In a country that produces lakhs of engineers, most first finish their graduation, and then decide what they want to do.
Kritika Kapur was no different. “I was the typical overwhelmed software engineer, confused between an MS abroad, giving the CAT or a GMAT," says the 27-year-old. She did none of the three, and went on to work short stints at a bunch of companies, including Zomato and Healthkar, to work out what interested her the most.
This is how inspiration struck, and to help others like her, Kritika, along with her mother Neelam,founded learning and mentorship platform WisTree Solutions in 2016.
"It was born out of deep-seated need to change status quo and give Indians from small and big cities alike a real shot at achieving their dreams," Kritika says.
Got a problem? Find a solution
In the initial days of WisTree, Kritika struggled to come up with a solution that would help fresh graduates in their chosen careers and to get through to companies of their choice.
"After all, the world is clearly moving away from degrees and certifications to real skills," Kritika says.
Based in Delhi, WisTree targets people in the age group of 18 to 40 years "who have graduated from universities successfully, but are not satisfied with their careers", Kritika says.
Actionable advice provider
WisTree has two products: Super Mentor Platform and WisTree Careerpedia.
The Super Mentor Platform is free of charge, and gives candidates personalised guidance and "actionable advice" from individuals who are either alumni of the college they aspire to study at, or work/ have worked at companies they wish to work with.
WisTree has on boarded mentors from companies such as Google, Facebook, McKinsey & Co, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Uber, EY, Amazon, and Boston Consulting Group, and alumni from colleges including Cornell, University of Oxford, Wharton, TAMU, University of Michigan, ISB, as well as the IIMs and IITs, "who have come on board to pay it forward and create an impact", Kritika says.
Mentorship sessions are online via a video call and mentees include college students, freshers, graduates and even professionals, from across the world. WisTree has facilitated mentorship for candidates from the US, Russia, Canada, Israel, Pakistan, China, South Korea, the Philippines, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Italy, among other countries.
The steps to get mentored are simple. A mentee has to select a mentor from those listed in the website, enter an area of interest, request for a session and get aa confirmation. "Mentees can request for more than one mentorship session, and also come back for repeat sessions," Kritika says.
Sathvik Raju, of the University of Illinois, who is now working as a data scientist at EFT Analytics, New York, said:
"This is a wonderful channel for aspirants like me to connect with real industry people. It (the session) was really a good and informative. I was provided with valuable guidance on my resume, and I hope to implement the same in the future."
Mentorship is offered in the fields of technology, analytics, design, management and consulting careers, marketing and sales and for higher education.
The sessions are documented, and later collated by mentors in the form of guides and articles available in the Careerpedia section of the website. Careerpedia serves as a 'Career Encyclopaedia', and offers content and insights on career and education.
"We have detailed career journeys and stories (in text and video format) that include how individuals got where they did, and step-by-step details on how to make it big in a particular career," says Kritika.
Not a cakewalk
Every startup faces its own set of challenges, and WisTree was no exception.
"The first herculean task was to get industry experts from top universities and companies on board, without any monetary incentives," Kritika says.
Kritika and Neelam successfully convinced mentors with "just the right reasons, facts, and numbers". Most mentors were also excited to be a part of the team as most of them had not received similar guidance when they had needed it, and wanted to do their bit for aspirants.
Also, scheduling sessions required extensive planning,as did iterating on the feedback from mentors and mentees.
Lastly, "The inherent problem with a free platform is that people often end up misusing it," Kritika says.
For this, they set up a process to vet each incoming request using GitHub. "This ensures that every request sent to the mentor is genuine," she adds.
The numbers game
While the WisTree platform is free to use, the company has paid partnerships with e-learning platforms including Coursera, Udemy, Edx, The Princeton Review, The Economist Test Prep, Zebra Education and EssayEdge PrepScholar GMAT, among others. It is also finalising deals with Udacity and Masterclass.
The bootstrapped startup initially started with one-on-one personal sessions on Google Hangouts and has now also started one-to-many sessions on Zoom and Google Hangouts on Air. The repeat rate of mentor sessions is 58 percent, Kritika says. WisTree also conducts webinars and live sessions at engineering and MBA colleges.
The startup has been cash positive since 2017, Kritika claims . WisTree has over 4,500 mentee sign ups, and has facilitated more than 5,000 mentorship sessions with close to 100 mentors. Careerpediahas over 16,800 subscribers.
Competition landscape and future plans
According to a LinkedIn survey conducted late in 2017, around 70 percent of young Indian professionals were keen on seeking career advice, but lacked mentorship. WisTree competes with companies like Tapchief, MentorYes, Dyad, Gainlo, and Pinterview. The key differentiator, Kritika says, is that WisTree provides access to mentorship for free.
"Our aim was to register 400 percent growth from the last fiscal year. With the current growth graph, we will achieve that by August this year," Kritika says.
WisTree also plans to expand to Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Pune.