Creating an online repository of scholarships
New Delhi: What is the purpose of a scholarship if it doesn’t reach its intended recipient? Or the students never get to know that there are plenty of scholarships available for them to apply? Scholarship providers can announce as many scholarships as they want but it won’t make an impact because students are not aware of it.
If one really wants to apply for a scholarship, he or she would have to go through a lot of newspaper supplements or websites for useful information. What if, everything is available at one place? Buddy4study.com is that one stop shop for all scholarships. It is a web portal which provides everything from an exhaustive list of scholarships to information like how to fill a scholarship form.
“The biggest challenge we face is that Indian students are not sensitized about the scholarships. So, when they are not sensitized they are not looking for scholarships. Now that they are not looking for scholarships they are not applying. So, the whole link between these problems is missing,” said Ashutosh Burnwal, founder and director, Smiling Star Advisory Pvt. Ltd, which owns Buddy4study.com.Before formally launching the start-up, Burnwal and his co-founder Rajkishor Chaudhary conducted a survey among 2,000-3,000 school students in Noida and Ghaziabad to find out how many students are aware about available scholarships. “The results were an eye opener. Students knew about only 3-5 scholarships when more than 1,000 scholarships are available for them to apply,” he adds.
In 2011, when Buddy4study.com prototype was launched, only 65 scholarships were listed. The team went back to schools and asked for feedback. “Students were thrilled to find a portal where they can get authenticated information and apply to various scholarships,” Burnwal says. Buddy4study.com not only provides information about scholarships for school students (Classes 1-XII) but also for college students and professionals.
The major challenge for Burnwal was to get verified information about the scholarships available. When the venture started, Burnwal was pursuing his second year in masters of management studies at IMT, Ghaziabad. “I used to spend four hours every night to read some 17 newspapers and collect whatever information I could. Being first movers in this field, we didn’t have a ready data base to work on. We collected and polished all the information on our own,” Burnwal said.
The scholarships are categorized on the basis of merit, means, gender, defence, minority, single girl child and others. Students can search the database depending on the class, state and categories.
Once the aggregation and categorizing of scholarships was done, the founders observed that the students are still not applying in large numbers or sensitized enough. “We realized one thing, even when we are aggregating and categorizing the information, students are still not interested. The dissemination part was missing,” he said. The company started offering short message service (SMS) alerts and till now has sent 87,000+ SMSes. The alert service can be subscribed to by the students themselves, teachers and parents.
Now that dissemination of information was taken care of, there were still some gaps to fill. Subscribing to the SMS alert service was not enough, the founders felt. Parents were still asking about what scholarships are available for a particular class. They took it one step further and provided information through offline means like a guide book—the Buddy4study scholarship and entrance exam guide book lists more than 150 scholarships, apart from details about entrance exams. The guidebook also provides information on how to fill in application forms, myths and confusions, major eligibility criteria, types of scholarships, special exams, entrance exams and an exhaustive list of school scholarships.
“Sometimes students never get to know why their application was rejected. It could have been about something as simple as not signing the form or leaving a field blank or any confusion. This guidebook helps you in filling up the forms correctly. We have data from scholarship providers which gives an overview of the generic mistakes done by students,” Burnwal said. The guidebook comes for Rs.299 which also includes a year’s SMS alert service for free.
Students can avail of these services under two kinds of service packs; basic and premium. For Rs.500, a user can buy basic membership for a year which includes SMS and e-mail alerts, information access and awareness support. For Rs.2,499, premium membership for a year comes with extra services like application support, interview guidance, email alerts, statement of purpose, writing support, customized dashboard and online quiz. If you use the free pack, then you won’t be eligible for anything except scholarship information and study zone access. You can subscribe to only SMS and email alerts for as little as Rs.120 and Rs.60 per year, respectively. The price varies for different classes and subjects.
Every SMS includes details such as scholarship name, eligibility, application mode, deadline and direct URL. Every scholarship comes with its unique ID which can be used for future reference. The subscription is customized for location, educational qualification, international, talent based and need based.
Buddy4study.com not only provides academic scholarships but it also lists talent-based scholarships in arts, paintings, literature, sports, science and innovation. Schools can use the online notice boards feature, which comes with an embed code for providing information on their own website.
It is also helping organizations to set up scholarships bringing the whole process to a full circle.
The company is working on providing a scholarship management system where organizations like schools can manage applications and track scholarships.
Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Entrepreneurship Foundation, which hosts the Manthan awards.