MBAtrek is transforming the CHASE (Character, Hope, Attitude, Skill, and Enthusiasm) of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as young professionals with their placement preparation and career guidance programs. Startup Dunya Interview Series with Abhishek Srivastava, Co-founder & CEO, MBAtrek Pvt. Ltd.
When did you start MBAtrek? We started MBAtrek Pvt. Ltd. in early 2016 and operated it in stealth mode until mid-2018. Post that, we went live.
Who are the Founders? We are a father-and-son duo. I am the CEO of the company and have co-founded MBAtrek with my father, Alok Srivastava who is also the Promoter of the company.
Tell us something about both the co-founders? My father, Alok Srivastava is a management graduate from XLRI. He was a participant in the Global Management Program at Stephen M. Ross School of Business, Michigan University. He has 43 years of vast and varied senior management global experience. I have 12+ years of global experience. I did my MBA from the Indian School of Business (ISB) and have another Masters in Environmental Engineering from Georgia Tech, USA. While here, I was the recipient of the ‘Outstanding Masters Student’. My Bachelors in Environmental Engineering was from Delhi College of Engineering.
ALL IN THE BUSINESS
Which vertical are you operating in? We are operating in the Human Resources Management space. it is an intersection of Corporate Skill Development, Career Selection and Preparation, and Career Planning and Development. To match the requirements of new markets, we are additionally building our tech capabilities to completely provide all our services online.
Why MBAtrek? Both of us are very passionate about making young students and professionals ‘Ready’ and ‘Relevant’ executives to #hitthegroundRUNNING. My father has also directly mentored and coached 1,000+ young executives and middle-to-senior level managers in his career. Even during my corporate tenure, I had directly mentored and coached 100+ young executives through various formal and informal mentoring and coaching programs. We increasingly saw the ever-widening gap between the skill levels of recent graduates (even from the Tier 1 colleges and B-schools) and industry demands. This further got validated as we reached out to 500 leaders from our CXO network. They shared that incoming talent is not always a good fit for the jobs on hand.
EAR TO THE GROUND
Are there any studies to validate your findings? A review of multiple employability reports from industry organizations like NASSCOM, ASSOCHAM, and CII had clearly called out this worrying trend. For example, only 7% of MBA graduates are actually employable as reported by a recent ASSOCHAM study. A recent study by Aspiring Minds stated that only 20% of engineers in India are actually employable.
How different was it in terms of ground reality? We decided to take up this issue on a war footing and go to the root of this problem – the campuses. Over the last 2 years, we have spent a lot of time interacting and mentoring over 10,000+ students, 500+ student placement coordinators, and 100+ directors and faculty members to develop a holistic understanding of a multi-layered problem. What became abundantly clear is that skilling of the incoming “White Collar Workforce” has to be a higher priority and on everyone’s radar – be it the government, the industry associations, or educational institutions.
Any trigger point for MBAtrek? We were looking at a mostly unanswered question: Does the eco-system of educational institutions and corporates really transform students into ‘Ready’ and ‘Relevant’ industry executives? The overwhelming answer is ‘NO’. In today’s world, companies in almost every industry are facing a number of challenges in finding the right candidate for available roles. We realized that the existing ecosystem needed better mentorship and career guidance for students and young professionals who are either limited by their own experience or miss out on suitable opportunities. While everyone is answering ‘What profile, company, or industry you should opt for to have better growth and a successful career’, the much-needed question to be asked is
‘Are you fit for this role? If not, can I help you identify what’s really good for you and then help you develop relevant skills to have better growth and a successful career?’Abhishek Srivastava, Co-founder, MBAtrek
This was the birth of MBAtrek.
FOCUS ON CUSTOMERS
What is the range of services you’re offering to your target customers? MBAtrek provides three major career and skill development services to both college-going students and young professionals:
1. Corporate Skill Development: Through a blended learning model, the MBAtrek team brings a unique and practical approach to learning and developing key corporate skills. This is the core of our B2B business and we are now working on standardizing these modules for our B2C business lines.
2. Career Selection and Preparation: Through our standardized packages and offerings, we enable our stakeholders to select and prepare to apply for the most appropriate job roles based on their behavioral tendencies and cognitive abilities. (e.g. Cracking the GD, Mock Video Interview, Resume Diagnostic, PlacementReady, InterviewReady, Field Engagement Index, GradXplore)
3. Career Planning and Development: Through our long-term on the job assistance program, we work jointly with young professionals and recent graduates to help them navigate and succeed in their corporate life. (Career Planning)
What does the MBAtrek Transformation Process entail? Our unique transformation process combines three key elements:
- Psychometric and Skill-based Assessments: These assessments help in providing a scientific view into behaviors, attributes, and competency levels to improve job role fit.
- 1 to 1 Career Advisors Guided Interactions: The career advisors are key to addressing myths and doubts on various career choices and preparation approach.
- Industry Focused and Relevant Content: Content is driven by gaps identified in the entry-level pool especially around soft and people-based skills.
Within the next 6 months, our team is integrating our three services- Career Skill Development, Career Selection and Preparation, and Career Planning – into a holistic technology platform in the form of a mobile-based app and web portal. This app will help leverage AI-based skilling roadmaps to build a unique skill and career development experience for every college going student and young professional in the country.
Can your services be customized to unique stakeholders’ requirements? Yes, using our in-house career tools, we have created our B2B programs. These have a core feature, where we design a curriculum based on the known and latent needs of our stakeholders. This can vary around duration, learning objectives, career orientation, and delivery mechanism. In addition, we have dedicated programs for Students, Young Professionals, Corporates, and Educational Institutions.
Any milestones that you wish to highlight? Several of them come to our mind, a few milestones that reiterate our faith:
- October 2017 – While still in stealth mode, we got our first B2B pilot project with FORE School of Management, covering career selection and preparation for 300 MBA students.
- October 2018 – Signed our first B2B deal for junior-to-mid manager training at a mid-sized B2B corporate in Mumbai, within a few months of our official launch.
- January 2019 – 100th campus visit.
- June 2019 – Strategic deal with one of India’s most valued and largest fintech companies for 5,500+ employees signed.
- November 2020 – 12,500th user registered on MBAtrek.com.
What is the key differentiator that sets you apart from other companies offering similar services? Our differentiation is in the very core of our business – solving for people’s careers, not just for their education, skillset, nor jobs. The basis of our business is to first help people understand and target the right set of careers and then plan, prepare, and scale their performance accordingly. Most of the ed-tech players are prioritizing technology and enhanced UI to build great learning and skilling experiences, whereas, at MBAtrek, we believe that the content, the guidance, and the process coupled with a strong tech platform is what will drive key outcomes for our customers. Our student testimonials validate that we are on the right track.
How big is your team? We currently have a team of 14 full-time employees. In the last 2 years, we had on board 22 summer interns and around 200 live project interns. We are proud to have over 50+ high-performing young CXOs who have extended their support to us as Industry Experts. They contribute actively through student engagement sessions, mock interviews, and the development of industry-based content.
How important is a college degree in your hiring process? A college degree isn’t the biggest requirement for a job at MBAtrek. Our focus is purely on skills and resilience. If any prospective employee has a superb idea and wants to achieve great things at MBAtrek, we are very happy to have them approach us with their pitch and we can create a role for them!
What are the key elements that guide your hiring process? We look for only three things when we are hiring people for our company:
- Resilience over brilliance: Will this individual be ready to take on a seemingly difficult problem/situation/project for the sake of the company?
- Deliver on the role: Can the individual deliver on the actual role? We have created work function tests to help check that and take scores from these tests very seriously in hiring.
- Ability to work in teams: How easy would it be to work with this individual, how quickly can they collaborate and get things done in a team? We evaluate through multiple psychometric assessments.
What are the qualities that you see in your team which reflect the unique culture of your company?
- Do whatever it takes to truly transform and make a long-term impact on their careers. We help in building careers, not just finding jobs!
- We win and lose together as a team. No success or failure is one person’s burden. In most cases, processes are broken, not people!
- Whether it’s our partners, customers, vendors, or others in the ecosystem, we keep all our commitments – both monetary and non-monetary.
- There is always a hard way to do things and yes, speed is critical but we will sacrifice speed for the sake of doing things the “Right Way”.
Who gave you the initial launchpad? We have been bootstrapped since our inception in 2016. Industry experts and our contacts from various associations like the CII played a key role in actively mentoring us in this remarkable journey.
When did you break-even? In April 2020, we closed the year at close to break-even. July 2019 was also significant as we made our first B2C sales through our online website.
What stage of funding is your company in? We are now actively looking for early-stage investment (angel/seed) to accelerate our fast-growing B2C business. In the last 4 years, we have been managing as a bootstrapped startup.
Your advice to other entrepreneurs who wish to embark on their startup journey?
Spend time with your customers!Abhishek Srivastava, co-Founder & CEO, MBAtrek
Customers are the heart of the business – No amount of time and research is enough to qualify their needs and their underlying concerns. Balance outside-in perspective with your internal capabilities.
Keep a big heart, enjoy the successes because there will be a number of disappointments!Abhishek Srivastava, co-Founder & CEO, MBAtrek
As a startup founder, life will be tough, there will be far more disappointments than successes. But when you get a success, however small it may be, learn from it and celebrate it like there is no tomorrow.
Grow a team you love to work for!Abhishek Srivastava, co-Founder & CEO, MBAtrek
Build a team, that you as founder or co-founder want to wake up in the morning and work for. This is one of the best and purest forms of motivation that you can have.