Interview: Ruchir Arora, Co-founder & CEO CollegeDekho.com
CollegeDekho.com is technology platform providing end-to-end admission solutions to students other offerings to colleges. It began as a start-up in 2015 and today, it has emerged as one of popular student destination for information and counseling services. Curriculum magazine spoke with Ruchir Arora, Co-founder & CEO.:
CollegeDekho.com is now more than four years old, do you feel today the journey so far has been worth it? How big is the platform now?
It has been a great journey and definitely worth taking. We have been able to make a significant difference in the way students choose their careers. With the help of counselling and the guidance provided by our team of expert counsellors both online and offline, students and parents are making informed decisions. The students have access to information like interest, mapping skill set to courses, new-age courses, cost involved andremuneration and expectation in the field etc.
Today, we have: 500+ partner colleges associated with us and 36000+ colleges in our database. A well networked association with colleges pan India likeLovely Professional University – Punjab, AIT-Bangalore, Ajeenkya D Y Patil College in Pune, JECRC University-Jaipur, Jagran Lake University-Bhopal, GD Goenka University Gurgaon and many others. 2 lakh+ students visiting Collegedekho.com daily.
Give us a sense of history behind this venture and what led you to go for this start-up?
During my tenure in HT, I spent a lot of time with students, talking to them and their parents. My observation was that students & their wards were completely clueless about the industry requirements and followed the traditional methods when it came to choosing a course. There was a huge gap in the system. Neither did the schools conduct any counselling session nor made the students aware of the various opportunities that were opening up in the market.
In my family too, I have neices & nephews who’ve come to me and spoken to me about their confusion as to what is the best career path to follow. That’s when I realised the inherent need for guided counselling in India.
If you look at the skill set gap in the industry currently, the numbers are abominal! Lakhs of B. Tech graduates line up for Grade IV government jobs, due to unemployment. For all segments in the industry, whether private or government, you will find over qualified applicants. There is no ROI for the effort, money and time spent for their education.
What is glaring is that out of 200 million students wanting to pursue higher education in India, just 2-3% has access to the correct information.
Hence we felt that there is s an innate need to break through the traditional mindset and educate young minds on the new age 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.
College search and selection of stream has been, all said and done, a family affair earlier, and it has always been significant decision in every student’s life, do you feel, parents are slowly now moving back and thus allowing the child to take his or her own decision?
It’s a mixed bag, actually. The urban population have access to a lot of digital information as well as events that educate them about the various career opportunities, so the decision is based on interest and opportunities (more often than not).
Tier II or Tier III cities on the other hand, have limited access to information and is largely influenced by past experiences, or by peers and family. Usually, the choice of career options from this segment is traditional and there are more takers for B. Tech, MBA and Medical streams.
Having said that, 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.
Give us some sense about the trends in terms of popular choices? Do you come out with some sort of reports on trends etc?
We have observed that there is more inclination towards liberal arts than ever before. Students are choosing humanities courses over science and niche and offbeat courses are gaining strong momentum. Yes, we do have the data but use these reports for our internal analysis and use only.
Study abroad is also an area where you provide counselling services. How do you guide a hopeful?
We are launching satellite offices outside India to facilitate studying abroad, especially for Medical courses. In addition, we have launched a premium counseling service that will assist students in their quest to study abroad. This facility will be provided to students in India as well. We have already initiated the process, the GradMeAbroad business is expanding to countries in Europe, South-East Asia and the USA. 2018 has been a good year for us and we have helped many students secure admission to various universities abroad in the fields of B. Tech, MBBS, and Management etc.
We are currently providing services in – Canada, Philippines, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Russia.
Coming to your services, are you confined to individual students only or also provide some packages to institutions like a school?
The Common Application Form (CAF) is a unique interface through which a student can apply to numerous colleges through one platform. Through the CAF platform, a student can apply to multiple colleges using a single application form. This service has been kept free of cost for students so that they can take advantage of this facility across India. Through our CAF platform, we have partnered with 400+ colleges approximately to facilitate more course and college options for students.
For schools, we have in place the School Connect Program. The unavailability of information and guidance required by students for a smooth transition from school to college has always been a challenge especially for students in Tier 2 cities. This prompted CollegeDekho to reach out with the right selection of courses and colleges that matched the skill sets of the students and would help them make informed academic and career decisions through this programme.
Under this initiative, the students will have dedicated counsellors who will guide them and their parents through rigorous counselling and engagement activities that will run through the entire school year and is available free of cost.
As a part of this program, CollegeDekho would be reaching out to nearly 2000 students across schools. We already have a calendar of events chalked out for the school students, their parents and teachers. As a part of the programme, we will profile each student aided by Holland Psychometric Test and other sophisticated tools that will guide students choose the right career and college.
Future plans and any other comment, you wish to make?
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 we 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 recent round of funding 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.