Owing to many well-funded and successful edtech startups, today edtech sector is widely hailed as one of the sunrise sectors in the Indian economy. However, most edtech startups choose to give a miss to the pain-point of counseling despite the critical role it plays in determining student’s future.
Ruchir Arora saw this gap getting unaddressed and this profound realization led to the launch of CollegeDekho. CollegeDekho is a disruptive technology based education start-up that facilitates seamless interaction between students and colleges.
It offers reliable information about colleges, courses, entrance exam details, admission notifications, changes in exam pattern, scholarships and other related topics. It also offers support to students to select the relevant career study option based on their strengths and guides them through the admission process.
In a very short span of time, CollegeDekho has successfully guided more than one lakh students nationwide and emerged as a leading online counseling platform in the edtech sector. It has been equally successful on the fundraising front with investors going all out in reposing their faith on this young startup. It recently raised $8 Mn in series B round, which was preceded by $2 Mn funding round last year.
In an exclusive interview with Techpluto, CollegeDekho’s founder Ruchir Arora sheds light on company’s future plans, competition in the industry and other important aspects.
Q) How did the entire idea of starting a disruptive EdTech startup like CollegeDekho came to your mind?
We saw a gap between job seekers and providers in the education industry. While the current market is full of new opportunities, and jobs are being created every day according to the market demands, there is still a huge information gap. What is concerning is that out of 200 million students wanting to pursue higher education in India, just 2-3% have access to this information.
Hence, we felt that there is an innate need to break through the traditional mindset and educate young minds on the new age career options available.
We started CollegeDekho.com with an objective to institutionalize students’ counseling in India and are here to bridge the gap by using technology & product to make information on courses & careers easily available. We believe this value-added service should be readily available irrespective of a student’s background or geography to help them achieve their ideal career.
Whether it is information on course or college or any sort of permutation combination, CollegeDekho counsellors help guide and mentor the student or their wards into the right direction. The objective being to help them make an informed decision and optimise their time, money and energy.
CollegeDekho has guided over One Lakh students across India and has emerged as a leading online platform to provide guidance in the education sector. The platform not only has a huge database of colleges and connects students with colleges that would suit their interest areas. It also has a chatbot which helps students crowdsource opinions based on former and present students.
CollegeDekho also partnered with institutes like Lovely Professional University, AIT-Bangalore, Ajeenkya D Y Patil College in Pune, JECRC University-Jaipur, Jagran Lake University-Bhopal to provide expertise and guidance to students.
Q) Can you please shed some light on CollegeDekho’s USPs and differentiating factors?
CollegeDekho.com is a unique universities discovery platform, which connects education seekers with education providers, at the same time offering information about colleges, courses, entrance exam details, admission notifications, changes in exam pattern, scholarships and all related topics. It is also the first technology driven education start-up of India providing end to end solution for students higher education needs. We use advanced Products like Step by Step College Selection, Practice Tests and Psychometric Tests to scientifically support the higher education selection decision.
The technology used by us is extremely intuitive and user-focused; our unique profile-based college recommendations engine helps students find the best fit information for over 22000+ colleges available on the website which is the highest in the country. The latest integration of AI powered Chatbot helps users seek information in an instant as well as talk to a Counsellor directly, if they wish to. Last but not the least, our extensive personalized counseling to understand student’s need and help him make the most informed decision is unique in the industry today.
We also have a Student Outreach Programme – School Connect, through which we reach out to students in Tier II & Tier III cities offline and have counselling sessions in their schools.
Q) How do you see the prospects of CollegeDekho’s foreign expansion, especially in the wake of recent acquisition of overseas admission consulting firm SFS Facilitation Services Pvt. Ltd?
CollegeDekho’s study abroad business started operation in 2017 & has already assisted students for admission in countries like Canada, Philippines, Germany, Ukraine and Russia. This acquisition will further strengthen CollegeDekho’s reach to students who are looking to study in USA, Europe and South East Asian markets. CollegeDekho & SFS are aiming to increase their satellite test prep & counseling centres to 25+ by 2020. SFS’s expertise and rich experience is apt for CollegeDekho to build and expand its horizon across the globe.
The core team of SFS have been experts in the international education domain for more than a decade now. Their rich expertise and industry linkages will help CollegeDekho boost their international business. This acquisition has helped with the geographical coverage internationally. CollegeDekho’s technology will help in expanding the product portfolio, thus catering to a wider audience.
Q) Who are your main competitors and you’re thoughts on the existing level of competition?
We do not have direct competitors, though some players working in the education industry are shiksha.com, Careers360, CollegeDunia, Collegesearch.in, Eduluk, among others.
Q) Can you please shed some light on CollegeDekho’s business and revenue model?
CollegeDekho follows an admissions-based model. After counselling and profiling of students, we suggest colleges to students and once a student takes admission, we get a commission on it.
Q) Are career options in India still dominated by traditional choices like engineering, management and medicines or do you see students opting for newer avenues?
In current times, a lot of awareness has been created about not running behind traditional career options. This can be attributed to the guidance by schools, teachers, movies, educational fairs, social media etc. Parents are understanding and are more open to let their child pursue alternate or off best careers.
The off-beat options were not available or known earlier, but now with counselling and career fairs becoming popular students are being exposed to these possibilities and how lucrative they can be. They are able to get the information and right guidance regarding these options which makes it easier for them to make informed decisions.
Q) How independent have Indian students become in deciding their career trajectory or parents continue to play a dominating role in determining their career choices?
There has been a significant change in the way that students choose careers today. Schools start mapping the student’s interests and aptitude at an early age through extensive counselling and psychometric tests, basis which they suggest course options for the child to make informed decisions. The children are exposed to offbeat career options as well via co-curricular activities at the high school level. Schools and colleges also host career fairs, partnering with EdTech companies focused on counselling. Though there are still students in the grip of the traditional & even hierarchical options like Engineering / IT / Medicine et al, things seem to be changing fast.
Q) Where do you see CollegeDekho in next 2-3 years in terms of its growth?
Since 2016, CollegeDekho has delivered in excess of 12,000 admissions worth INR 900 crores plus. The stickiness of service is visible by the amazing trust shown by both colleges and students. From having just 10 colleges when they started in 2015, CollegeDekho now works with more than 400 colleges and universities and 300,000 students making it the most accredited business in the education space. This is evident from the rating on Facebook, demonstrating the students’ faith and unending loyalty of customers, which is rock solid at 100% retention.
The current round of funding in May 2019 demonstrates the confidence investors have in us and in our ability to transform higher education and career decisions by using technology. It will strengthen our ability to create more engaging internal and customer-facing products. The company has grown by 100% every year for the last 3 years and we keep focusing on accelerating this growth. With our reach expanding nationally and internationally, we are excited to put the company on a rapid growth trajectory.
We are looking at expanding our operations and will be building our team as also upgrading and enhancing our technology and offering more products for the students. We already have a sophisticated chatbot in the industry.
We intend to liaise with more colleges in 2019-20 to offer more value-added services to the students. We are working towards expanding on our technology and product to expand our offerings. While we cannot reveal the estimated revenues currently, what we can say is that we’ve seen a 100% growth trajectory in the last 3 years and hope to continue with this trend.
Q) What are some of the main existing pain points & gaps existing in the education counseling sector and how does CollegeDekho plan to resolve it?
Guided counselling services is scarce in India and only 2 – 3% students have access to this data currently. We are certain that as the education sector continues to grow rapidly, CollegeDekho will play an important part in bridging this gap and shaping the future of students in our country. Collegedekho’s advanced technology and products promises to create a bridge between information seekers & providers, thereby help shaping the quality of graduates that will join the workforce every year.
We plan to tap it by offering unbiased counselling and helping students with the best option available basis their academic background, area of interest, career aspiration, geographical preference etc.
Q) Your prediction about India’s education counseling market with regards to foreseeable opportunities and challenges?
India’s education counselling market is at a robust stage right now. Preconceived barriers are slowly breaking down as more and more people see merit in pursuing what the need of the hour is. Technology has advanced and with it, the job requirements. People are aware of multiple career options, so the trend of counselling has shifted from the basic course-college query to a slightly advanced one; career options and the courses that allow one to pursue that career. Moreover, with a rise in the cost of education in India, the dichotomy that students face today is not just Engineering/ Management/ Medical vs other disciplines, but India or abroad. So, the catch is to provide informed and progressive counselling looking at the career trends.
Nobody in the education space offers advanced education counselling services to students. The concept of counselling for admission to UG or PG programmes was unheard of (until a short time ago) and students primarily opted for the rather conventional courses like Engineering, Management & Medical etc. Even though many students were still struggling with unemployment, it was a challenge to break the traditional mindset and usher in the concept of counselling.
Also, prior to this, students and their wards were used to one on one counselling. The whole idea of counselling on phone was still an alien concept and people expressed a resistance towards it. Moreover, using technology for counselling was also a novel concept, which took a little time to get used to.
Besides offering counseling over phone, CollegeDekho has a strong hybrid presence, with on-ground cafes in four major cities: Patna, Ranchi, Lucknow & Guwahati. This is now being expanded to 11 cafes across cities of Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Pune, Mumbai etc. Lastly, the School Connect Programme will help us bridge the gap between ignorant or influenced decisions to a more mindful and informed decisions.