Mentoring is an age-old concept, especially in the professional sphere. It starts from schooldays when teachers tend to guide students to make the best of their capabilities. As young people move up the education ladder and get their dream jobs or start as entrepreneurs, nothing could be as crucial as getting mentored if they want to delve deep and decode success. With Gen Z entering the workforce, setting up new businesses and becoming entrepreneurs or even studentpreneurs, the need for good mentors is growing exponentially.
Several players like Mogul, iCouldbe, Score and MentorKart already exist in this space and provide platforms where they host mentors. But the critical issue here is figuring out which mentor can best serve a user’s requirements. As of now, the only solution is the time-consuming process of manually scrolling through a long list to find the (probably) right mentor/s.
There could be a way out of this hit-or-miss procedure. Sanjana Reddy and her classmates, Navvya Priya and Nischal Jagdish — all of them third-year computer science students from the RV College of Engineering, Bengaluru — have recently set up a student-led venture called The Miners to limit the time consuming and error-prone mentor selection process. Being student-founders, they understand the importance of finding suitable mentors at an early stage of one’s business or career.
The buzzword ‘mentorship’ is part of a niche sector known as the advice industry. Traditionally limited to the financial space, it has grown to encompass almost all fields that require technical and other expertise. This is especially helpful for Indian startups as mentoring platforms provide a unique opportunity to pick up business and trade skills not enabled by academic institutions. In fact, student ventures can benefit immensely from The Miners and similar startups as they lack the knowledge to run a business and most have no access to mentoring networks.
How The Miners’ Platform Works
Mentorship requires a personal connection between the two individuals, and there could be a slew of reasons behind failed mentoring even after choosing the best possible candidate. To reduce the time taken to find a mentor and increase the likelihood of a successful mentee-mentor match, the founders have come up with a platform that recommends a customised list of mentors to a registered user based on their specific needs. The platform uses natural language processing to curate the best possible list for a user by processing the data submitted at the time of registration.
It is also an open platform for would-be mentors and the platform from The Miners analyses their strengths and weaknesses before including them in its database. Users need to pay a monthly subscription to register on the platform, but the service is free for mentors.
The mentors registering for the platform would undergo a process wherein they will be submitting information around their experience, availability, fees, and details about their sessions and have a profile built for the platform’s database. The mentors are categorised based on these criterias to enable stronger matchmaking for the consumer
The platform won the student team a special recognition prize at Intuit Circle’s Codeathon challenge in December 2020 and will be launching its website by the end of 2021.
The Codeathon Journey
At the Codeathon challenge, the three founders of The Miners decided to solve the ‘advice access’ issue for Intuit’s SMB clientele. The topic intended to find solutions on access to information and resources for SMBs. The challenge gave them an opportunity to develop a scalable product by leveraging a team of Intuit engineers and experts and improve it further. In addition, they became a part of the Intuit Circles’ virtual community, enabling them to connect, network, and learn together.
“Usually, student startups or startups set up by young entrepreneurs do not have the guidance of industry experts or mentors. Earlier, we were working on various projects but did not have the right guidance on building large-scale products and dealing with customers,” said Reddy.
“It was an amazing experience and we had several learning opportunities. We learnt about the startup ecosystem and how to build a product designed to scale with the customer in mind. During our mentoring sessions and presentation rounds, we got a lot of feedback from the jury members and the Intuit team on how to deploy our product,” she adds.
It is essential to support and nurture student-led ventures for a transformative future. The support is not only needed from the startup ecosystem but the college community as well. The way The Miners has made its mark should underline the path ahead in terms of real-world experience for students and collaboration. The unique ideas conceptualised by studentpreneurs will also benefit the entire ecosystem.
“In India, student entrepreneurs need to be given a lot of support from their professors, community and people from the ecosystem. Colleges should provide them with a lot of touchpoints to close the gap between theoretical and industry knowledge,” said Gupta.
The system of support, guidance, and mentorship is bound to have a big impact on the up-and-coming entrepreneurs across the country. The Miners’ journey could be a testament to this.