Interview: Prateek Bhargava, Co- founder & CEO of Mindler.com
Mindler.com maintains that “Students spend 70% of their adult life at the workplace. Career decisions are one of the most important decisions in a student’s academic, and professional journey, and thus there is a dire need for scientific decision making”.
Helping students in making a well-informed career decision, with the use of machine learning driven algorithms to reduce human bias in the career decision making process, is the fundamental premise on which Mindler.com, a web platform, came into existence in 2015. The ‘ET Power of the Ideas – 2016’ winner, Mindler, in just over a year of its operations has started impacting the whole career counselling landscape in India.
Autar Nehru met Prateek Bhargava, for an exclusive interaction to understand the career counselling ecosystem.
Why don’t we start with understanding Mindler in its exact sense?
Access to professional/ expert career counselling has been a privilege, extended to a very few students. Shortage of career experts, and costs involved in counselling have contributed to this trend. Moreover, the geographical disparity is great, and counselling services are available in only select few cities, in the country.
Mindler is a technology enabled platform that is on a quest to change all that. Using data analytics, psychometrics, machine intelligence, and research, our platform helps students understand which careers are best-fit for them. Essentially, once a student has taken the assessment, a report is generated, which tells the students the careers where their interest, aptitude, personality, and EQ resonate with the most. The entire mapping is based on 10 new age aptitudes, and 46 evaluation parameters, developed by India’s leading psychometricians, psychologists, career counsellors, and industry experts. We also have a team of highly trained human experts, who can further help a student zero in, on their best option. Additionally, we’re training and associating with career counselors, on a partnership model to make scientific career decision making accessible to their students, and make their own career guidance process, robust, and effective.
There is a story behind every venture, and I’m sure yours would be enthralling. How did you bring technology into a human-centric field, like career counselling?
The genesis of the idea dates back to 2002, when as a high school student, I came into contact with Mr. Prikshit Dhanda, who graciously accepted to be my career coach and mentor. I, thereafter continued a sustained dialogue with him on the subject all these years. In 2015 as a fructification of this discussion, we decided on a technology start-up that would make career counselling available to millions of student across using automated online assessments, and highly trained counsellors. The said quest resulted in India’s first online, standardized, multi-dimensional career-choice battery, which maps student’s personality, interest, emotional quotient, aptitude, passion, motivation, work and social orientation. I must also acknowledge that the real impetus came after we won the Power Of Ideas challenge by The Economic Times. As a result, Department of Science & Technology (DST) gave us a grant and Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), IIM Ahmadabad came on-board as an investor. We also got an angel funding and also raised our own funds and set out to materialize the idea.
Can you elaborate more on how you implemented the idea on-ground?
To start with, we got on board Prof Dr. N K Chadha who is a living legend in the field of psychometrics, in our core team. We then on-boarded over 40 PHDs & MA Psychology experts. For nearly 15 months, we put close to 75,000 man hours and 70 FGD sessions, and created machine algorithms for various careers based on inputs of various domains, career experts and international faculty. The platform went live in April 2016 and was then validated by using data from 10,500 students over a period of three months, until June. During this process, the platform captured 4.8 million data points. In August, we then started commercial operations formally with both B2C and B2B processes.
Tell us briefly about your mentor, Prikshit Dhanda, who is the real inspiration behind this revolutionary idea?
Prikshit is currently the chief strategy office of the platform. A law graduate of Delhi University, he has been a career coach and mentor, and certified trainer in MBTI and FIRO-B. He has spent nearly two decades in career counseling space and skill development with Career Launcher and Making India Employable Pvt. Ltd. He has been professionally trained in the Psychology of Influence and the Psychology of Emotional, Behavioral and Motivational Self-Regulation at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, USA. So, he is a power house for this startup. He believes that in India, there are 15-16 crore students in the age group of 13-17 who have to take a career decision some way or the other. However, most go by age-old conventions, and popular opinions. We can enable our country’s future to make the right choice, and go into careers that are best-fit for them. Guided by this vision, in an endeavour to make career counselling from the Indian context, accessible, and affordable for all, Mindler was born.
We want to be the brain behind all career recommendations being generated in the country
Quite obviously, you have raised the expectations, both for yourself and for people watching Mindler rise. How is it going now, an year after the launch?
Apart from B2C traffic which is satisfactory and from almost several locations from within India and abroad, we have signed 15 schools in B2B space where we offer the school-specific programs, and career guidance workshops, at discounted packages. We, furthermore are strategically collaborating with counsellors, and firm in the space, by training them on the platform. Some even share our platform on counselling I must add that we have strategically moved to collaborate with all those who are already into career counseling business or have an interest and aptitude. We train and license them on our platform. We already have 40 such partnerships. We already piloted with DU on counseling for underprivileged students. Overseas, we are collaborating in Nigeria, Ghana, Lebanon and Nepal. So, it is work in progress on all fronts.
What’s the pricing at Mindler?
Our platform is beneficial for any student, in class 9 and above, and college students. An assessment test package for an individual student is Rs. 3,400 where the student gets comprehensive mapping, detailed reports and curated career information. If someone wants to take the services of a mentor/counselor for one year, the package price is Rs. 6,400-7,400. For institutions, the programs can be customized, and pricing can be negotiated.
What is your vision for Mindler?
MINDLER is in the process of raising a $1 million and nearly have made it. The plan is to utilize the funds towards platform up gradation, product development, awareness and augmenting manpower resources. We are looking at 100-150 schools, who will take our services in next one year. Also, we want to translate our material into multiple languages, Hindi is already done. We are also going to schools in other countries apart from India. Besides, we will continue to do workshops and other parallel activities to boost our platform. We are looking forward to a day when Mindler is the brain behind all career recommendations being generated in the country by making the entire process of career guidance scientific, accessible and affordable!