Stoodnt: US-based startup on expansion spree in India
Overseas startups taking interest in India
The Indian startup scene is definitely improving by the day. This seems truer with three NRIs from the US deciding to launch Stoodnt Inc, their venture in India. Ajay Singh, Yuri Punj and Sena Palanisami, the founders wanted to create a platform that leverages data, technology and experts. This space aims to help students anywhere in the world with college admissions in countries such as the USA, Canada, UK and Australia etc.
Singh started his career in 1993 as a Design Engineer in Austin, Texas after his graduation from University of Texas. He worked as an engineer for three years before joining ‘Harvard Business School’ to pursue his MBA. During his MBA, he met Punj, who was working as segment manager at the banking unit, after graduating from Colgate. Post MBA, Punj joined JP Morgan Private Client Services and subsequently worked at Citibank. Palanisami is an MS from University of Minnesota.
During one of his visits to Kolkata to explore the market for Stoodnt, Singh met up with our correspondent to share his vision and mission in details. Read On!
We launched Stoodnt in January 2016. I spent my time in Asia (India and Singapore) from 2011 to 2015 while working with American Express. At around that time, I met a number of parents who were interested in sending their children abroad for education but did not know how to go about it. That got me into thinking on how to solve this problem and leverage technology to help parents and students connect with experienced college admission counsellors and colleges overseas. During this time, I spoke with Punj and together we decided to form a platform once I left my job at American Express.
Networking with Students in their career guidance
Tens of thousands of Indian students go abroad for studies each year. Majority of these students go for graduate studies in STEM majors. However, there is an increasing trend in students going to college studies abroad for undergraduate and M.B.A. degrees. Plus, many students now opt for fields such as liberal arts, business, media etc. We believe this trend will continue to grow, given the rising upper middle class in India, focus on good education and global aspirations.
Stoodnt does not provide admissions to any institutes, but the counsellors in Stoodnt network with students in their career guidance and foreign studies college admissions. With some of the decisions coming in, we are seeing students getting admitted to universities like Univ. of Chicago, Purdue, Rutgers, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana Champagne etc.
All these students/ have a good G.P.A., good test scores on SAT, GRE etc. and a strong participation in extra-curricular activities. Stoodnt offers a number of career and college admission counselling services to students.
The modus operandi
These counselling services duration could vary from one-hour session to number of guidance sessions spread over 18-24 months (especially for college admission guidance services). Students have full flexibility and options on what help they need and Stoodnt counsellors could help, guide them accordingly. Fee for these sessions could vary from as low as $10 to as high as $3,500 (for 18-24-month guidance). These guidance sessions are focused on helping students with college admissions for undergraduate, graduate and M.B.A. degrees across the top universities in the world.
Majority of our counsellors, especially the ones focused on study abroad counselling, are based in the U.S. We have a small number of counsellors, around five, in India who primarily focus on career guidance counselling. Approximately 10 employees (full time and part time) work with us in India.
Our students who come for career guidance counselling are in the grade from 8th-11th while for the study abroad counselling sessions, most students are from grade 10-12th. We also provide graduate and M.B.A. admission counselling (again for colleges in abroad) to students in final year of undergraduate studies or working in India.
We currently operate from offices in Gurgaon and Coimbatore, both of which started operations in 2016. Venture is promoted by a number of senior executives from Fortune 500 companies like Rajan Anandan (CEO of Google India).
Last year more than 25,000 users visited the Stoodnt platform, 5,000 students signed-up for free tools and services. 25 per cent of our students were applying to colleges for the academic year 2017-18. Others were getting counselling support on career guidance or planning to start college in year 2018. All the students so far have gotten admitted into top three college of their choice and have been admitted into programs at universities such as Univ. of Chicago, Georgia Tech, Purdue, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana Champagne, Harvard Summer Program etc.
Our future plans include expanding to other countries in Middle East, South East Asia. We are also going to launch numbers innovative platform capabilities of connecting students with reputable universities, financial aid organizations etc.
We are in discussion and signing up a number of good universities in U.S. who are interested in having more international students in their programs such as undergraduate, M.B.A. etc. Our platform has capability where any student could build their eprofile or Student Online Profile, upload their work and share with these universities. These universities could review their profile and contact the student. If any student is interested in applying, Stoodnt will help and guide them. We plan to launch a similar capability with number of financial aid providers and loan providers in 2018.
Stoodnt will also be initiating and expanding their local counsellor, partner network in India. They will be hiring, training local counsellors with education background to work with students on career guidance and study abroad programs. This partner network of local counsellors will be a critical part of overall solution and servicing in many cities such as Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai etc.
With US-based startups looking to expand in India, do you think Indians could now consider jobs at ‘startups’ as lucrative options? Do share your views.