Sports nutrition to jazz music: How career guidance startup Leverage Edu helps students study abroad

Leverage Edu is a full-stack career guidance and university connect platform that matches students with the right courses and job opportunities. The startup is backed by Blume Ventures, DSG, Tomorrow Capital, and Ivy League professors.
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The Leverage Edu website says, “Your dream university is not a dream anymore.”

Put simply, the Delhi-based startup, founded in 2017, simplifies international admissions for Indian students in over 200 ‘dream’ universities across 30 countries. 

How big a problem is international admissions and how large a segment is this?

Data suggests, approximately one million students from India go abroad to pursue higher education every year. This is said to be the fastest-growing (40 percent) export services segment in the country. 

India, in fact, is the world's second-largest supplier of foreign students, trailing only China. However, only about five percent of the ‘study abroad’ market is organised.

Akshay Chaturvedi, Founder and CEO, Leverage Edu

The rest is enormous chaos of mom-and-pop career counsellors — what Leverage Edu calls “mohalla rockstars” — or premium out-of-reach educational consultancies.

Enter Leverage Edu, a full-stack career guidance and global university connect platform that matches students with the programmers.

It avails the services of more than 3,000 global mentors, who help applicants define and refine their career goals. This network has been acquired from the world’s top universities.

Akshay Chaturvedi, Founder and CEO, Leverage Edu, tells YourStory, “We don't view higher education as just a degree collection exercise, but through an overall employability and migration lens. We collect the data of students and offer them personalised insights on a dashboard. Our goal is to bring more credibility to the university admissions process by matching students with what they are good at. It can be anything from sports nutrition to jazz music to agriculture…anywhere.”

What the platform offers

Leverage Edu is a diversified proposition with four core platforms: 

a) Ivy100, which offers premium consulting services for Ivy League and equivalent university aspirants 

b) UniConnect, which runs virtual admissions fair and connects students directly’ to over 250 universities 

c) UniValley, a B2B platform for universities to handpick students who can fill their programmes

d) Leverage Live, a newly launched learning platform for international ed test prep. 

Infographic: YS Design

Akshay shares, “We started small with the first category, but expanded to the next tiers when we realised that there are three very different subsets of foreign education aspirants in India. One that eyes only Ivy League colleges like Stanford, Wharton, and the likes, which is about 10 percent of our business today.”

The remaining 90 percent is divided between those who deeply care about the course and the college they are getting into, and the economic opportunities tied to it, and the other that sees migration as an opportunity for a life change.  

The founder elaborates,

“The last category, which typically sees immigration from Punjab to Canada or Gujarat to Western Europe or Andhra Pradesh to the US, doesn’t really care about the course or college. They are more worried about the loans, visa, immigration process, and accommodation in the new country. So, our liaison with embassies and trade bodies becomes critical to be successful in the longer run.”

Essentially, the four-year-old startup wants to “break the myth” that foreign education is expensive and the application process is cumbersome. “We manage the entire process until the students reach their dorm rooms,” says the founder.

The Uniconnect platform

Growth and business model 

Leverage Edu claims it sees about 2 million visits and 2,000 applicants on its platform per month. Since its launch, the startup has facilitated foreign admissions of over 8,000 students, of which 3, 000 happened in the last year alone. 

“Almost 22 percent of our business last year came from referrals,” Akshay says.

Despite the pandemic-induced restrictions on foreign travel, the demand for ‘study abroad’ hasn’t come down. In fact, since September, the rebound has been strong enough to cover 80-90 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels. 

Leverage Edu is looking to close FY21 with revenues of Rs 13-14 crore, and is hopeful of a 5X growth in the next 12 months. “We are targeting 10,000+ student admissions and an ARR of Rs 100 crore by March 2022,” Akshay says. 

“The key pillars of growth will be our in-house technology that can manage students in a quality-first way and our strong focus on pedagogy. We are working with 35+ professors, of which three are on our cap table as well,” he explains.

Leverage Edu simplifies foreign admissions for Indian students

The startup has a two-pronged business model. One, it charges students an advisory fee of Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh each to connect them with the right mentors for the right courses in the right countries along with ancillary services like loans, visas, forex, etc.

Two, it earns a partner fee from universities for helping them source the right talent for their programmes. So far, it has around 500 recruitment partners.

Some investors reckon Leverage Edu has built a well-oiled engine that could lead to a “breakout” global edtech brand from India over the next few years. 

Karthik Reddy, Managing Partner, Blume Ventures, (one of its early backers) said in 2019, “Akshay and team have put in place strong frameworks for building a large, long-term company in this first year of our partnership. The scale of the overseas education opportunity set is even more massive than we initially imagined and the pace at which the team has executed has meant that we are happy to see ourselves co-leading a second round with DSG into an early breakout from Fund III.

Funding and future roadmap

In February, Leverage Edu raised Rs 47 crore in a Series A round led by Tomorrow Capital, and existing investors Blume Ventures and DSG Consumer Partners

The latest round brings its total funds raised to $8.2 million, or Rs 60 crore, across three rounds. The fresh capital will go towards product innovation and expansion in newer markets.

One of its primary competitors is Canada-based unicorn ApplyBoard that has helped over 100,000 students study in 110 countries. 

Rohini Prakash, CEO, Tomorrow Capital, said in a statement, “India is one of the largest global suppliers of international students, and yet, the biggest brands helping students in their admissions come from destination countries like the US, Canada, and Australia, who don't understand the unique perspectives and problems that Indian students face. We believe it is inevitable that the next stellar brand in the global cross-border education space will be a homegrown one.”

She added that Leverage Edu has a “fantastic roadmap” for scaling up globally. 

Approx. 1 million students from India go abroad to study every year

The startup’s cap table also includes prominent angels like Vishal Gondal of GOQii, Ash Lilani of Saama Capital, Amrish Rau of Pine Labs, Chaitanya Rathi of Sula Wines, Karan Khemka of Parthenon's Education Centre of Excellence, and a bunch of global executives and Ivy League professors

A part of the new investments will also go towards building partnerships with foreign banks and developing a direct lending interface on the B2C platforms.

“Today, we are the aggregator of 11 education loan partners. Tomorrow, there is an option to offer students the loans ourselves,” says the founder.  

Leverage Edu is also looking to expand its domestic footprint and penetrate deeper into Tier I and II cities, including Chandigarh, Kochi, and Hyderabad. Its next phase of geographical expansion will include Indore, Pune, and Nagpur too.

Akshay sums up his long-term vision thus, “The future of education has to be married with employability. People need to do what they are good at. Not everyone has to get into engineering. We have all seen 3 Idiots, right? Wildlife photography may not find respect and opportunity in India, but we shall connect you to a place where it will.”

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta