How LEAP Fulfills Global Education Aspirations Of Indian Students
The startup recently raised a fresh funding round of $55 million in Series C, led by Owl Ventures
For Arnav Kumar and Vaibhav Singh, co-founders of LEAP, an oversees education startup, a quality education opened up opportunities. They believe that the education they both received at IIT Kharagpur enabled them to get to where they are today. That is why today they are passionate about ensuring that as many students as possible get access to the best possible education and truly realize their full potential.
Both cofounders spent their formative professional years together at Deutsche Bank discussing multiple ideas. During these discussions, they realized that education was something they both were passionate about. They further deep-dived into the subject and found out that there were huge opportunities in the study-abroad segment. Thus, they took the plunge in 2019 to build LEAP together.
Products And Services
During the pre-startup stage, Singh also had the opportunity to deep dive into the world of student loans. One problem that particularly stood out was that the Indian students who went abroad for higher studies were paying higher interest rates on their education loans. “An Indian student was being charged 12-14 per cent on an education loan as opposed to an American student being charged interest at 4-5 per cent. This is because the Indian student procures the loan from a bank in India at prevailing interest rates. This made us realize that student loans should be given in the currency of the destination country rather than in INR,” said Singh.
Another hurdle was that Indian banks asked for collateral for any student loan that goes INR 15 Lakh. This made the cofounders launch LeapFinance, the startup’s first product that focused on a student’s merit as the base for financing. The startup claims that the product provides 100 per cent financing of education loans and at interest rates much lower than the prevailing rates in India. “These loans are also collateral-free. The process involves going through multiple data points of any prospective student loan applicant, which includes academic history and work experience that cuts across over 300 data points. Besides, it also conducts an outcome survey on what would be the likely future roadmap of these students,” added Singh. LeapFinance also offers a US bank account, virtual debit card, student insurance, credit card, etc as well.
The second challenge that the cofounders observed was that the entire college application process took 9 to 12 months typically and the student had to depend on multiple service providers which led to inconsistency in quality and a fragmented experience. The cofounders also felt that students needed community-led support and peer interactions to cement their decision to study abroad and gain clarity. This led them to launch LeapScholar, a service that helps in test preparation, application processing, admissions, counseling, etc.
Further, the startup offers The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) prep program through which it claims to have trained more than 200,000 students so far. It also provides a full-stack counseling solution that helps students make the right decisions to enroll at a school that is aligned with their ambitions. This includes helping students decide the country or college or program they want to pursue as well as then helping them with the subsequent applications. It claims to have helped students move to 15+ countries, enroll at 1000+ global colleges and pursue 10,000+ different programs. Additionally, in the final leg of their journey, students are offered help in finding accommodation, getting health insurance, opening an international bank account, moving money abroad, etc
2020 was the startup’s first full year of operation and despite COVID-19, it claims to have seen a 25 per cent month-on-month growth. “The pent-up demand from 2020 is fuelled by this surge in applications. Many students also deferred their admission plans by a year and are now gearing up to pursue their foreign education plans. Universities abroad have also done a great job at adapting to the changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Singh.
LEAP is a team of around 300 people. The startup claims that it fosters a culture where everyone is encouraged to take on audacious goals and is fully empowered to achieve them. “Bias for action, frequent and transparent feedback without any hierarchies and constantly striving for excellence describe our culture,” added Singh.
Cofounders also hire people who understand the vision of the company. “The most important thing for us is that our people believe in our vision - really understand the “why” of what we are building. This is something we spend a lot of time on with almost every hire we bring on board. Mission-aligned folks automatically bring high ownership and agency which are core tenets of how we operate,” said Singh.
The cofounders, in fact, had a culture document ready even before they made their first hire. The document, Singh claims, has stayed largely unchanged since. “What we stand for as a team is what I believe determines our long-term success and so we take culture very seriously at LEAP,” he added.
Long Term Goals And Expansion
The startup recently raised a fresh funding round of $55 million in Series C, led by Owl Ventures. The newly infused capital will be used for multi-dimensional growth such as extending its service suite to students across SE Asia and MENA regions and enable them to pursue their global education aspirations across more than 20 destination countries.
“The success stories we have already been able to create at LEAP is the biggest motivating factor for me. I believe that education is probably the strongest lever that exists for socio-economic mobility worldwide and if we at LEAP can make a difference here to enable millions of students wanting to pursue quality education, then it would be deeply rewarding to me as an entrepreneur,” said Singh.
The startup plans to broaden its product portfolio to offer more innovative solutions to international students. Some of the products in the pipeline include an international student credit card and insurance products and a suite of offerings to help international students succeed on campus once they have made the move abroad.
Shanthi specialises in writing sector-specific trends, interviews and startup profiles. She has worked as a feature writer for over a decade in several print and digital media companies. She is also a mom who looks forward to playing a game of cards with her tween daughter every evening after work.