Prozene Founders Aim to Solve the Problem of Employability In India
Three friends aka Avishek Tiwari, Brian Fernandes and Vishvanath Singh had a reunion after a long time at a wedding. In the usual humor of the evening that was centered around wedding jokes, the trio's discussion veered towards the fact that it’s easier to find a spouse of your dreams as compared to hiring the right people, especially fresh graduates. This sentiment resonated vehemently with the founders who had experienced this employability gap among the fresh graduates in their respective MNCs.
Inspite of having good resources, pay packages and perks their companies were still struggling to find the right talent.
They agreed to explore this further and thus the idea of CollegeNucleus was born. After several months of research, brainstorming, coffee powered nights and coding, the trio launched CollegeNucleus in Sept 2014; which has now evolved into Prozene.
Based out of Bangalore, Prozene is trying to solve the problem of employability by stitching together a technology solution around live projects from Industry, Crowd sourcing of solutions for industry and communities, and co-curricular activities.
Introducing the Team:
Avishek Tiwari, the Director of Sales & Marketing, has wide experience in selling products & services. In his last avatar, he was selling Information Services for Dun & Bradstreet.
The Director of Product at Prozene, Brian Fernandes is passionate about solving real life problems. He comes from a background in banking. Having worked in the Corporate Banking sector with Bank of America and Barclays, he drives Prozene's product conceptualization, strategy and business execution road map.
Vishvanath Singh, who is the Director of Technology, comes with over 7 years of experience in Project Execution and end-to-end development of software products. He has also founded an IT services firm, Gaurish Technologies. The coolest thing about Vishy is he maintains his cool & responds to any crisis with a “K” i.e. "Got it! Would be resolved!"
(L) Vishwanath Singh, (C) Brian Fernandes and (R) Avishek Tiwari
CE: What was the idea behind creating Prozene.com?
Avishek: Our mission is to be the go-to platform for holistic skill development & data driven hiring. We’re engaging 3 key stakeholders: Corporates, Students, and Academia in a never before manner. This brings a paradigm shift in the employability landscape in India.
With Prozene being the first 1st to address all 3 areas of employability - Real life immersion, Critical thinking & Problem solving, and Leadership & team work. We’re proud to have been selected for NASSCOM’s 10,000 Startups Nurture program in Phase 4.
CE: What all can the 3 stakeholders do on Prozene, and how are they benefitted?
1. Students: On Prozene, a Student can:
- Create & solve Challenges
- Execute Projects & Internships
- Create & participate in Events.
By virtue of the various activities that students take up, they benefit by getting the opportunity to:
- Develop their higher order thinking skills.
- Get mentored, connected and noticed by Corporates while studying
- Experience working with diverse industries & know their best fit
- Become industry ready by the time they leave college
- Get hired by a Corporate of their choice
While, for a corporate professional, LinkedIn is a great way of showcasing their experience and accomplishments, there is nothing comparable and effective available for students and freshers. Prozene provides a brilliant way of solving this problem by automated buildup of verified profiles right from day one of college life.
2. Corporates: On Prozene, a Corporate can:
- Create & Solve Challenges
- Create & mentor Projects
- Participate in Events
By virtue of the various activities that Corporates take up, they benefit by getting the opportunity to:
- Connect with, nurture and acquire the best talent
- Get fresh perspective on business issues by posting Challenges
- Get business assignments executed by posting Projects
- Recruit corporate ready talent with insightful data analytics
- Reduce costs associated with fresher hiring & orientation
- Mentor & help shape careers
3. Academicians: On Prozene, an Academician can:
- Create & solve Challenges
- Create, mentor & execute Projects
- Participate in Events
By virtue of the various activities that Academicians take up, they benefit by getting the opportunity to:
- Influence and Create the Future
- Leverage their academic expertise to solve real life business problems
- Mentor students across geographies
- Lead industrial projects
- Bring industrial learnings into classrooms in real time
CE: What steps is Prozene taking to break the status quo in the market?
Avishek: As of date, no company is holistically addressing the problem of employability across all 3 areas (Real life immersion, Critical thinking & problem solving, Leadership & team work), as identified by FICCI, E&Y & Ministry of HRD. We have looked at the ecosystem from several new perspectives, and have accordingly implemented numerous innovative features like remote mentoring (both academia and industry), democratization of ideation, taking innovation to middle & bottom of the industry pyramid. Moreover, the product is driven by powerful, integrated software engine.
CE: What were your major learnings from this startup?
Avishek: Learnings and advice from our personal experience so far:
- Always have a feature in your product that will sell itself.
- If you’re working a successful corporate job, do not quit until you have a working prototype in the market / close to launch.
- Plan your finances. Segregate your fixed costs from variable costs. Always keep your fixed costs low. Keep sufficient cushioning for cost overruns, delays, infrastructure and salaries.
- Persevere, and be open to feedback.
CE: Where is Prozene office located? How big is the team at the moment? What are the typical work hours like?
Avishek: We’re located in Bangalore. We have a small team of around 12, and work as one family. Employees do normal 8 hour shifts, while the founders do the insane shift!
The Prozene Team @ Bangalore Office
CE: How big is Prozene at the moment? How do you plan to scale up from here?
Avishek: We have penetrated the market well, and count many of India’s ivy league colleges as our clients. We’re ramping up our user base at a very rapid pace. Our clients are very happy with our work and keep returning.We have been selected for NASSCOM’s 10,000 Startups Nurture program in Phase 4.We’re looking to raise funds over the next 6 months, once we reach critical mass, to fuel our ambitious marketing and growth plans.
CE: Where do you see Prozene five years down the line?
Avishek: Five years down the line, we see Prozene as a primary ecosystem enabler in making India the global source of employable manpower.
CE: What is the most difficult part about running a portal targeted at students?
Avishek: Students are not available during the day, as they’re busy in class. So we have a late evening to night shift wherein we interact with our clients.
CE: What is your revenue model? Are you profitable?
Avishek: We have a subscription based model.
CE: What marketing strategies do you adopt to make students/colleges discover Prozene?
Avishek: One-on-one sales, word of mouth marketing and digital marketing are the primary levers we’ve used to grow. This has helped us keep variable costs low.
CE: How do you measure the success rate of your startup?
Avishek: Our success parameters are our userbase, the quality of challenges and projects, effective matchmaking, and success rate of executions.
CE: Any message for your readers?
Avishek: We’d like to sum it up by quoting Steve Jobs: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”