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Damini Mahajan wants to get you Scholarships

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Damini Mahajan is the CEO and co-founder of WeMakeScholars Edtech Pvt. Ltd. She is a true passionate entrepreneur who believes in possibilities and bringing out rational outcomes to any idea and never considers any purpose or challenge to be something impossible to achieve.

Damini is one of the board directors of Naturlich Global Beverages Pvt. Ltd (NGB). NGB is a beverage technology company which manufactures functional health beverages. The overall mindset and leadership qualities in her has always steered the progressive achievements of NGB. Under her guidance, NGB came up with an innovative formulation and process technology for a health drink which was recognised as one of the most innovative technologies by BIRAC, GOI and was awarded a 5 million INR grant under BIG scheme.

Damini is an alumnus of the University of Sheffield (UoS), UK where she pursued MS in Bioprocess Engineering. She was awarded “Developing Solutions Scholarship” for her excellent academic merits. During that period of time, she led the UoS team in the ABInBev Best beer competition 2013 and majorly contributed in product formulations and marketing concepts. Her team won the title of “Best Beer” in European grand finale. These experiences and broader outlook within the industry polished her skills to take up the position of COO in NGB.

When the idea of WeMakeScholars found substantial growth surface, she was the most appropriate leader to take it ahead and has made it a global initiative today.

In your own words what is WMS?

WeMakeScholars.com (WMS) is an online study opportunities search and discovery platform providing information on scholarships, internships, courses, universities & educational service providers globally.

We are a 4 months old company, officially launched on 29th of April, 2015 by Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Ex-Under-Secretary General of United Nations. In this short time, we have established ourselves in the  global marketspace with users from 196 nationalities and team consisting of 9 nationalities. We have reached close to 2 million pageviews and 200K+ unique visitors.

The growth of our portal accelerated due to the fact that students couldn’t find a single place where opportunities like scholarships, internships, courses, universities are accessible via smart sorting based on the user preferences.

 

How did you come up with the idea of WMS?

The idea of WeMakeScholars was born in Sheffield, UK- 2 years ago. The struggle of me and my co-founder Arjun, to go through so many official websites to find reliable scholarship information, made us start this. Arjun received the prestigious UK Govt. & British council Queen’s Jubilee Scholarship which fully funded his studies, including everything from visa costs, to airfare, tuition fees, and a monthly stipend for living expenses. I was recipient of “Developing Solutions Master’s Scholarship” which covered 50 % of my tuition fee. In UK, when our classmates came to know about these scholarships, they were speechless as most of them never knew if any such opportunities existed. Interestingly, an online survey conducted by the WMS team, among 1576 students globally showed that about 83% of them didn’t know about scholarship opportunities they can apply for. This is due to the unavailability of an appropriate information platform

This was when we started an online community to fill the gap between available opportunities and students knowing about it.

 

Could you walk us through the process of starting up WMS?

As I mentioned, after Arjun and me won scholarship for our studies in the UK, we started an online scholarships community to help our juniors with the upcoming scholarships information. But the community grew exponentially to 160K and we used to get minimum 20-25 queries everyday. We did a feedback session on the group and all of our users requested us to build a website to keep the scholarships data organised. Hence, we started WeMakeScholars.com.

 

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?

As we both the founders were from non-IT background, we faced many issues in building the technical team and giving life to the WMS portal. We worked with some freelancers initially which turned out to be a very bad experience for us and we wasted a lot of time in this process. Finally, we gave contract to a web solutions company to build the project. Once, we had MVP ready, we opened the full-time software developer positions and hired 3 tech guys.

 

How have you been developing WMS since startup?

We launched with Scholarships and internships information as salient features and have more than 4000 opportunities listed. Our aim is to build the world’s largest scholarship database with over $1 billion in total available funding, benefiting millions of aspiring scholars esp. from developing countries

Very soon we are launching an interface for courses and university. This will create a new horizon in our platform. Currently, there are no website worldover providing a wiki of all courses and universities hosted at a single place. This newly defined area would be apt with the latest technologies and machine learning integration to define a user with customised option. Further to this the whole information would be simplified for the user with our effective UI modelling and apps delivering the right solution to  our student traffic.

With this our mission is to create a platform which provides a one stop solution for students looking for international higher education resources globally.

 

What kind of feedback did you get for WMS so far?

WeMakeScholars is an initiative which is loved by many across the globe. Everyday we receive around 5-10 applications from people of various nationalities who wants to volunteer for WMS from their region and join the team. This motivates us everyday when we receive such messages “ WeMakeScholars, please come to Philippines” a message from a student in need at Philippines, had an essence of faith our users have in us.

 

What is your strategy against your competition?

We do have some competitors which are player in their national markets and their database of scholarships, courses or universities is only for a particular target market such as ‘Chegg’ for US nationals, ‘EasyUni’ for malaysia, indonesia and thailand, ‘Shiksha’ for India but there is no platform which provides this information for the global audience.

Our motto of “Most reliable and transparent information” is our strategy against our competitors. None of the scholarship or course finder has as genuine and easy to find data as we have.

 

Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

In the international education domain, there are many websites to provide information but no one is focussing on the quality of data. There are issues like incomplete data, wrong information or biased listing. This industry is thriving for a single platform which students can trust upon.

 

What is the future of the industry and how do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?

It is a growing market with about 1 million students just from India and China choosing to study degree programs abroad every year. In India, the number has grown by 25 % in last 3 years. We have planned our next 5 years in a way to cater the needs of this big enough market.

 

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

Bureaucracy in every section in India is really disappointing. Even for basic registrations and all we had to go to 10 doors. When we were looking to partner with some universities, we understood that even private or deemed universities are not different from a govt. office where a file goes from one hand to another and so on before getting approval.

 

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

For an entrepreneur, there are challenges everywhere- be it Asia or west. In India, it becomes quite hard just because of family pressure. Especially for girls, work hours of 15 hours a day or coming home late in the evenings, is not acceptable.  And on top of that, we face issues like Marriage (which Indian parents consider as the ultimate goal of life)

 

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

In Asia, many investors usually look for ideas which already had a success story in the west. By this way, Asian entrepreneurship is mostly a follower of Western entrepreneurship. So, I feel new innovative ideas are not much encouraged in Asia.

 

What is your definition of success?

For WeMakeScholars, the success is when we realise that our work is helping millions of people around the globe.

At personal level, I believe Success is relative. It is the length of the path you travelled. I measure success as journey from where we started and where we reached. You cannot say if X is successful or Y is not, considering their present position, their success can only be measure if you know from where X or Y has started and how far they have come on their way.

 

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship gives me a new challenge everyday and it gives a lot of satisfaction when I overtake that challenge. I would not have confronted these challenges in a regular job. Life is all about learning everyday, every moment and from everyone and if you tie yourself inside a cubicle, you are never going to learn as many new things as an entrepreneur.

 

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

Perseverance, Perseverance and Perseverance!

You are going to fall 100 times during this journey. But, you will succeed only if you get up every time and start walking again. Many people stop even at the 99th fall but a true entrepreneur won’t stop until he makes it happen.

 

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

Your fear is the only thing that can stop you, overcome it.

 

Connect

http://www.wemakescholars.com/

https://www.facebook.com/wemakescholars

https://plus.google.com/+Wemakescholars

https://www.linkedin.com/company/3710426

Callum Connects

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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