• July 16, 2024

Using AI to make the right match

One of the biggest and challenging events in a typical middle class family’s lifecycle is sending their ward to a foreign university for higher studies. They move heaven and earth to find a ‘good university’, and then mobilise resources to meet the travel and education expenses abroad.

But, unfortunately, a good number of them either end up talking to their relatives or other parents instead of seeking professional advice.

Aman Singh, Co-Founder of edtech start-up GradRight, says most parents and students are either under-informed or ill-informed when they scout for a good college. “The challenge is not just limited to India. It is a global challenge. It is not just about finding a good programme in a good college in the US. It is also about finding a right funding agency (bank) that can take care of the expenses and fee,” he points out.

Singh, an alumnus of IIT Delhi and ISB Hyderabad, says even colleges confront a similar challenge. “They also would like to get the right set of students,” he says.

To address both the supply and demand side of the challenge, the start-up has developed an AI-based technology that brings all the three stakeholders — students, educational institutions and banks — together in a single platform. It has 15 partner banks and 30,000 STEM and management programmes.

Aman Singh, Co-Founder GradRight.

Out of the 60,000 students who sought help on the platform, about 3,500 students took loans to the tune of ₹2,000 crore. “By December 2024, we are targeting to increase the reach by three times to 1.5-2 lakh students,” he says.

The start-up has raised $6 million in August 2023 to fund its growth plans. “We are about to close another deal to raise $2 million more,” he says.

The platform filters the choices and allows the banks to quickly meet their prospective customers by offering them tailor-made financial options.

“There is no human intervention on our platform. Of the 180-strong team, we don’t have a single educational counsellor. The match-making (between students, colleges and banks) happens automatically,” he says.

Asked why they have chosen not to have any counsellors on the team, he points out that both students and the universities can do it themselves. “What we need to do is to bring them together for effective matchmaking.”

Disruption

Sasidhar Sista, another Co-Founder and an alumnus of BITS Pilani, says that this space has scope for huge disruption. “For instance, banks are waiting to figure out which student programme combination they should fund. Universities are not getting the right application and the students are figuring out whether he/she should go to the university where his/her cousin or senior has joined,” he points out.

To crack this puzzle, the start-up has used technology to make it a more organised process.

He claims that their contracts and incentive structures with the universities or banks are not linked to who gives them more money. “Universities don’t pay us for enrollment success. They have to subscribe to the platform to engage with the students. By default, all universities are available for all students. What we bring in is the engagement,” he says.

Recommendation is purely based on the merit of the programme and the preferences of the student. The resulting match cannot be meddled with by the student or the university. And, the platform is free for students.

Lenders compete

Singh says the platform’s algorithm make lenders compete with each other to get a student. “If they don’t have a good product, they don’t get a good student. In fact, we constructed it as a bidding platform. So, each bank can see what other banks offer. So, the student doesn’t have to run around the bank’s branches to negotiate,” he says.

The platform currently focuses on the US, the biggest market and plans to add Canada and Europe to its portfolio soon.

Laura Perna, Vice Provost for Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, says, “Students from India add to the educational experience of everybody else who’s there. So, it’s a win-win situation.”

Benjamin Manyindo, Director of Master Programmes at the New York-based Martin Tuchman School of Management, says choosing the right college is bewildering even for American students. “So, a tech-based solution for match-making helps all,” he adds.

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