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Building an online community building platform for your college

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Bangalore Mirror | |

Apart from alumni tracking, this start-up connects students with past pupils to facilitate jobs and internships.
When Rahul Das, Jikku Jolly, Ruby Peethambaran and Shyam Menon met after 10 years at a college reunion in Model Engineering College in Kochi in 2010, they spent a lot of time reminiscing about good old times. In the process, they got talking about how many of them had lost contact with each other over the years. This became the trigger for a start-up idea that eventually materialised in early 2013 when they launched Fourth Ambit, an online community-building platform for schools and colleges. “The idea was to track down past and present students, and engage them with activities at colleges and beyond,” Das, one of the co-founders, says. They were inspired, in part, by one of their college professors who used to keep a meticulous database of students. The unusual name, as Das explains, comes from their belief that relationships with batchmates, friends and colleges are across time. “Generally, the fourth dimension is time, but we believe its relationships.”

While they started out with about 20 colleges in Kerala, in about a year’s time, the portal grew to accommodate 78 colleges, mainly from Karnataka and Kerala. Some of their clientele include the Indian Institute of Management-Kozhikode, National Institute of Technology, Suratkal, BMS College of Engineering, MVJ Institute of Technology and Manipal University. They are working on extending the option to schools, and at the moment, they’ve one school on board — Rajagiri School in Kerala.
The portal offers services that range from alumni tracking and enrolment to alumni engagement that help maxmise the potential of the school/college community. They organise webinars through which students and alumni are able to connect with each other. They charge institutions between Rs 50,000 to one lakh for a yearly subscription. Once a client is on board, Das says that they add a personal touch with a manager being assigned to each of the colleges they work with. “It’s not just a portal where the commitment ends once we get colleges on board,” says the 36-year-old. The biggest bottleneck that the team faces is the time taken by the institutions to give their nod. According to Das, college authorities who would prioritise matters like admissions, are beginning to understand the long-term benefits of collecting this kind of data. “Even though institutions take at least four months to close a deal, none of them have declined our offer,” he says. Apart from alumni tracking, Fourth Ambit has used the platform as a mentorship forum connecting past and present students from an institution and facilitating internships. So far, they have aided two-month internships with Wipro. At the same time, they’ve realised that students are showing interest in interning with start-ups in Bengaluru. “Students here have been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug. Start-ups, too, are looking for employees with low labour costs. Recently, we’ve been directing them to such ventures which will help them gain work experience,” he says.

As their start-up gained traction, the founders gave up their respective jobs -Menon was in the US after completing his MS, Jolly and Peethambaran were working as techies and Das was with Hindustan Lever – to work dedicatedly on the site. Moving from a corporate set-up to a start-up has come with its share of responsibilities — the biggest being hiring the right candidates. The 35-member team includes 27 employees in Kochi and eight in their HSR Layout office. “We need to see that the employees share our vision. And that’s the biggest responsibility,” Das says. While they started out of Kochi, Das and Jolly moved to Bengaluru to expand the business. Going forward, Das is keen to bring on board tier-2 and tier-3 colleges. According to him, students in Tumkur and Hassan are not aware of the opportunities the city colleges offer. “For instance, rural students interested in entrepreneurship have no idea that some top management institutions have incubation cells which will help them pursue their business idea,” he says. They’re hoping Fourth Ambit will change all that.- Courtesy   Visit Fourth Ambit


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