Aspiring Minds-Reinventing Corporate Recruitments – http://www.aspiringminds.in/
By – Shaily Chauhan & Himanshi Baranwal
The proverbial punch line of a mobile solutions company says “An idea can change YOUR life”. But an idea initiated by two brothers around three years back aims to revolutionize the life of millions of Indian youth.
Birth of an idea:
While pursuing electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, Varun Aggarwal read disturbing statistics (2003 NASSCOM-KPMG report) about India: Even though 350,000 engineers graduated annually from more than 300 universities and 15,600 colleges, only 25 percent were considered employable. A massive shortfall of technical personnel was expected by 2012. The report blamed poor training, but he remained skeptical.
Whereas, everyone was talking about unemployability and training as the issue, his mind was working on how to solve the problem of making the right talent meet opportunity. This led to the germination of an ingenious, satisfying the needful and simple idea of conducting a SAT/GRE like assessment exam. Varun and his brother Himanshu , an IIT graduate, left their mouth watering packages to build their company Aspiring minds which now has a wide pool of customers ranging from students to companies.
Graduating students can take Aspiring Minds’ flagship test AMCAT (Aspiring Minds Computer Adaptive Test ), to present a picture of their abilities and skills to interested companies. Students would also get feedback and a reality-check on their abilities and job-preparedness on the basis this assessment.
Aspiring Minds has proved itself as highly valuable to the corporate by providing just the right kind of talent to them based on scientific and objective judgment. A large database of students assessed across the nation is now being used by companies to identify and pick the talent from literally anywhere and at any time. Companies can directly hire from this database or use Aspiring Mind’s assessment services independent of the pool. Aspiring Minds has aptitude, skill and personality tests, which are all computer-based and completely automated. They also work with companies to setup hiring benchmarks through correlating test scores to internal company performance criteria. Personality assessment has been particularly useful with regard to hiring sales, retail and customer relationship profile.
Aspiring Minds’ team goes college-to-college to conduct the test in the computer lab of the college to bring job opportunities to the door step of the student. In just over three years, more than 130,000 students from more than 550 colleges have taken the AMCAT. And test data have yielded some important findings. More than 70 percent of qualified candidates for IT jobs graduate from institutions many employers ignore.
Today more than 60 companies including the hotshots such as Microsoft and HCL and elite institutes like the IITs and NITs resort to their tests. Perhaps a great way of aiding people with diverse backgrounds is that different courses have different tests (different AMCATS) and companies look at different combination of these scores.
Selling a new idea to companies was a little difficult as they were apprehensive about the technology and algorithm used in the tests. But Aggarwal dug out in his MIT connections, sold his idea on Linked in. For every ten mails he sent, he started receiving seven replies and fixed meetings for five. Consequently, he met Prof. Tarun Khanna, who helped him a lot in the beginning, and is now a part of Aspiring Minds’ as an invaluable advisor.
Initially the organization was self funded. However, AM raised angel investments in the third quarter of 2008 to scale up. AM Start-up teams would always have the numbers worked out carefully and enumerate what they can burn in a particular month. The founders always remembered the golden rule of business that spending too little can also be fatal to the organization’s growth.
Aspiring Minds follow a painstaking strategy of first testing the product on the ground, learning from the experience and then designing a product sturdy in all scenarios. Only when sure about the product’s potential do they go into marketing it in a sustainable way. They were very averse to over-exposure of their products too early in the cycle. Their marketing strategy has always been to first make people understand product’s core value proposition, get endorsements from thought leaders and then create a mass appeal through activities such as sponsoring HR seminars, events, organizing placement seminars, etc.
Aspiring Minds’ R&D team comprises two sets of people. The first set works on the assessment technology, in the statistics and analytics division of the company that consists of engineering and statistics experts. This division is led by Varun Aggarwal. The second set works on the product delivery technology. This team comprises of engineers who ensure smooth and efficient delivery of assessment products across the remotest corners of the country. Over 35 per cent of the total spending is on R&D.
There is social value in finding a job for someone who doesn’t have one; it brings stability to the person, his family and eventually to society. Aspiring Minds is the change agent in giving that value. Focusing on these ideals the young entrepreneurs braved the recession and
Aspiring Minds emerged stronger and unscathed.
Journey so far (facing the recession and forward):
The company was opened during the heights of recession. But they decided to turn this turn of events into a rare opportunity. It was a time when jobs were scarce and companies wanted talent.
As already mentioned the brothers networked and convinced the companies brilliantly of their algorithm and the rest as they say is history.
While such changes are unsettling, they also adapted by innovating. They literally went back to the drawing board to build products that they had planned for the future. They slashed their spending during the period of uncertainty to ensure that they tided over the downturn. They visibly realized that it is equally important to ensure that the other business functions, like operations, sales, etc also scale up to accommodate these
innovations. Also, it is prudent to ensure that the new offerings align to the company’s marketing and sales strategies. The company charges around 400 INR per student and 250 INR per student if complete college subscribes to the tests.
It has been a dream run of sorts for this Gurgaon based company. After achieving the stature of being the only Indian company in Business Week’s list of Most Intriguing Startups globally, Aspiring Minds was also one of the 6 finalists at NASSCOM’s Innovation Awards 2009 in the Startup Category. After multiple rounds of selection process, Himanshu Aggarwal, Co-Founder and present director of Aspiring Minds, presented their innovation in technology and business before the elite jury at the Nasscom Innovation Awards event in Pune. Thrilled at seeing the young firm grow by leaps & bounds, the brothers have now set high sights & aim to strengthen the company’s presence pan India. Even though the budding entrepreneurs’ sapient idea revolutionized the Indian corporate sector recruitments, but when asked about Varun Aggarwal’s successful mantra, he humbly asserts that he isn’t sure if he is successful yet, but then goes on to add that hard work, persistence and keeping a check on ego are few of the indispensable qualities.
Note: This article is honorary article for the “Exciting article writing competition – July 2011”. Submitted by Shaily Chauhan & Himanshi Baranwal