The PIE: Can you tell me about your background and how studyportal.io got started?
Harinder Singh Aulakh: My first education venture was back in year 2000 in India where I grew up while I was pursuing my graduation. I founded a school where we helped students who wished to study engineering or medicine either in India or abroad. In a span of three years, we assisted more than 3,000 students to achieve their dream studies and the organisation grew to more than 100 employees across major cities in north India.
In 2005, I moved to Norway and I did my M.Sc. at the University of Stavanger, along with my job and Norwegian language training. I got the opportunity to meet and interact with many international students and I learnt about the challenges of moving to another country as an international student, the manual processes, the challenges of finding relevant universities or courses, the lack of guidance, the costs of living, job opportunities and so on.
After my graduation in 2005, I was working as an engineer in the oil & gas and shipping industries. In 2009, founded an engineering company, offering turnkey projects to the Norwegian oil & gas sector with employees in both Norway and India. I also got the opportunity to establish a few other companies during this period.
“We have onboarded 1,700 recruiters from 20 countries and helped 4,000 students to study at their dream destination”
During these years, the dream to contribute and support students by making international education access easy and simplified never left my mind. Ever since my student days in 2005, the thought of a solution like Studyportal.io had been developing in the back of my mind. However, leaving the current business engagements and starting a journey from scratch was not an easy choice to make.
In 2017 I decided to move from ideation to the execution phase. I invested eight months where I followed the industry, studied the challenges, travel to major international student destinations and countries. I had many interactions with international students and universities to find out how we could contribute, add value, and make the whole recruitment better.
I instantly knew that the solution to this would be to combine the use of technology to provide easy access to information and the application process, with a high level of human support. Then I developed a solid business model blueprint and that is how studyportal.io came into being in August 2018.
The PIE: What is studyportal.io and how is it disrupting international student recruitment?
Pål Kvalheim: Disrupting is a strong word, but our mission is simple yet very aspirational. It is to give students and recruiters a trusted platform that solves complex problems of the international student recruitment industry. It is not just a technical platform but offers support at all the stages of the application process. It is an all-in-one technology platform that democratises access to international education.
With Studyportal.io we give students the power of making fully informed decisions and enrolling at a university that best suits their personal needs and ambitions. By connecting the world’s educational institutions, recruiters & service providers, the platform empowers them by providing tools, expertise and support to optimise the whole recruitment process in the most efficient and student-oriented way.
Since the foundation in August 2018 and after many brainstorming sessions and thousands of coding hours the platform was released for pilot users in February 2020. By now, Studyportal.io has grown from a small tech team to a robust organisation of more than 100+ employees.
The company has established presence in 16 offices including Canada, Australia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Norway. We have onboarded 1,700 recruiters from 20 countries and helped 4,000 students to study at their dream destination. The platform has become popular among recruiters as well as students due to ease of use, transparency, and end-to-end support. We are currently onboarding at the rapid pace of 120 new recruiters every week.
“We are currently onboarding at the rapid pace of 120 new recruiters every week”
Studyportal.io helps educational institutions to diversify their campus by enabling them to attract students from all over the world, without relying too heavily on any one country. Although Studyportal.io has a stronghold in Asia the aim is to support students from all over the world.
Our service helps to reduce the time wasted on the search of vetted recruiters or qualified students with our forthright thorough documents screening and verification process. Currently, recruiters and students can have easy access to courses from 1000+ educational institutions across 30+ countries. A key activity in the coming months for us is to onboard new academic institutions so that we can offer the best services and opportunities to students from all over the world.
The PIE: What is Studyportal.io doing differently?
HSA: Today, 5.6 million international students pursue higher education outside of their home country. This number is expected to grow to 7 million by 2030. The market is large and complex and needs several serious companies to take the initiative of serving the students’ interest.
Studyportal.io aims to become a truly a global alternative offering education in broad diversity of countries. We recognise the hardships that students face which is why we offer recruiters and students access to 1000+ educational institutions from 30+ countries around the world. The goal is to enhance the number of destinations further, making Studyportal.io the truly global alternative.
Most of the existing services simply digitise the processes. This often leaves the students with many unanswered questions. We believe technology and human support should go hand in hand.
We are empowering recruiters, students, and institutions in all possible ways to deliver the best user experience and to optimise the whole process. Studyportal.io has reduced the application launch time to a few minutes compared to the more normal complex and time-consuming data punching. Our teams work behind the scenes to do the rest.
Studyportal.io bridges the gap between all the resources involved in a student’s admission process by connecting them together to interact and coordinate. Students and recruiters get expert assistance at every step of the process, including visa applications. Our real time tracking feature keeps everyone informed about all the milestone timelines.
In addition, our in-platform messaging allows recruiters and students to get instant updates from our global admissions team on the status of their applications. Our real time team support provides exceptional transparency throughout the business processes and enables us to submit applications to institutions within 24 hours.
“Studyportal.io offers a unique guaranteed scholarship to all students that gets admission”
At the heart of our mission is the student. Studyportal.io offers a unique guaranteed scholarship to all students that gets admission. We give a part of our revenue from the institutions to the students in form of scholarships to help them to begin their journey.
We also have addressed one of the major challenges to the recruiters, the commission delays. By offering what we call a quick commission pay-out, recruiters have the possibility to get their commission released within one week from visa approval date.
The PIE: What are the challenges that you have faced so far?
HSA: I was lucky to have my family and friends by my side in my decision to realise the dream that started in 2005. As far as the challenges are concerned, there is a thing about them. They come in all sizes and shapes when you are doing something different or something people are not use to.
I believe that if you have the right cause, a clear vision, an exhaustive roadmap, the motivation, and persistence to keep working hard, you will certainly get there. Studyportal.io is fortunate to have a team of achievers and mountain movers who are energetic doers and think of every challenge as a reason to outperform and shine.
The PIE: Can you tell me more about your plans for future growth?
PK: Studyportal.io is a fast-growing Norwegian start-up that has achieved extraordinary growth in a short span of time. That is the result of our lean and cost-efficient business model and one of the major differentiators from others in market.
When it comes to future growth, this is two folded.
“We plan to open many new markets during 2021”
The first is to grow and expand our superior service offering by strengthening teams across business and technological functions. We plan to open many new markets during 2021 and we aim to establish Studyportal.io as a highly regarded service provider.
The second is our resolve to scale Studyportal.io as an all-in-one platform to streamline the entire study abroad experience, from education counselling, admission, student loans, scholarships, student accommodation, part time jobs, to post-graduation employment. We are exploring strategic partnerships to provide students with these services.
Our mission is to give students, recruiters, and the educational institutions a trusted platform by improving the establish norms. We encourage The PIE News readers to reach out to start a dialogue.