Gaurav Ragtah is happy with the way his career is shaping up. Currently a sophomore at Colgate University in New York, the Delhi boy is doing a double major in computer science and mathematics. Whats more, he also has a 95 per cent scholarship to see him through.
Ragtah says he owes it all to GoIIT (www.goiit.com), a philanthropic website that offers free services to IIT-JEE aspirants. I was introduced to many interesting mini topics and problem solving methodologies, he says. I learnt that most problems can be solved in more ways than one.
Ragtah is not alone in seeking such help, and neither is GoIIT, the only website of its kind. Today many students are lapping up the services of this new breed of edu-social networks — online spaces where they can work to fulfil their education and career goals. Most of these sites are free.
The brains behind these ventures are alumni of premier institutes such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC). GoIIT is the brainchild of former students of IIT Delhi and IIT Powai, with Ragtah as the moderator. TargetIIT.com (http://targetiit.com ) is an initiative of IIT Kharagpur alumni. Cool Avenues (www. coolavenues.com) was begun by Lokendra Tomar, Shailesh Vikram Singh (IIM, Lucknow) and Sandeep Dhaka (IIM, Ahmedabad).
So how do these enterprises help IIT aspirants? Apart from giving free tutorials, they also conduct workshops and classroom tutorials, and offer mentorship.
If the geeks of IIT and IIM have their portals, the Indian Institute of Mass Communication alumni are not far behind either. Ex IIMCians Sandeep Kumar, a television journalist with Aaj Tak, and Deepak Kumar, a print journalist with the Hindi daily Hindustan, offer classroom guidance and online support (support firstname.lastname@example.org) to wannabe journos. Sandeep and Deepak mentored around 15 students last year. Nine among them cracked the IIMC entrance exam. The duo is now planning to go big with a website. We begin our classroom guidance services in the last week of March and continue till the third week of May, says Sandeep. We also answer queries sent to support email@example.com.
The website of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, too hosts interactive sessions a few months prior to the Common Admission Test.
Another interesting forum is Minglebox.com (www.minglebox.com) , a social networking space for college students and young professionals. Set up by IIM and IIT alumni, it helps students find the best colleges and courses. It also offers online admission aid and counselling services.
Minglebox.com caters to students from all disciplines such as IT, engineering, overseas education, vocational studies and management. Then there is CoolAvenues, which caters to MBA alumni, professionals, students and management aspirants. It also hosts a jobs board which is used by companies such as Accenture, Bharti, Cap Gemini and Deloiite.
IIT aspirants have a lot to choose from. www.askiitians.com, an auxiliary of TransWeb Educational services Pvt. Ltd, offers interactive sessions and video solutions to those preparing for IIT-JEE and medical entrance exams. Rajiv Agarwals TargetIIT — a free educational and social network — is part of Edudigm, an education forum that offers classroom programmes, correspondence courses, high-tech video lectures and one-to-one mentoring.
This initiative of Agarwal and his bunch of IIT mates clearly indicates that such portals help to establish educational entrepreneurships. One can earn up to Rs 1 lakh a month, depending on the traffic on the website, says Agarwal.
Veterans of such networks agree that this is a good business model as a lot of Indian marketers are opting for online advertisements. There are many ventures that focus only on ad revenues. This helps them control costs. They are doing pretty well and reaping decent profits, says Pankaj Vermani, co-founder and vice-president (products), GoIIT.
However, in India, there is a glass ceiling with regard to revenue from such advertising, adds Vermani. Its tough to make multi-million dollar revenue streams by just advertising on a portal which caters to a niche area. We have a good flow, but a sizeable chunk of our revenue comes from other businesses. Even then, there are a few education portals in India that have concentrated only on ad revenues and hit the million dollar mark over the years.