How Stoa is providing a solid alternative to the MBA with its professional charter

Online B-school startup Stoa is backed by founders of Zerodha, CRED, Udemy, Redbus, Myntra, Bounce, and other Indian startups.
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Over the last few years, Stoa has groomed marketing, sales and product talent for fast-growing companies in India. Stoa is known for pioneering the community-led, cohort-based model for business education in India. They recently launched the Stoa Charter, a highly selective credential for business and management talent in India.

We caught up with Raj Kunkolienkar, Co-founder of Stoato find out more about this change. In this interview, he shares more about the new Stoa program and how it helps people to level up in their careers.

YourStory [YS]: Many people still consider MBA as the default option for career development or changing career trajectory. A constant dilemma is — To MBA or not to MBA. What are your thoughts on this?

Raj Kunkolienkar [RK]: MBA leaves people with an understanding of business concepts, a professional network, a degree credential and of course, job opportunities.

Even though these benefits make pursuing an MBA a no-brainer for many, it is not an easy choice because of the price tag. On top of that, the time spent studying in a college means time away from work, which means losing income and growth at work.

Additionally, companies are now moving away from degree requirements and toward skills-based hiring. Given that most MBA programs aren’t keeping up with the modern economy, I highly recommend aspirants to either get into the top MBA programs in the country or find alternate ways of getting the benefits of an MBA.

Now it isn’t straightforward for most people to go about upskilling themselves, build a network, and unlock new opportunities. And that is what Stoa's new model will help them do, all in one place. By doing the Stoa Program and getting into the Stoa Charter, you get learnings, credentials, networks and opportunities from the comfort of your home.

[YS]: Tell us more about the Stoa Charter.

[RK]: Stoa Charter is a model similar to CFA, but applied to business education.

To get into the charter, candidates have to clear a gruelling evaluation that consists of working on a capstone project and defending it in front of a jury of industry veterans and experienced business operators. You earn the Level 1 / Level 2 charter credentials only if the jury is convinced that you meet the bar for that level.

Employers trust members of the Stoa charter to have the strategic, interpersonal, and leadership skills to solve complex business problems. If you’re a charter-holder, proving your worth for managerial and leadership positions becomes much easier.

[YS]: What are Stoa Levels and why do they matter for someone looking for career growth?

[RK]: Each level shows a definite level of expertise and ability to add value to a company. These are awarded to people who successfully complete the learning sprints and pass the corresponding level's test.

L1 certifies people on business fundamentals and trains them in commercial awareness, writing skills, communication, and analytical thinking. To earn the L1 charter, candidates will solve a given business problem and defend it in front of a jury. They will be tested on all the skills that make one an excellent hire for an associate-level business position at any reputed startup or MNC.

L2 is for acquiring domain-specific knowledge, and passing this depends on how well one can handle business issues in that area. Consider a person who wants to work in a company's product department but has no prior experience. If they clear the L2 level in the product domain, it will demonstrate their ability to assume a product position without prior experience.

L3 is for people who have a proven track record in strategic-level thinking experience. Candidates can give the L3 exam only if a jury nominates them.

The idea is to help people gain all the advantages of an MBA without having to give up their existing employment, struggle with an MBA program's rigid schedule, or shell out tens of lakhs in fees.

[YS]: What are the different learning sprints? Does the program access include anything apart from the learning sprints?

[RK]: Over 50+ learning sprints across multiple domains (Marketing, Product, Venture, Leadership, Strategy, Quantitative Analysis, & Business Skills) are part of the Stoa program. Each learning sprint will last one week and include a combination of self-paced study during the weekdays and group-based learning during the weekends.

People can choose the domains they want to specialise in and select relevant sprints. Think of it as building a stack of skills based on your career objectives.

Upon clearing each level, charter members unlock access to exclusive workshops, meetups, and a network of alumni who are also at the same level. It would open up the doors to expand their personal and professional network and consequently improve their chances of success in the business world.

Irrespective of the levels, everyone will have access to 1:1 career coaching to help them identify their objectives, increase their confidence, and address their obstacles. Domain experts who have worked in the roles the candidate is aspiring for will be available as mentors. They will help candidates navigate domain-specific challenges and build clarity around the various roles.

[YS]: One lucrative proposition of MBA programs is placement at reputed companies with great packages. How does Stoa help candidates get access to job opportunities?

[RK]: We train folks on all the skills they need to land a job with a great package with companies in the Indian startup ecosystem. Our talent management team has built strong relationships with recruiters and hiring managers in top Indian corporates and startups. They help candidates skip the line when it comes to interview opportunities and get above-market salaries.

People can get assistance with resume preparation and offer negotiation from mentors and the community.

[YS]: What kind of companies have hired from Stoa in the past?

[RK]: We have more than 100 startups and corporates who actively recruit from Stoa. Stoans have ended up joining fast-growing Indian startups such as CRED, Ultrahuman, Relevel, and Scaler. Few Stoans have also bagged international remote roles, especially in crypto / metaverse-based companies.

[YS]: If someone doesn't want to go through the evaluation process and get the credentials of being a member of Stoa Charter but still wants to learn, what would they have access to?

[RK]: Regardless of whether someone attempts L1 or not, they will have access to all the learning sprints. They can attend all sessions. But getting into Stoa Charter by clearing L1 is mandatory for taking part in the hiring process and getting access to an exclusive community of folks who clear the levels.

[YS]: CFA has yearly charter membership renewals. Does Stoa have something similar?

[RK]: For those who make it past L1, we will have a nominal charter membership fee to retain access to our talent management services, events, and opportunities to earn through Stoa even after the program ends.

[YS]: Who should apply for the program and how can they know if it's the right choice for them?

[RK]: For those who feel stuck in their career and feel the need to upskill their business and management acumen to crack the next level of professional growth, Stoa can be a game changer.

It’s also perfect for people who have worked in corporates and now want to transition to startup roles for more dynamism and impact.

Anyone who's ready to grow professionally and personally can book a 30-minute call with my team to discuss their goals and experience and figure out whether Stoa is the right fit for them.

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