We can all agree that a life without good, focussed education in today’s world limits opportunities more than ever before in history. As developing economies grow, education acts like a safety rope for large sections of the population; enabling people to gain skill-based, formal employment with all of its consequential benefits.
Our Mumbai Startup of the Week is Propelld – a startup focussed on helping students find and finance educational opportunities with a high return-on-investment. The venture is led by a team of three guys who are extremely passionate about their cause. All three of them, Bibhu, Brijesh and Victor, have graduated from IIT Madras and hold both MBA and engineering degrees. Through their journey, they have experienced first hand the life-changing impact that the right educational opportunities can have on a person. In fact, they are so passionate that they left behind a successful, cash flow positive startup to focus 100% on Propelld.
We spoke with two co-founders, Brijesh and Victor, to find out more about their journey so far.
1. What motivated you to start a venture within the educational finance space?
Brijesh: Education is really close to our heart. Coming from a state like Odisha where we have seen people being deprived of basic educational opportunities, we know how tough things can get for motivated students. It’s close to impossible for students from underprivileged backgrounds to apply for loans from traditional banking channels. In fact, almost 80% of the country finds it tough to get educational loans. I feel being able to bring education into someone’s life is of the greatest value, and that’s what motivates me.
Victor: I come from a very small town in Odisha, Bhadrak. However, I had the opportunity to move to Bhubaneshwar (capital city of Odisha) early on in my life. Juxtapositioned against my friends who never moved to Bhubaneshwar, I can see drastic differences in the kind of opportunities I got access to. Further down the road, spending time in Delhi and Mumbai has led to an even greater differential. I wholeheartedly believe that an individual should have access to the right kind of exposure when it comes to education in order to help him/her in making the right decisions and achieve their own vision of success. We came up with Propelld when we realised there was a gap in terms of helpful information and financing in the market due to which smart, driven students were not being able to reach their potential.
2. What’s your dream goal from a long term perspective?
Victor: When you say long-term, I think we are looking at a period of 7-10 years. Essentially, we want Propelld to be an always available, global mentor for students. Whenever a student has an education related need, we want him/her to know that Propelld is with them. We want them to be able to see all the opportunities that they can get access to and interact with people to figure out the best options for themselves, particularly from an employment perspective. We want to create a brand that is trusted by students to guide them in their educational journey.
3. Tell us about some key insights you have gained into this segment over the past few months.
Brijesh: Initially, the way we were thinking about the product was a bit too complicated. We imagined a very intricate product, which would be extremely beneficial to the students. However, we soon realised that what we imagined would be very difficult to get into the market. Now we have found that the problem is actually around employability. Students interested in high return on investment education are primarily driven by the employment opportunities created by different courses and want to know as much about that as possible.
On top of helping students get flexible, friendly financing for education, we now aim to curate such high return on investment courses for our students. We want to guide them towards courses that meet high standards and are able to add value to their careers and lives, and the students we have spoken to so far resonate with this message strongly.
4. How has the SBC experience been so far?
Victor: We never expected an accelerator experience to be like this and to be honest we didn’t even know what it was going to be about. It’s been a truly wonderful experience. Some of the mentors have been really amazing and helped us to set a clear vision for our future. Further, the insights and partner ecosystem that SBC brings to the table has really helped us pivot and achieve a solid product-market fit.
Propelld has recently tied up with one of the top-5 analytics institutes in India for data science and machine learning courses, IvyPro. The institute operates across 3 cities in India and has graduated more than 10,000 students so far. Propelld, in partnership with Ivy Pro, is also introducing a new course where students start learning now and pay back the fee when they start earning. This offering is targeted towards motivated and talented students who have promising backgrounds, and want to improve their employability, but in the past may not have been able to afford to do so.
In case you would like to know more about Propelld or get in touch with the team, please write in to us at fintechmumbai [at] startupbootcamp.org. Stay tuned to this space for our next startup of the week!