16 Jun 2017 18:19 IST

‘Mind’ what you choose

Aakanksha Srinivasan writes about Mindler, an algorithm-based career-guidance platform

Prateek Bhargava, CEO and founder of Mindler, is on a mission to help students take better career decisions. “When 70 per cent of the students graduating from IITs choose to study MBA after getting an engineering degree, and a lot of the graduating engineers aren’t getting jobs, what’s the point of doing engineering?” Prateek asks. “Today, there are so many new career paths that students can follow, from becoming YouTube bloggers to journalists. There is a lot more on offer, as compared to a couple of decades ago.”

A mixture of misinformation, ignorance and lack of exposure, especially in Tier-II and Tier-III cities, has led to the belief among parents that their children should only do IIT-JEE. “Some parents don’t even know what that is. They just know that someone told them it’s the only way their child will get a job.” Prateek says.

Beginnings

Started in early 2015, Mindler was conceived to provide students with a career guidance platform which is affordable, and where the process of receiving guidance is flexible, says Bhargava, who co-founded the platform with Prikshit Dhanda.

To get the project off the ground as quickly as possible, Bhargava and Dhanda reached out to Dr NK Chadha, a former head of the Department of Psychology at University of Delhi, to help flesh their idea out. By August 2015, Mindler’s core team was in place.

To eliminate personal bias, Mindler uses a ‘scientific tool’ which maps the student’s profile and then maps a career based on his/her traits. It took over 75,000 man hours by 40-odd PhDs and MAs in Psychology to developthe algorithm. Several global career bodies were roped in and consulted while designing it. The R&D process took about 14 months, and the company was registered in July 2015.

The Indian School of Business is Mindler’s accelerator.

Target audiences

Mindler primarily targets the class 9 to 12 segment. “India is an interesting country where education doesn’t end at the graduate level. So while we offer services to graduates as well, their nature (of counselling) is different. We’re not moulding their careers, just nudging them in the right direction,” Bhargava explains.

Mindler is offered to both institutions and individuals. At present, they are looking to tie up with institutions. “We brought 16 marquee institutions on board in 2016. This year, apart from marquee schools, we are also in talks with the government to tie-up with government schools and colleges.” Bhargava says that while they are seeing 100 per cent growth in the B2C segment, they are looking to work in both B2B and B2C segments. At present Mindler has 50,000 individual users.

Mitali Bhasin, who studied at Lucknow’s La Martiniere Girls College, says she always knew what she wanted to do, career-wise. “I know that I have good people skills, but I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do. Mindler’s 50-page report gave me a good idea of my strengths and weaknesses, which helped me make up my mind,” says Mitali, who is now pursuing journalism.

In contrast, 16-year-old Pratul Chaturvedi who studies at Seth MR Jaipuria, also in Lucknow, says Mindler’s advice helped him choose his passion. He says: “Before Prikshit (Dhanda) conducted the Mindler workshop in our school, I was all set to opt for the Science stream in Class 12. But after I took the test, it told me that my strengths lay in the Humanities stream. So now, I am studying Humanities with Maths and Economics . Going forward, I hope to study International Relations and Public Policy at Harvard University.”

Mindler’s services are also available abroad, where they are targeting the Indian diaspora, as the algorithm has been designed keeping in mind the Indian education system.

Expansion and diversification

Apart from providing career counselling, Prateek says he also wants regulate the career counselling market. “We are in the process of developing an app that will help practising career counsellors have a wider reach. We’re still figuring out the nitty-gritty details. So apart from just providing the service ourselves, we also want to empower and regulate the already existing market,” he adds.

Bhargava started Mindler with a personal investment which, he says, was to help “get stalwarts on board. After that, we got a funding of ₹1.2 crore from IIM-A’s incubating body, CIIE”. Mindler recently received $300,000 in the second round of funding.

“The scene is changing India,” Bhargava says. “Parents now see that studying engineering at IIT is not the ultimate goal; there are other careers that their children can pursue. With Mindler, we hope to help them make better informed decisions, and most importantly, help students choose the best career they have the aptitude for and would like to work in.”

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