Where students can `Net'work
With a mission to educate, entertain and empower, Student Concepts.com, a website launched in 2000, has become hugely popular among the youth.
TAKE ALL the upwardly mobile students of Chennai, age 16 upwards, set up an organisation that can channel and tap their collective strengths and energies and imagine what a transformation can be wrought both in their lives and in the society in which they live. Well this is what Student Concepts.com an outfit for students, by students and of students has achieved.
The brainchild of Manoj Kumar, a young Biotechnology graduate from the University of Sydney and his schoolmate, Sashikanth, a young architect, Student concepts came into being in 2000. Its mission statement is to entertain, educate and empower.
"Right from my school days I felt there was no organisation I could turn to for help to get a part-time job, with career options, or for an opportunity to display my talents,'' recalls Manoj. The birth of Student Concepts was, of course, also inspired by sound business sense.
``Besides parents and teachers, the youth are influenced by existing businesses, which interact and reach out to them through ad campaigns and promotions and they, in turn, help build brand loyalty to various products and services. By the year 2015, it is estimated that a little over half the country's population will be in the age group of 15-25 years. So we felt that business entities and the student community could work together for mutual benefit.'' And while looking for a medium that students could use at any point of time to touch base they settled for the Net and thus was born Student.Concepts.com. The going was not easy for Manoj and Shashikanth.
To start with, they didn't have an office. Sashikanth, however, managed to get permission from a client for use of the balcony in one of his old buildings. The gloomy balcony was scrubbed clean and brightened with plants. Crates and a plank of wood were brought in to double as seats and a table. Working after 6 p.m. was impractical as the lighting was insufficient. Despite the odds, they brainstormed on what to offer the students and how to find the money for it. To get a fix on what the student community wanted, they got a questionnaire printed (with friends chipping in to design the logo and doing the printing) and visited several schools and colleges explaining their purpose and seeking feedback. Some managements welcomed them, others simply told them to leave. But they didn't give up and spent a good part of the year 1999 talking to nearly 20,000 students and later, to process the information. Meanwhile, about 35 school students worked overtime and came up with 300 pages of content for the proposed website. Friends doubled as web designers, editors and programmers and the site was almost up and running. Some money trickled in from designing sites and hoardings for businesses.
Manoj scouted for venture capitalists and incubators, as they needed infrastructure and funds to develop new ideas and execute them. A presentation made to the head of Novell Netware gave them an important lead on TiE -(the Ind-US entrepreneurs ) which facilitated interaction between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Many people heard them out, including Silicon Valley multi million dollar account holders.
Finally a meeting with Bikash Mathur, Director of Maveric Systems, a part of Chennai based Polaris Software, turned the tide. Two weeks after making a presentation Maveric became their incubators. Student concepts now had an office, and other infrastructure. There has been no looking back since.
Student Concepts, which is at present largely self-supporting, is into a host of activities. It brings out Scout a colourful, youth magazine with a circulation of around 15000 copies completely put together by the student community. It is distributed in all major colleges and schools and around 170 retail outlets free of cost.
`Work a while', the only online part-time job site, has been hugely successful. In the last ten months alone around 102 clients have sourced part-time manpower and 1000 students have been placed in part-time jobs.
Students post their resume on the website and after an initial screening their profiles are matched with the requirements of business clients.
Short listed candidates are asked to apply online. After the final selection, the student is placed with the client/corporate and monitored for the duration of the job. Interestingly a large number of students have been offered full-time positions with companies they once worked part-time.
The other division Eventures is responsible for `ideating' exciting concepts for events and executing them. The portfolio is impressive and runs the gamut from an Entertainment Quiz attended by 1,400 students in and around Chennai, to seminars on everything the student community wanted to know about education abroad to rock shows and other promo events.
Student Concepts also provided Chennai's `Other Festival' with manpower support for a range of tasks from helping backstage to hospitality.
Finally, there is the Youth Management unit engaged in gathering information on everything that is happening in the youth world events, commodities what have you. Student concepts, in due course, plans to work with social service organisations and NGOs, assisting in the execution of their projects.
It is Manoj Kumar's dream to see that Student Concepts has a presence in every major city of India.
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