Interview: Ashish Fernando, Founder & CEO, iSchoolConnect Technologies
At Sugermint Media, our aim is to bring to our entrepreneurs community some of the inspiring and motivational stories from the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
As part of this endeavour, we invited yet another passionate entrepreneur Ashish Fernando for an exclusive interview with us.
Ashish Fernando is a successful entrepreneur, Founder & CEO, iSchoolConnect Technologies. Let’s learn more about his inspirational journey and his advice for our growing community!
This is the interview of Ashish Fernando, Successful entrepreneur and Founder & CEO, iSchoolConnect Technologies.
Tell us a little about yourself
Ashish Fernando: I started my career as a Software Engineer with Thomson Reuters Inc., building their flagship investment research solution – Thomson One.
I then went on to take multiple executive roles in Program Management and AI before managing the Data Science and Engineering business in the Insurance vertical.
As far as my academics are concerned, I completed my Master of Science in Biotechnology from Sathyabama University before shifting base to the USA to pursue an MBA in General Business Management and Business Administration with a 100 percent scholarship from the prestigious Bentley University in Massachusetts.
Please tell us a little about your entrepreneurial journey
iSchoolConnect came into existence in 2017 to solve the pain point of many parents and children: getting unbiased, hassle-free admission to foreign colleges.
After going through the same trouble of finding a college to study that fit my needs, I launched iSchoolConnect with a vision to democratize the global admissions market for graduate and undergraduate programs.
Through the effective use of artificial intelligence, iSchoolConnect aims to be the most cost-effective and advanced solution for connecting students and schools worldwide.
Our investors & mentors stepped in, assigning their best ML engineers to work with us. The first 2 years challenged us to identify the right tools and build them from scratch.
We aspire to become the world’s most popular beloved student mobility solution and are leaping with the mission of making the admissions process globally accessible and simple for all students.
What service(s) or product(s) do you offer at iSchoolConnect?
Ashish Fernando: iSchoolConnect is an AI technology platform that simplifies the international university application process.
1. It takes 200+ hours for one student to cover the entire application cycle; our product brings this down to 24 hours.
2. Instead of throwing people at the problem, our scalable technology can-
- Sift through 2800+ universities & 300K+ programs to give profile-based recommendations.
- Offer instant feedback on college essays/SOPs and university and visa interview performance.
- Answer any question about studying abroad.
– iSchoolPrep: Online test prep platform helps students prepare for GRE, GMAT, SAT, TOEFL, and IELTS. The courses are taught by top-scoring faculty who have also taken these tests. We provide unrivaled course materials and online resources. The classes are tailored to the student’s aptitude and progress.
3. On our B2B front, our product suite provides institutions with a better approach to growth. Our iSchool360 product suite includes:
Find student prospects at the top of the funnel and drive them to campus with your own fully-branded virtual experiences, all on the same platform.
- 360 Degree Marketing Funnel Dashboard
- Dedicated Microsite for Prospective Students
- Push Marketing Tools – Essential
- Website Conversational Chatbot – Essential
- EDU Marketing Experts
– Sales Enablement:
Turn prospective students into enrolled students by customizing your messaging utilizing our holistic analytics.
Monitor sales team performance
Get lead scoring and lead propensity metrics
– Admission Enablement:
Optimize the relationship between you and your prospects by allowing them to directly book a time with you instantly. Scale your ability to recruit without losing the personal touch.
- 360 Degree Admissions Dashboard
- Candidate Evaluation
- In-country Representatives
- Trained Admission Counselors
– 24/7 Omni Channel Support:
Provide personalized support via 360-degree interactions for better engagement
24/7 Conversational Assistant (Chatbot)
Global Agency Support
24/7 Human Success Coaches
24/7 On-demand Support Staff
What is unique about your brand?
Ashish Fernando: Of all the companies worldwide offering overseas education assistance, iSchoolConnect is the only one with an end-to-end AI-based online platform.
Our tools provide thorough, unbiased, and ethical guidance to students. Students have complete visibility and control of the application process. The platform can cater to millions of aspirants with minimal reliance on human counselors.
What made you choose this type of business?
Ashish Fernando: My struggle, coupled with the resolve to clear pathways for prospective overseas education students and my belief in technology to address the pain points of students, helped me decide on my business.
Cutting-edge AI technology is revolutionizing different facets of human life, and I believe its transformational capacity can help students in their journey to study abroad.
What was your mission and vision at the outset?
Ashish Fernando: I started iSchoolConnect with the mission and objective of democratizing access to higher education.
Universities are vehicles of social mobility, and restricted access to institutions impedes our march towards an egalitarian world. I resolve to move with an unflinching resolve to keep up the promise of equal opportunity.
How many employees in your organization?
Ashish Fernando: Our employee strength is 200.
What’s your company’s goals?
Ashish Fernando: Our goal is to make the overseas higher education admission process globally accessible and hassle-free for every student.
To accomplish this, we are enabling and working with different stakeholders in the overseas higher education ecosystem and powering every step of the admissions process with AI.
What was the inspiration behind turning an entrepreneur?
Ashish Fernando: The quest to give back to the community propelled me to embark on the entrepreneurial journey.
My struggle to find the right overseas B school and the lack of personalized guidance ignited my desire to develop a system where students are provided tailored assistance and not templatized advice.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
Ashish Fernando: Perhaps the debate about launching a finished product vs. MVP has been on the table for a long time. Although I altered iSchoolConnect’s plan to launch an MVP slightly later, there wasn’t much harm done.
Key things to consider before starting a startup
Ashish Fernando: The first step in your startup journey is identifying your niche and what resonates with you. What problem or pain point are you trying to resolve through your product or services? Keep your target audience always in perspective while you build your product.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Ashish Fernando: As a startup measuring Unit Economics is essential. CAC, Gross margin is significant for any successful business. You need a clear view of these metrics for the next five years.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Ashish Fernando: A strong business plan is a must when starting out. Consider crucial components like TAM and timelines when evaluating the company’s proposal. Subsequently, you can then put together a dedicated team and capture the market.
Your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs
Ashish Fernando: I do what I do because “I care about the dreams of study abroad aspirants.” So, remember to choose a path that syncs with your passion, something for which you care the most. Combine this passion with a deeper understanding of the industry and your target demographic.
Build a strong team and believe in yourself and the ability of your team. There are no secret condiments of success.
The fundamentals are pretty much out there for everyone to absorb. Just be cognizant of every step you take, and success will undoubtedly follow.
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