Amidst halo of trade wars and improvements in biotechnology and artificial intelligence applications, juggles merrily the capitalism ideal of pursuing growth at all costs. Judging the way the transitions and shifts that are currently underway in all industries of the globe including changes in society and culture, it is prudent to admit that we are living in the age of constant change for which we require newer ways of thinking, living and earning over the course of the coming decade (s).
Human productivity is a function of many factors.
But which human segment though? India, in point, the demographic dividend, seemingly imminent lies in danger of being not completely utilized to its highest potential due to the many issues plaguing the education sector in India. The onus is on all stakeholders, both public and private to channelize the energies of our graduates.
Talerang, a company focused on creating value by creating work-ready graduates is on a mission to address the quality issue in Indian education.
Give a brief info about your startup?
Talerang offers career training to students and young professionals with the mission to create work-ready graduates. Talerang began as an independent research project at Harvard Business School.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
Almost 10 million students graduate every year, yet less than 10 percent of them are employable. Millions of students are unable to find their dream careers due to lack of effective career training. Too much emphasis on academics and rote learning prevents students from having relevant, industry ready skills and competencies. This is what we call India’s work readiness crisis.
Talerang was born with a determined spirit to give every student in India an opportunity to live their dream. The initial hope was to put every student, no matter where they have been born or studied, on the right career path. In my time as Director at Teach for India, I spoke to thousands of students across the country. The narrative was startling. They were confused about their career path, worried about following their passion, most of them felt unprepared for entering the work world and had limited practical exposure. They also lacked mentors who could give them trusted and verified advice. We realized the magnitude of the problem and the possibility it had to disillusion the Indian youth and affect India’s economy.
Talerang’s formal research began when I was a student at Harvard Business School in 2012. I conducted an independent project along with my Professor Das Narayan Das. Our pilots at some of India’s best colleges found that under 60% of students felt ready to take on a job. Less than 50% of students had mentors they could seek out. We also spoke to leading CEOs and HR heads at organizations such as the Tata and Birla groups, only to find that companies were equally worried about the work-readiness crisis. This had become more than just a research project. It had grown into a mission.
Our program is a holistic work-readiness training solution involving experiential training in competencies and skills, followed by project work, personal feedback and mentorship and access to internships and jobs. At Talerang, we have created a curated marketplace for employers and job seekers, and we work with both students and organizations to bridge the gap.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
Prior to HBS, I was on the start-up team of Teach For India as the Director of Recruitment, Marketing and Selection. I started my career as a consultant at McKinsey’s New York City office. I graduated Magna cum Laude from Brown University in Applied Mathematics, International Studies and Economics.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
The start-up is India based. With millions of bright graduates, many of whom are seeking jobs, and a vibrant economy, there could be no better place than India for a work-readiness venture.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
Constantly creating impact and offering quality to our students is what I’m most paranoid about. India doesn’t have a quantity issue. Our education system has a quality issue, a relevance issue (to the jobs of the future) and I worry about constantly innovating and staying current. Since Talerang has a social mission it’s critical that we are driving value at all times for our customers, and the nation.
Who are your competitions and how are you better than them?
Education, specifically employability skills and training is a fragmented market with many individual contributors who provide one day workshops. However, they don’t provide end to end training (from the selection to the placement stage) or lifelong mentorship and the kind of individual tracking and attention that we do. Also since all our curriculum is based on research and we have 300 corporate partners, we are able to provide a different level of service to students and young professionals looking for career training and guidance.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
It is hard for me to imagine life without work because as a social entrepreneur, work and life are integrated by choice. You choose a cause that you believe in and build your work around it—the mission and vision of Talerang drives me each day. Yet, I recognize that managing and integrating a full life involves managing work, community, relationships, and health, and feeling that they are all in sync with each other. This is easier said than done, but one has to strive for it. Doing this involves ‘designing your work and life’ so that they conveniently fit together. Ownership makes work a choice rather than a burden. For instance, entrepreneurs usually strive to integrate everything with work because their business is their baby. Fun, family, community impact, and work can be integrated, but for true work-life integration, health should also be integrated into the working week.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
No we haven’t raised funding so far.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
People think that because I’m a woman, and in business, I’m a strong feminist. I often get asked questions about handling things as a woman and if that’s a challenge. The reality is that I will fight for what is right, and of course oppose any form of discrimination, but that’s across gender, sexual orientation, caste, race, religion, ethnicity or colour. I’m an advocate for human rights, not just for women but for all!
What gets you excited about this company?
Talerang is solving a huge problem. I get most excited about helping students and organizations with upskilling their talent. When customers are happy, and I know we have a quality product out there, I feel satisfied that it’s all worth it! For example, we did a project for IIT Bombay where we trained close to 1000 final year students. We did a project in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program where we impacted over 8000 students. Corporates also call us back, saying they prefer hiring talent only from us because they’re selected carefully, trained effectively and much more professional and committed. Hearing that from some of India’s largest corporate houses is very fulfilling.
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 wake up to yoga and a short walk. I then reach office and have quick individual catch ups with each of our vertical heads. My day is a mix of meetings, events, talks at colleges, interactions with students and trainings. We review one vertical in detail every day so that’s a deep dive which I enjoy and leads to new ideas and innovations. In the evenings I play badminton or hit the gym!
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
The core team of Talerang was built through word of mouth from close friends and family. Initially, it was a lot of people who were excited about solving this work readiness crisis. For example, our curriculum head, Sinhali, helped with Talerang’s initial pilots and then joined the team. She has previously worked at Citibank and came in with years of experience. Over time, we have also recruited Alumni of Talerang’s programs to build the organization. They’re the most authentic examples of our product that we can possibly have and they best represent our brand!
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