We talked to Sasidhar Sista of GradRight, the world’s first student loan bidding platform where multiple lenders, including public and private sector banks, NBFCs and international lenders, bid for students, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sasidhar Sista: I’m doing well, and so is my family. Our daughter just turned 5 months old, and our time is spent taking care of her and ensuring that everyone is safe and healthy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GradRight.
Sasidhar Sista: I’m a chemical engineer, an alumnus of BITS Pilani and the University of Pennsylvania. I was fortunate to be the first Fulbright-Nehru Scholar from India to pursue an MS in Higher Education. I have over 8 years of experience in the higher education and technology startup space. I worked in the founding teams of several renowned private universities in India, where I met my co-founder, Aman.
We founded GradRight with the aim of making the right funding available to students at the right cost. Students face a lot of hassles while trying to get the right loans; banks are hesitant to provide loans on the basis of parameters like future employability and focus only on the financial profile of the student. This creates a deadlock, and many deserving students are unable to get the right funds for their education.
How does GradRight innovate?
Sasidhar Sista: We’re a young team passionate about making higher education accessible to a large section of the students. Using the right mix of data and technology, we’ve been able to come up with FundRight – the world’s first student loan bidding platform where multiple lenders, including public and private sector banks, NBFCs and international lenders, bid for students. We’re adding new features to our platform every day, making it easier and accessible for students, our lender and organizational partners to use it for the maximum benefit. This innovative streak also landed us the first position in the prestigious HSBC Fin-tech Innovation Challenge, which was powered by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, Government of India.
We have also built an idea first culture, encouraging all members to share their ideas in a safe space and let the best ideas win irrespective of their position in the company. This helps us scale and innovate rapidly while ensuring a transparent and open work environment, even being fully remote.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Sasidhar Sista: Unlike most of our peers in the startup world, the pandemic opened up a new range of opportunities, with students deciding to outrun the pandemic by getting a quality education. We recently crossed INR 1000 Crores worth of loan requests on our platform, a 66.6% increase from last year.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Sasidhar Sista: While in terms of job security, we didn’t face any issues, and our team game was strong in the pandemic. The sudden onslaught of the fully remote work culture certainly came with its own challenges. Our team raised to the occasion by coming together in various fun team building activities, providing a space for members to share their struggles and ensuring team morale was high by working together to resolve the struggles in the difficult times.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Sasidhar Sista: As a team, we constantly look for ways to innovate and scale rapidly using essential tools and technologies. We’ve onboarded the FreshWorks business suite, and their CRM helped us in streamlining all our sales and servicing processes.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Sasidhar Sista: While we didn’t get any funding from the government directly, our investors’ support and trust in us, along with the enthusiasm and interest of our student community, helped us stay afloat in these challenging times.
Your final thoughts?
Sasidhar Sista: To all the students out there, trying to figure the right path for themselves and wondering if they will be able to get the education they dream of, we want to say, all you need to do is put in the hard work and leave your funding hassles to us. So believe in yourself and your dreams.
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