ENTREPENEUR FOR ‘SOCIAL CHANGE’
Talk of any attribute of a successful entrepreneur, be it never say die attitude or be it keen sense of observation, be it sheer hardwork or be it a creative mind, be it charm or be it humility, be it a assertiveness or be it calmness in voice, be it an evergreen smile, be it glow on face, at just tender age of 26-27, Mr. Kshitij Mehra has all these qualities ingrained in him. He is the founder of ‘Yuvshaala’ a career counselling organization started in 2010 from the very rural areas of Himachal and currently operating in entire Himachal, Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana. Kshitij has in him that thing to make people feel comfortable in walking upto him and share their problems and he seems a natural at solving them, a quality which is the cornerstone of his entire business idea.
Kshitij did his B.com from S.D. College Chandigarh, the premier and most sought after college for commerce graduates in the city. Along with B.Com, he also completed his C.A. After doing his C.A, he prepared for CAT and despite preparing only for a couple of months, he was able to convert calls from colleges like UBS, Chandigarh, KJ Soumaya etc. but he chose not to do join any of these and decided to give CAT one more shot. But even at that time, sitting idle was not in his nature. “As a trainee during my CA I started getting stipend at the age of 18 or 19 and which was sufficient for my pocket money. So a sense of self dependency was there and I was not habitual of taking money from my parents. So I started working at a coffee shop and used to handle their marketing work ” recalls Kshitij. There, he had an opportunity to meet Mr. Sumit Khanna, the co-founder of Edu-Corp, a Chandigarh based institute that provides coaching for CAT and soon he was hired at EduCorp for a part time job as a doubt clearing faculty. He would spend 3-4 hours per day there and take doubts of the students in quant. It’s there Kshitij realised that he had a knack for teaching. He expressed his desire to Mr. Amit Hans, the CEO of EduCorp and after a rigorous training of 15 days he was appointed as a faculty at EduCorp and there was no looking back after that. Soon he became a favourite among students. Even as a faculty of mathematics, he used to spend 10-15 minutes in his each class in counselling the students regarding their career options and which college can provide them what they actually wanted from life. He worked there for one and a half years and then moved to ‘PT Education’ in Noida and greater Noida and was promoted as centre manager. He then left PT Education and joined Teachwell, a Delhi based brand. Between leaving PT and joining Teachwell, there was a gap of 10 days and that’s when YuvShaala was born.
Q) What gap in the market you discover that persuaded you to launch your start-up?
Ans: Back in 2010, one of my friends started a tally institute. To help him in marketing for his institute, I accompanied him to interiors of H.P. where we thought we could find students who start looking for jobs after 12th class or so. We went to schools to interact with 12th class students, we found that scenario in Government schools was so worse that the Non medical students there hadn’t even heard about AIEEE or JEE, leave alone preparing for it. They had nobody to guide them and there was real dearth of resources. There the idea of forming a career counselling organization clicked in my mind and yuvshaala was born. After doing initial research and to generate the initial capital, I kept on working with Teachwell for next 4 months where I was managing 4 out of their 5 centres and in the meantime I designed the content and all major and minor details of their workshops and how I intended to add value to the students.
Q) How you penetrated into the market and how was your experience in early periods?
Ans: Our initial targets were government schools. To conduct workshops in Govt schools, we had to take permission from Himachal Government. So I approached the Himachal Govt education board and was able to put my idea into their mind, and made them realise the need for such workshops for the students. But they refused to make it compulsory for students also to give any monetary aid as it required a very lengthy bureaucratic procedure. So, in the beginning our workshops were free of cost to students and Yuvshaala generated revenue from advertisements. We would give a booklet to every student after workshop which will carry details of colleges that offered different courses and we would charge money to colleges for this. Now we had all the government schools in Himachal into our clientele which added to make more than 1200 schools and with such huge clientele, it seemed like a cakewalk to tap the colleges but this wasn’t the case. Most of the colleges made demands which were not acceptable to us. E.g. many wanted yuvshaala to promote only their name and not other colleges. It’d be unfair to our students, rather it’d be unethical on our part to advertise only one college to students and miss out other good colleges. Career of someone is going to be shaped by our advice so we were very clear from day one that no matter if we lose a few colleges, we won’t compromise on our ethics. So we went to college after college and got our first contract in 71st attempt. Even dealing with them wasn’t very smooth and after 1st year, we were in bad debt of around 3.5 lakhs.
Q) What’s the progress made by you?
Ans: All the Govt schools of Himachal are our clients. We have clients in Chandigarh, some elite private schools in Himachal, Schools in Punjab and Haryana as well. We have conducted works even at places like Madurai, Indore etc. So we are growing pretty fast and getting repeatedly covered by almost all the national newspapers, India today magazine and various social media pages. World of mouth publicity has been our major source of growth as wherever we have gone, we have always got positive feedback. We started with workshops in rural areas of Himachal where students lacked even basic awareness but later we found, even students in elite schools of big cities also remain confused about which career to choose. There was a time when we used to charge Rs 10 per student for our workshops in Government schools. Now we charge 500 Rs per student and we make sure every student get worth of his money. Initially our workshop used to be just 1 day affair. Now we have designed it into a 4 day workshop. On first day we take a 2 hour session in which we tell why career counselling is important for them. This first day session is free for every student. If students feel its importance, then only they pay money and register for next 3 days of sessions and those who attend our sessions, get a magazine every month from us which contains things useful for their careers are always free to contact us anytime in future either through mail, Facebook or even my personal visiting our office. So we are growing at a rapid pace both in terms of revenue and value added to our customers.
Q) What is your projection in next 5 years?
Ans: Our Vision is to cover the entire India. We don’t any student to lag behind due to lack of proper mentorship. We don’t want nation to miss out on any of her talent. In next five years our target is to have our considerable presence in every state of the country and to have our franchises there. We are already planning to open a franchise in Indore.
Q) Any Plans to go Global?
Ans: There are a plethora of courses being offered in foreign universities. To counsel students who want to study abroad, we need to do an extensive research which can even take years to complete. As I said, somebody’s career is going to be defined by our advice, so we can’t just jump into market without doing proper homework. So, right now we are thinking at national level only. Once we can cover the country, then we might think about foreign markets.
Q) What advice would you like to give for budding or aspiring entrepreneurs?
Ans: Today, entrepreneurship bug is biting the youth fast, but most of the people just keep thinking and making plans but don’t actually do anything. So my first advice to entrepreneurs would be not to sit back and wait for opportunities, but to go out and make things happen. Being an entrepreneur is not like lying on bed of roses. Rather, Problems and rejections are part and parcel of an entrepreneur’s life. Never focus too much on problem and instead spend time and energy on devising solutions to those problems. Be socially active. Be part of various organizations that promote entrepreneurship. I was covered by national and international organizations like TIE, NEN etc. because I was always present in their events. Apart from motivation, you get to interact and learn from a lot of successful people there. Never sit back, ask your doubts. When you are representing your company, never say word ‘I’, say ‘we’ instead. Be spot on in replying to the mails or messages you get, even if they are not useful to your business. It shows you are serious towards your business. Never compromise with your ethics and values as these are the things that build your credibility in the market.
Rest all depends on your determination, creativity, hardwork and little bit of luck too. There were times in yuvshaala when all doors appeared closed and I was left all alone. But I believed in myself and kept going. So keep faith in yourself and as far as you know your idea fills some gap in the market, DON’T QUIT.