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This Indian startup is democratizing education and offering financial assistance for higher education

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world”.

The Constitution of India provides free and compulsory education for all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right. But only a handful of students can afford proper higher education.

Yes, there are education loans available in the market but not many want to take that route because of the high interest rates and collateral they come bearing.

We at StartupLanes were thrilled to have Mr. Ankit Mehra for an exclusive interview. He is the co-founder and CEO of Gyandhan and holds an MBA degree from IESE Business School- University of Navarra. He co-founded Gyandhan in 2015, which is an education financing marketplace and aims to provide financial assistance to thousands of talented students either through loans or scholarships.

He decided of launching Gyandhan when he saw many of his peers struggling to get an education loan while pursuing his B-school studies. This was the time when Europe was severely affected by the global recession.

During his studies, Mehra worked with a startup in the Latin-American market which was focused on the education segment and soon decided to pursue Gyandhan.

Talking about the difficulties that he faced in the early stages of the company, Mehra revealed that there have been multiple challenges along the way. However, the biggest challenge was hiring the right people for the team as well as convincing the banks that education loans can actually be a profitable asset class.

In the market today, there are varying estimates around the total spend in the education space but many point to a private spend of nearly $40 billion annually in the education segment in India. However, the total education loan portfolio itself is just $10 billion.

This results in huge demand for loans which is not looked at as an asset class by the lenders. Mehra identified this gap in the market and launched Gyandhan.

The business model of the startup is pretty straightforward. It generates most of its revenue through commissions from banks and does not charge anything from the students. Gyandhan has recently acquired the NBFC license from RBI and is looking to add more streams of income to its business model.

The company will be venturing into the net interest margin of the loans that it offers in conjuncture without partners as well as offering risk mitigation services to partners.

Mehra reveals that he and Jainesh (COO and co-founder, Gyandhan) did not ask his friends or family for funding the startup. They used their savings as the initial investment in the company and later approached investors.

Commenting on the factors that could impact their business in the coming years, Mehra said there would be a huge transformation in what education and traditional degrees is all about. A part-time/ module-based education system would have a fundamental impact on the ticket size, tenure, and risk of the loan.

Another factor could be non-traditional financing models like, income-sharing agreements, which could become mainstream.

As the company is growing, it is looking to recruit fresh talent to its team for tech, data science, product management, and finance for the leadership as well as the middle and junior levels. Although the qualities of candidates differ depending on the role and position they are being hired for, Mehra states that the common qualities they look for in a candidate are basic analytical skills, common sense, adaptability, ambition, and sheer genius.

Gyandhan is transforming the lives of several Indians by providing them access to quality education. I wish the entire team of Gyandhan all the best for their future.

Shishir Gupta, Founder and CEO, StartupLanes

Mehra believes certain attributes make a good leader. The first is authenticity, followed by self-awareness in terms of strengths and shortcomings. Another critical attribute is accountability and taking ownership of everything that happens. And the last attribute is the ability to delegate things and empower people to get things done.

When asked about the best and worst part of being a CEO, Mehra replied for him the worst part was having to deal with so much paperwork and the best part was the ability to work across different aspects of the business and at the same time being responsible for the overall big picture.

Talking about a time when he had to make a tough decision, Mehra says he has faced several challenges in this journey. However, the most challenging time was the COVID pandemic in 2020 when they had to make job cuts or reduce the salaries of employees to minimize the impact.

Mehra also revealed that they are looking for vendors who can help them with redesigning their website to make it more aesthetic with the design and UX.

In the next year, Gyandhan plans to work with its existing partners to launch new products that will meet customer demands. It is also looking to enable education for the relatively lower income group. Whereas in the next five years, the company is looking to onboard around one million students and positioning itself as a financial partner to them.

Gyandhan was launched with a vision to provide loans based on the potential employability prospects of the students and aims to establish the Gyandhan score as the go-to score for education loans.

If you are an emerging startup and are looking for investors to raise funds, StartupLanes has its own angel network and investment banking services and is connected to angel investors and VCs in 15 countries that ensure that our member startups have easy access to external funds to scale up constantly.

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