Ideas emanate from people and the beauty about ideas are that they can transmit from person to person, taking a life of its own, until a new idea is formed, which is better than the sum of all previous ideas proposed by different people, put together. In 1450, Johannes Gutenberg put together the printing press and brought down the cost of copying information dramatically, making it accessible to more people. Before this, copying books took a lot of time, contained errors and could be afforded by, again only the nobility and royals, who wanted to learn to read and count in order to manage their commercial transactions.
Today, nothing is the same.
We’ve a problem of information overload rather than a problem of information deficit.
Today, the problem for an individual lies in making sense of so much information and applying them into his or her particular worldview and choosing his or her source of information. In order to achieve mastery, a person ought to find out what he or she likes by researching a wide amount of subjects first, and then taking the plunge towards one or two skills or disciplines at the beginning. This gradual process of trial and error is called learning. It’s something babies are excellent at since they do not have fear or doubts in their minds. For babies, their entire day is play.
Today, at Bangalore Insider we spoke to Ruhan Madni Naqash, the co-founder and CMO of MyCaptain, one of India’s leading ed-tech companies focused on helping India’s aspirational students understand how the world works. Below are the excerpts from our conversation.
Give a brief info about your startup?
MyCaptain is a learning app where students can explore, learn and build skills across 35+ fields through Live Courses ranging right from Stand Up Comedy to Entrepreneurship to Machine Learning. These Courses consist of International Standard Content, Live Video Classes with Young Professionals from the fields, and also Projects that students undertake during their 30 day learning journey. MyCaptain has had 100,000+ paid users so far, of which thousands have gone on to do amazing things in their fields of interest. Our average NPS is 60, which truly makes MyCaptain a standout in the edtech sector.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
There are 38 million + students who have to make a Career decision or who are indecisive about their Careers every year in India. Most of them don’t know where their interests truly are, and those of whom know their interests, don’t know the real life opportunities in these fields. There’s no single platform for students to explore, learn and build skills across these fields.
We, the Co-founders (Zeeshan, Sameer and Ruhan) of MyCaptain, also faced the same question while in school and early College. While Zeeshan wanted to become an astronomer and Sameer a tech blogger, I wanted to become an author. Eventually we all ended up studying in Engineering Colleges spread across India, with lacs of other students like us confused about their future. While in College, we realised that the problem we faced is being faced by the entire generation and that’s how the idea of MyCaptain was born.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
I am the Co-founder and CMO of MyCaptain. I come from a family of Doctors and Educationists with an exceptional love for Education and Communication. In my teens, I trained in Theatre, and was active in literary circles across multiple languages. I did my Engineering from SRM University, TN. During my Engineering I started extending my Creativity into Advertising and Marketing roles with multiple NGOs, clubs, and Organisations within my College and also led highly successful Online relief fundraising campaigns for the Chennai and Kashmir floods during the time. I have been invited by Colleges like SCMHRD, VIT, MCC and more for several guest Sessions and have mentored over 2500+ students across multiple domains. I have been leading Marketing at MyCaptain for 5 years now.
About the other Co-founders
Mohammed Zeeshan – Zeeshan is the CEO and Co-founder of MyCaptain. He has been passionate about Education, Policy, Social impact from the age of 18, when he first joined College. He studied at SRM University, TN, and his bachelor’s degree was in Mechanical Engineering. During College, he led various teams and projects including being the VP OGCDP of AIESEC in Chennai, VP Business Development of Enactus, and went on to become a GSEP Scholar. Having worked at grassroot levels in terms of problem identification and strategy, he started Climber Knowledge and Careers Pvt Ltd (MyCaptain) in 2013. It had already been 3 years for him running the startup when he graduated in 2016, balancing academics, and a Nationally expanded StartUp at the same time. In 2014 and ‘15, he spearheaded MyCaptain to B-Plan competitions and helped the Organisation come into limelight, by getting MyCaptain to the final of TATA First Dot, and also winning the flagship B-Plan competition by IIM Bangalore – Bzzwings. This also won MyCaptain an incubation. Zeeshan comes from a family of Serial Entrepreneurs and Business people – lessons of which he still regales. Apart from this, by now Zeeshan has been featured in the Business World Education 40 Under 40 Most Impact Entrepreneurs of 2020, is a 4 times TEDx Speaker, and was also invited by UNESCO to Bangkok to help and participate in building a Girl Education Policy.
Sameer Ramesh – Sameer is the Co Founder and CPO of MyCaptain. He did his undergraduation from RCOEM, Nagpur and had a keen interest in Tech and Products from an early age. He was one of the first Tech Blogger with Windows Phone Sauce as well. Sameer comes from a very Education centered family background, with his early lessons in Education coming from his Mother who has been a Curriculum Developer, Educator and more for more than 20 years now. Nagpur being a small city with no activity around alternate education, Sameer was one of the first Youngsters to pioneer MyCaptain Student Organisations in Nagpur and stayed the Chief Editor of one of our School Magazines while in College. After College when Sameer (and the other co founders) had taken the leap of going full-time, Sameer also specialised in Experiential Education with DEEP. He has created our own unique Curriculum Development Framework, built a Community of 200+ Educators and has created hundreds of Young Entrepreneurs.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
MyCaptain is based out of Bangalore, Karnataka. It’s the startup capital of India, with a lot of talent from all across India. All major EdTech Players in India operate from Bangalore, and that’s a good position to be in. We operate all across India, so being in Bangalore doesn’t have an added advantage.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
A strong balance between paranoia and confidence is actually a good thing to have. Nevertheless I don’t like stagnancy and monotony. Movement and growth are what startups are all about, and the fact that the movement and growth cannot stop is what keeps me (And maybe a lot of startup founders) up at night.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
We don’t have any direct competitors, but in our space, Udemy, Coursera and companies alike are active. Online Learning is not only about video course material that you can go through. It needs to be about Community, value delivery, guidance and Opportunities. MyCaptain solves that. For the past 6 years we have been working with Educators, Curriculum Designers, Content creators, to understand what the best way to deliver learning experiences in a structured manner online are.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
It is hard to maintain work life balance especially in COVID times, where the lines between work and life have started to blur, not only for startup founders but everyone. There is no mantra to how one maintains work-life balance, but what we have started doing more is setting dedicated hours away as personal time in the day.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If not then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
We haven’t raised funding yet. We are looking to raise and are in high level conversations with some.
What gets you excited about this company?
MyCaptain is going to pioneer a societal mindset shift towards learning and Offbeat careers in India. Impacting millions of students and facilitating the exploration, learning and application of any and all fields they are interested in. The Indian EdTech / Education environment has required a revolution for quite some time, and the revolution is here.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
I get up at 7:30 in the morning and start with a quick walk around the house. This would be followed by half an hour of inshorts. Usually my calendar is made for the entire week. So the day at work after breakfast would start at 10:00 with an overview of the Calendar. I don’t like clearing my mail in the morning as it eats up on good creative and problem solving time. There would be a set of meetings in the day across different Teams with the respective leads. Lately I have realised that a lot of such meetings could be broken down into Mails and updates. So I start replying and clearing all my mails only by 2:00. I’d take my lunch break between 2-3, which is part of personal time, so all work apps are off (What’s the worst or best that could happen in 1 hour?). There would be a set of meetings after 3:00 again, depending on the Week of the month, or how close to a deadline we are moving. I try to make sure all major meetings / mails for the day are over by 7:00 pm. There are a couple of hours I like to spend on observing how much we’ve moved forward and I’ll end with a check on the next days’ calendar.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Zeeshan and Sameer were friends from school times in Nagpur. Zeeshan and I met in College when he had put up a long rant on facebook about how there are holes in the way learning and education happen in India. On one night in 2013, right before our exam We all had a conversation where we realised one of us wanted to become an Astronomer, the other a tech blogger and another an author. We realised that not only us, but an entire generation faced this problem. From then till now, we have grown into a team of 200, and more to come.
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