WATCH: Meet the career guidance startup that crossed Rs 10 Cr revenue in 2 years using AI
Career advice marketplaces, both online and offline, have been around for a while. Billion-dollar companies like IDP of Australia, and young startups like Crimson Education New Zealand, and CollegeVine in the US, have assisted students with career guidance for more than a decade.
But a few companies in the sector in India have attained the scale. Today, using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Delhi-based startup Leverage Edu is building a unique business. Founded by Akshay Chaturvedi, Leverage Edu assists students with mentoring along with providing guidance for college admissions to professionals and high schoolers.
In a chat with YourStory, Founder and CEO Akshay talks about the startup’s beginning and finding the right product-market fit, and how it will grow further.
The startup uses AI to help students match to the right programmes at the right colleges as well as to top experts. The platform claims that it brings together more than 1200 mentors from universities like Stanford, Oxford, MIT, Yale, Harvard, and with work experience in Goldman Sachs, Apple, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Amazon, Facebook, Tesla, etc.
In January this year, Leverage Edu raised $1 million in pre-Series A round of funding led by DSG Consumer Partners and Blume Ventures, post a seed round raised late last year. The startup has offices across Delhi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai.
Akshay has been associated with the Indian startup ecosystem for a while, with mentoring, conducting workshops, etc. In 2017, he was selected among Prime Minister's Champions of Change, and has worked closely with Niti Aayog on policy discussions.
Conceptualised during Akshay’s MBA at the Indian School of Business in 2015 and incubated in Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurship programme DraperU, Leverage Edu began operations in April 2017. Recently, Aman Arora joined as Co-founder and CTO.
To bring about the democratisation of education, careers, and mentorship, the startup has taken a student-first approach. It charges no commission from colleges, but helps them build a brand in India.
Akshay explains, “If there is a supply gap to fill in, we can help the colleges get better intake. The quality they get by engaging with us is better – whether it is Ivy League universities, or top universities across the UK, Europe, and Asia. We charge them an annual fee, not a commission. The ‘right admits’ will strengthen their reputation too.”
Akshay claims that Leverage Edu gets 200,000 visits every month, of which around 7,000 users engage in career counselling services every month.
The startup targets students from Class 8 onwards, and helps them find the best-fitting career to pursue, according to their tastes and skills. Akshay says that edtech startups help each other a lot in this sense.
He explains, “Once a parent sees how BYJU’s has helped a student with K-12 education, their confidence in an online platform will increase, and they would trust similar platforms. This is not a competition - two different players are solving the problems for today and tomorrow separately. We add value as you move forward in your career.”
Taking care of the customer
End-to-end solutions are the magnet that attracts customers to any service-based business. Leverage Edu keeps this in mind – it helps customers in building their applications, doing mock interviews, getting on-demand mentoring, making the best education loan options come to them, complete their forex requirements, and even figuring out student accommodation options through their partners.
On the other hand, it also functions as a global two-way marketplace. The supply-demand mismatch can be solved by fulfilling the aspirations of students and young professionals.
For instance, if there is a shortage of nurses in the UK, trained people from India can serve there. Thus, the startup builds a bridge between a developed country and a developing one.
Generating revenue with AI
Although initial career counselling is free, students targeting a particular sector or university is charged between Rs 20,000 and Rs 2,00,000 as per the pricing by mentors from those universities. Most players in this sector usually charge universities, and not students, and hence their priorities are different from that of Leverage Edu, which is a consumer brand.
Leverage Edu recently launched a feature with a focus on free content.
“You can search for any particular career, or programme, or an area that interests you. We will have either a video or blog take you through the entire thing. We have an AI tool that, using certain objective and subjective parameters, will tell you what programme or what career is suited for you based on your profile. It can also identify the mentors best-suited for you. Some users will try this, and later give us a call for career counselling and become a potentially paying user,” Akshay tells YourStory.
According to Akshay, the startup was profitable in the last fiscal, and its revenue is growing 30 percent monthly in this fiscal.
He says, “We spend little on marketing; most of customer acquisition happens by word of mouth. We have crossed annual run rate of Rs 10 crore now. We grew revenue by 2X first year to second year; this year it will be 3X to 4X from last year.”
Although edtech and HR tech are in the early stage of evolution, efforts like Leverage Edu shows a move in the right direction.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)