
The first part is a computer-based psychometric assessment based on a person’s interests, aptitude, personality, work value preferences, and emotional intelligence. “The exact number of psychometric dimensions slightly varies across the categories as our research showed that some of these traits only gain relevance when the test taker attains a certain age,” says Ammachandy.
Once the assessment is completed, the algorithm suggests five career fields (or two stream choices, in case of LCAT Rise) that would be the best fit for the person. A 51-page assessment report explains the findings of the test, and includes a brief overview of the options that the five suggested career fields can offer.
A post-assessment counselling session follows. This involves both the student and their parents (participation of the parent is optional on Redesign) and starts with collecting relevant data from both parties. An individual counselling session takes place through video conferencing with trained career counsellors, and both the student and their parents participate in it as well.
The counsellor then prepares a detailed action plan for the student and gives detailed suggestions on what the student can do across three main areas - career planning, academic success, and personal and social development.
“All of this process, starting from taking the assessment and getting the report to filling the post-assessment forms and the online counselling session - everything happens through a personalised dashboard that the student gets once they sign up for LCAT,” says Ammachandy.
For those who want support on implementing their action plan and evaluating the progress, the dashboard also offers continuous mentoring that a student can book by paying a small fee. Students also get a “chat with expert” service wherein career experts answer career related doubts and queries at any time, says Ammachandy.
Building the processes and team
For institutions, LCAT operates in a similar way, but offers specially developed dashboards to offer deep analytical insights into the needs and requirements of students when taken as a group. This helps them identify areas where students would need extra support.
Ammachandy says the team of vLead collected and analysed millions of data points from over 10,000 students across India and coordinated them with over 1,000 subject experts. The founders also used their IIT networks to work with global networks.
At present, vLead has a team of 10 career experts. The core team consists of alumni from IIT Kharagpur, Delhi University, University of Hyderabad, Jamia Millia Islamia, NIT Calicut, Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands, National University of Singapore, Technical University of Munich, and Technical University of Darmstadt.
Ammachandy adds the experts were selected from among 600 applicants on the basis of an online assessment and subsequent personal interview.
Revenue model and traction
vLead Eduventures works on three revenue models - B2B, which includes sales through schools and institutes, B2C, which is sales and strategic partnerships with players in the education sector, institutions, governments, NGOs, and thirdly, apart from offline players they also work with online edtech players.
Ammachandy says the product works on a per student revenue model in all channels. For the B2C model, the edtech platform charges according to the categories. For Rise, the charge Rs 2,300 per student, Sail costs Rs 2,400 per student and Redesign is priced at Rs 3,400 per student. The company follows a separate pricing strategy for the B2B channel.
There are several others in the space, including Delhi-based iDreamCareer, which focusses on career counselling and assessment. Others include Career360, YoungBuzz and SarvGyaan.
vLead claims to have more than 2,000 students using the platform, and the co-founders say they have successfully completed around 10 large scale projects associating with public and private schools, NGOs, and government bodies. The team claims to have recorded 150 percent month-on-month revenue growth since January this year.