“We are very proud as Indians” The founder of CollegeSearch commented on the ‘Make In India’ initiative during an interview with The Global Hues.
CollegeSearch is an ed-tech company with over 3 million students and 5000 colleges, working on an award-winning algorithm that compares colleges on various quantitative and qualitative parameters. Their SmartQuotient derives the most relevant results as per students’ requirements. Alongside, alumni reviews are also available on the platform as a cherry on the top.
CollegeSearch has processed 250,000 college applications over the past year. Companies reach and clientele ranges from colleges and universities across India, with year-on-year revenue of over 150%. CollegeSearch is growing rapidly with its business strategies, helping thousands of students to choose the right Universities.
Anirudh Motwani: Founder of CollegeSearch
Q1- What was the journey that led you to start CollegeSearch?
Anirudh Motwani- I am from a computer science background and passionate about products and tools. When I was young, one particular problem that I faced was finding the right college. There was a lot of confusion and a lot of information available about colleges. This gave birth to the idea of starting CollegeSearch. Initially, we began with basic information, relying on the colleges in India.
The basic idea was to create a platform where students can find information about various colleges of India. In the end, it is personal preferences that drive college selection. Gradually we’ve grown more than three times, and raised a couple of rounds of funding with 5 million users in terms of students, including more than 7000 colleges. We also have 30,000 alumni on our platform and have generated more than 120 million of sales.
Q2- What is the USP of CollegeSearch that acts as a magnet for your clients?
Anirudh Motwani- When CollegeSearch started its journey, Shiksha.com was one of the largest platforms in our space. While searching for colleges on that platform a student could see top colleges like IIT or DTU, along with the names of advertisers. With time the audience has become smarter, with clear preferences to choose the right college. A lot of people in the ed-tech industry still follow the same idea, but with a focus to find a suitable college for students. We guide them in the right direction.
Q3- Is the changing dynamics in education, from traditional offline modes to virtual learning, impacting your Business model? If yes, then how?
Anirudh Motwani- Even before Covid, the dynamics shift was changing frequently towards online modes. People were taking courses on platforms like Coursera, Udacity, etc. However, during the Pandemic the pace of adopting virtual modes accelerated. It’s ideal for us. We have also tied up with tech players.
There are two kinds of tech companies: First: Great companies like Byju’s, Unacademy, Vedantu, Meritnation are helping students prepare for exams, like CAT, helping them to get into traditional universities.
Second: Companies like Coursera, Udemy, or even homegrown like Upgrad, Simplilearn promote modern courses, for example instead of a traditional MBA, an individual can choose masters in supply chain or logistics, instead of traditional tech they can opt for something in artificial intelligence or machine learning. Majority of students still choose traditional alternatives to education.
Q4- How did the ongoing Pandemic and lockdown affect the response rate on your website? If it was more than the projections, how are you planning to maintain these statistics?
Anirudh Motwani- We have seen a 200% increase in traffic in this lockdown. We thought it would go back to normal when the lockdown was lifted, but even last quarter- from October to December, our traffic was up 240% year on year. It’s a huge increase from students. They prefer looking up information about colleges online than physically attending education fairs today. We are seeing a lot of inquiries from colleges and tech companies. I will say that for tech businesses like us, it has been really good from both a user and advertiser’s view. However we understand for the rest of the economy, it wasn’t.
Q5- Do you believe that the ‘Make in India’ initiative by the government has provided startups with a new edge in the ed-tech sector? Can you share your views about ‘going vocal for local’? Is your company promoting this initiative in any form currently?
Anirudh Motwani- We believe the ‘Make in India’ initiative is for the manufacturing sector. Our understanding of ‘Make in India’ or ‘Vocal for Local’ is very limited. Obviously, its initiatives and policies sound progressive and promising. From what I read India is not doing well in manufacturing. Vietnam, even Bangladesh has overtaken us in manufacturing. I am sure ‘Make in India’ will become a reality soon, making us proud as Indians. It will also reduce prevailing doubts regarding product quality.
The Digital India initiative is very relevant for us. Even the data protection bill, which is in Parliament now is essential for us because it brings a sense of confidence in the users that their data is safe while registering on our platform.
Q6- Tell us about your milestones and achievements in the ed-tech sector so far?
Anirudh Motwani- Few things that we are quite proud of is our journey of 10 years through which we’ve grown more than 50 times, in terms of both users and revenues. We also have an awards program called Students Choice Awards. We have seen participation from all the top colleges such as IITs IIMs NIFTs. We have more than 33% market share in terms of all aspirants in India. We are a profitable company now. That is a big achievement for us, and it has all been done without betraying the trust of our users, without selling their data, or trying to influence their decision.
Q7- What are the future plans of the company? Are you looking to expand your demographics?
Anirudh Motwani- There are two major opportunities for us. One is transactions. The information part is limited to the extent where students can find online information about colleges. However, college admission is a lengthy process. We want it to be as simple as ordering food online. We realized that even colleges hate the whole process. So, they happily let it be processed online in a seamless manner. The second obviously is geographic expansion. College applications are not very different from country to country. It’s very easy for a retail company to expand overseas. Our long-term goal is to build a global business in education.
Q8- One piece of advice you would like to give to upcoming start-ups in the ed-tech industry.
Anirudh Motwani- Avoid envy, and just focus on your own business. It’s very easy to get demotivated thinking another company is raising a surplus amount of money, valuation, or advertising. There will always be somebody who’s doing better this year. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon so you have to keep going.
One saying or a quote that I find very useful today is, “the difference between being successful and very successful is that successful people say no to almost everything.”