How the Lure of Foreign Education is Running the Business of Startups
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For most students, as they finish their school or graduation, there is only one thing on their must-achieve list – go abroad for higher education. And this aligns with the Indian parents’ big dream – for their children to go abroad and subsequently find a well-paying job there.
For years and years, we have had family members boasting about their child’s education abroad or a friend’s return from higher education with renewed confidence. The idea is that this gives them better exposure and a higher quality of education.
So, it comes as no surprise that Indians really want to go abroad and pursue higher education. For the same, they would earlier flock the offices of consultancies and wait in hours in the queue, only to go home with a few brochures and come back again later.
As the lure for a foreign education goes higher, how could it miss out the attention of start-ups? Entrepreneurs who have been through the trouble or have noticed a dear one going through the tedious process have now taken up the matter in their hands. Edutech startups have sprung up across the country that caters to counselling of students and also preparing them for exams while also facilitating their application.
Entrepreneur India spoke to startups as they discussed India’s love for foreign education and how it runs their business.
Rising Interest in Foreign Education
More and more Indian students are looking at going for an education abroad. From the love to explore a new country to the wish to go for better opportunities, there are plenty of reasons why this will never be a dying trend. Akshay Chaturvedi, co-founder and CEO of Leverage, stated that the number of students applying to colleges abroad has been growing at a 30%+ and that this is only going to pick further pace from here. He puts it simply as one of those rare industries which cut across classes and has both, a Bharat story and an India story, transcending across tier-1/2/3 cities. “As happens in any industry going through a curve like that, a lot of people start wanting to get a small pie of it. Lately, I have come across single individuals getting into this as freelancers, education companies trying to put a small team together to play into it, to roadside touts out there to lure incorrectly. It’s natural, and had to happen,” he said.
But it’s not just the wish of students. Universities abroad too are working welcoming students from multiple other countries. Sumeet Jain, co-founder, Yocket.in said that foreign Universities are trying to diversify the classrooms by getting more international students and this has opened many opportunities. “For students fear of the unknown too has gone as information on universities and living in a foreign country is more accessible through the internet,” said Jain.
Jain added that the Success stories of students who've got a foreign degree have always generated an eagerness to harness this opportunity of studying abroad.
And Adarsh Khandelwal, Founder and Director, Collegify agrees. He said that there has been an exponential growth in the number of students applying abroad and there are multiple reasons for the same. “The opportunities abroad are great. In India, even in the best situation scenario for a student who gets into an IIT, he/she too wants to head out. The opportunities they get from the job alignment view is far ahead abroad. There is a fantastic learning environment and growth. In India, job hiring the annual pay is lesser,” said Khandelwal.
These start-ups are clear about their approach to business – they want to see you excel. This brings them the growing number of students who now trust them and want to get on their platform. The power of the internet has also established that they can interact with mentors from the college they wish to apply to or connect with the alumni to know more.
While earlier the access to foreign education was limited to the elite, it has crossed all classes now.
Chaturvedi too agrees. “Our outreach is very millennial-first, and we’ve been overwhelmingly surprised by the interest we’ve started to get from students and parents across different income sets, different geographies - about great education abroad. Lot of it is also to do with dispelling myths, about studying outside being expensive, about unfriendliness etc - which we are breaking,” he said.
In such scenarios, Chaturvedi said that building solutions which use the right levers (like technology to scale, fundamentally ground-driven consumer brand) trumps out, so does an approach that puts students first. “We now have our numbers running in thousands, of these are people who have used our platform to go to top schools like Wharton, Yale, CEIBS, as well as to settle all over the world - Canada, Australia, Germany, France, UK, US, Finland, China and more,” he said.
Start-ups Vs Traditional Consultants
While one comes with experience, the other comes in with booming technology. Jain believes that startups are making it easier for people to connect with each other and with universities around the world to address their concerns and help them achieve their dreams to study abroad. “Platforms like ours evolve with the students and the tools today are shaped by how students want to connect and engage with others in a way that is relevant and beneficial,” said Jain. He added that when it comes to consultants, they are experts but solve very specific individualistic problems and can never leverage the collective power of human networks - in this case, student network.
Chaturvedi meanwhile believes its technology that set startups apart. He explained that at Leverage, have students matched to one of their 650+ mentors on the marketplace, somebody who is ‘just like them’ - to bring in absolute personalisation in this journey.
The Funds Are Here Too
One of the biggest challenges for a foreign education is the funds required to go for it. Many students drop out every year because of the difficulty to arrange for the funds.
But the times have changed. Jain pointed out that funds are more accessible than ever and with a steady shift in perception, educational loans are becoming more acceptable in Indian society as Investment into oneself, so even providers see a huge business opportunity there. Banks, NBFCs and American Lenders are all offering products to Indian Students to fund their education themselves.
“We use AI and a product-first approach to cover all aspects of the student’s journey, having recently partnered to bring them education loans, forex, accommodation, on-demand learning, VISA, communication services, and much more,” said Chaturvedi.
We are very exposed as counsellors as the counselling is evolving. We launched an AI and ML-based learning platform. Already have offices in Italy, Milan and Switzerland.