"Failure or success, you will come out a better person of entrepreneurship" - Parul Gupta, SlideRule
SlideRule is an education start-up founded in the year 2013 by Parul Gupta and Gautam Tambay. SlideRule helps users discover, compare and recommend the best online courses thus making online education more effective. SlideRule was selected for Microsoft Ventures Accelerator Batch 4 and for Nasscom Warehourse in the year 2014.
Parul completed Bachelors in Technology from IIT Bombay in 2002. Currently she holds the post of Director at the Alumni Association of IIT Bombay. Parul has also worked on problems spanning algorithms for wireless communication systems, cloud computing, green technologies and analytics.
In an exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers.com, we got Parul to talk about her experiences at SlideRule, her co-founder Gautam Tambay, the changes in educational system of the country overtime - right from when she completed her B.Tech from IIT Bombay in 2002 till date, inspiration behind SlideRule, main competitors of SlideRule and its potential market size and a lot more. Parul also discusses the Indian education market where there is a tremendous scope for online learning. Read on!
CE: Hello Parul. Could you please tell us more about SlideRule?
Parul: SlideRule is an education startup, which aims to make online education effective for everyone. Today, a lot of great learning content is available online, but it is scattered. We collect all the important information about courses and present it in a user-friendly way that lets you compare, read reviews and make a choice. Further, we curate sequences of online courses (called learning paths) to help you learn more complex job skills, e.g. web development, data analysis, UX design etc. All of this is free for users. We also recently launched paid online workshops which include support from mentors, a community and a certificate.
CE: You completed your B.Tech from IIT Bombay in 2002. Current you hold the post of Director at the Alumni Association of IIT Bombay. How linked are you to the current educational system? How has it changed over time?
Parul: I have been in touch with my alma mater and can proudly say that IIT Bombay is the best college in India, with the most vibrant and engaged student and alumni community. IIT Bombay has taken bold steps to evolve its curriculum to keep pace with the times. We have several interdisciplinary programs, a big focus on entrepreneurship, a lot of encouragement for research & innovation and many internal and external activities which give students great opportunity for holistic development.
CE: What inspired you to startup with SlideRule?
Parul: At my last job at IBM Research, I often needed to learn new concepts for my work. On one such occasion, I had to pick up machine learning. I happened to take a course by Stanford’s Prof. Andrew Ng (Coursera's founder), who is a very well respected authority on the subject. It was a fantastic experience and I was blown away by the potential of open online education - if everyone in the world could have access to the best teachers and experts, we would have much better livelihoods, much better economies and even much better human beings! I really wanted to work in this space, so studied it for a while and when I met my co-founder Gautam, things began to fall in place.
CE: How big is the market that SlideRule is targeting? What makes SlideRule different from its competitors?
Parul: We are targeting the global online higher-education market. Education itself is a multiple trillion dollar market and online education continues to grow and claim a bigger share of it.
A lot of people are excited about this space and universities, professors, startups, government and industry consortiums are all trying to experiment with different models. SlideRule is different from many of them, because we don't create more courses (we feel plenty of experts are already doing it). Instead, we build upon these courses and provide the missing pieces for a complete online training - a high-quality curriculum, mentor support and community.
CE: Do you think there is much scope in the Indian education market, where people still prefer going for personal classes instead of online learning?
Parul: Oh, the scope is tremendous! Think of all working people who can't leave work and go to a physical classroom, think of all people in remote towns or tier-2, 3, 4 colleges who have the hunger to learn but no access to good teachers nearby, think of all the women who fall out of the workforce because of household responsibilities and many more such cases - all of these people *can* learn if provided an option to do so online, in an anytime, anywhere, self-paced way.
CE: Looking back, what is the one thing you would do differently?
Parul: I would build & iterate faster. Given that we were limited only by our time & bandwidth, this also means I would hire more aggressively.
CE: If you could be anything other than an entrepreneur, what would it be and why?
Parul: I would perhaps give politics a shot. I have been associated with various NGOs and social causes for almost 15 years and through my experiences, have come to believe that lasting change can only be brought by good governance and policy.
CE: Thank you for the time you have spent with us. Any message for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Starting up is not as risky as we make it to be, and the lifelong learning and growth that results is far under-hyped. Only an entrepreneur who has experienced it can tell you how life-altering and satisfying it is. So don't over-analyze, just take the plunge. Failure or success, you will come out a better person.