Powering Banks To Finance The Right Student-Program Match

"Our platform is free for students. Our revenue comes from lenders and universities who participate on the platform. Lenders pay us a commission based on loans disbursed," Aman Singh, Co-founder, GradRight explains

The platform brings together students, universities, and banks. It uses data science, technology, and community to help students find the most fundable, high return, best-matching college program, enabling universities to connect, engage and enroll.

What is the story behind it? Tell us about the inception.

My co-founder Sasi and I have worked together over the last ten years in the Indian and global higher education sector. While anchoring the development of Ashoka University and assisting the development of multiple other institutions in India and outside, we interacted with thousands of students and parents. We understood the challenges and confusions of middle-class and lower-middle-class income students. The frustrations of new universities trying to find and enrol the best students they deserved and the increasing role of banks in the higher education sector of India. GradRight is a culmination of insights that we have gathered over the last decade and our platform addresses a core problem in the global higher education sector.

SelectRight starts with students providing details of academic and professional background, financial and budgetary details along with preferences for their decision of higher education. The system combines this information with rich data on 20,000 programs across six countries to generate the best choices that are uniquely suitable for the students. It also brings financing insights from the participating lenders to identify which of these system-generated programs are ‘fundable’ and potentially offer higher returns than others. Once the best matches are generated the corresponding universities can engage directly with such students and find a way to eventually enroll them.

How are you different from the existing competitors?

There are four distinct USPs of GradRight:

1. GradRight directly connects banks, universities, and students and allows them to engage and transact with each other. It is a rare two-sided, three-stakeholder marketplace. 

2. GradRight is a product powered by data, tech, and community unlike most of our competitors which are essentially trying to automate and scale up either their currently run manual counselling or financing services.

3. GradRight has created an education loan bidding platform that shifts the power from lenders to students and helps them choose the best loan products and save millions of dollars in interest expenses.

4. The core team has unmatched experience and network in the Indian and global higher education sector and education financing in India and the USA. 

What is the funding status and monetisation model?

We invested INR 4 crore of our funds to build the product and take it to market. Once we saw that the product-market fit was established, we raised INR 13 crore. We are in the process of raising a significant investment in the upcoming round.

Our platform is free for students. Our revenue comes from lenders and universities who participate on the platform. Lenders pay us a commission based on loans disbursed and opportunities to engage with students and universities spend their marketing budget with us to find and connect with best-fit students.

What challenges are you facing in running your business?

We can create ten times more value if we can integrate fully with our lenders and university partners. All such integrations take more time than desired because there are challenges that all large, well-established organisations face in making transitions to new ways of doing things. But we are hopeful that we will be able to integrate fully with them within the next 6 months to 18 months.

Finding great tech resources is another challenge that is prevalent in the Indian startup ecosystem. Companies like ours which are focussed on profitability find it difficult to throw irrational amounts of funds in trying to match up to the ever-increasing cost of tech resources.

How has been the people's response so far?

Students love us because now they are in control of their higher education journey. The power to choose the best loans, and the college that they truly deserve is now in their hands. They save anywhere from INR 2 lakh to INR 15 lakh in their loan expenses. They feel empowered and valued because GradRight is helping them finance their college education based on their own merits.

Universities are relieved that now they can engage and enroll the students they deserve without being held back by counsellor-agents who tend to act as biased gatekeepers in the student admission process.

What are the traction details (users, reach & other achievements of the company)?

In a short period of 19 months, since January 2021, and with limited marketing budgets, our platform has reached over 2000 towns and cities of India and benefitted over 35,000 students seeking higher education outside India. We have the single largest loan request pipeline of INR 8000 crores and have secured loans worth INR 1200 crores via our lending partners.

What are your expansion plans?

We have a two-pronged expansion strategy. The first is to scale up the platform usage in India and the second is to launch the product in the US. We want to power education loans for every lender in India and the US markets followed by multiple markets of interest. We want to ensure that students globally are selecting and financing their programs most smartly and cost-effectively. We are raising a significant amount of funds from marquee Silicon Valley-based investors to power this growth.

What has been the biggest learning so far?

The biggest learning has been the enormity and seriousness of the problem we are solving. With the increasing privatisation of higher education, college education has become increasingly expensive and more students are taking up debt than ever before. Selecting poor return programs and financing them with expensive loans is a recipe for a pile-up of education debt. The $ 1.7 trillion education debt crisis in the US is a good warning for the shape of things to come in India. Outstanding education loan debt in India stands at $ 12 billion and will go to $ 120 billion over the next 10-15 years and may impact the socio-economic development of the next generation.

What is the market size and opportunity?

The college selection and financing market are worth over $ 400 billion. This is excluding the debt market of $ 2 trillion in outstanding higher education loans that can be made more efficient. The higher education sector is recession-proof and has been growing steadily at 8 per cent YoY.Aman 

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