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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

Jasmine Tan, Director of Stone Amperor

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Jasmine saves her clients time and effort when doing kitchen fit outs with her biz Stone Amperor.

What’s your story?
I started working in the industry in 2003. I was in a marble and granite supplier company for 5 years. Even though I left the company, I still had customers calling me for my services. I referred them back to my previous company but they refused to because they loved the fast response service that I offered. I realised that customers do look at prices, however most of them prefer quality over quantity. Thus I have decided to establish a sole proprietor company also known as 78 Degrees which later rebranded as Stone Amperor in 2014.

What excites you most about your industry?
The kitchen countertop industry is a very confusing market. There are many brands, materials and prices to choose from. What excites me the most is my ability to help clients choose the best materials and brands within their budgets, whilst saving them time and effort.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been in Asia all my life and I love Asia. No matter where you go there is no place like home.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore. This is because Singapore has always been a stable country and it is great for doing business. However as it is a small country, it can be really competitive. I believe that if just do your best and give your best to your customers, you can overcome this.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Take actions. Learn and improve continuously. An idea without action is just a dream.” This was really good advice that I received from my partner.

Who inspires you?
A very down to earth billionaire from Malaysia, Robert Kuok

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Property is the foundation of every business.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Own instead of renting property for my business.

How do you unwind?
I enjoy going shopping, watching movies and hanging out with friends. I am quite a simple being.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love going to Taiwan as I love the culture there. Everyone is so polite and the weather is great.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu, Art of war

Shameless plug for your business:
Perfect top, Perfect price, Perfect life from Stone Amperor

How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@StoneAmperor

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

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy

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Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (https://www.chillicrab.com/nationalday)

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/djtehkh) or visit www.rebirthacademy.sg for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @ www.tinyurl.com/dexclar

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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