A bracket of three Indian students, Hiten Patel, Rahul Gopal and Perceus Mody who were studying abraod, developed a campus-networking website, Campusknot, which has been designed to connect faculty and students just like social media platforms.
By Riya Das
Living in a country far from home, where everyone speaks a language you didn't grow up with, can be a challenge. The then-student at Mississippi State University in the US, Hiten Patel was a shy person during his college days. Being an international student, he was facing a lot of communication barriers which was holding him back to discuss or clear doubts on academic matters. He soon started noticing the other students, after which he found that due to the advancement of technology more students are on their phone, rather than concentrating in the lectures and he is not alone in the race.
"The classroom relation of faculty and student is as well not that impressive, resulting which teachers are not able to provide individual attention to each student," says Hiten Patel. He realized that there is a huge gap between the teachers and students and the entire higher education market is highly fragmented. This led him to ponder upon the thought of solving this pitfall. Patel adds "Initially it was just an idea to create an ecosystem where one could connect with his/her own classmates and seek for help."
While Hiten was working on this idea, he got introduced to two Indian students who were also studying at MSU, Perceus Mody and Rahul Gopal who were involved in different campus organizations and activities. The concept of ‘Campusknot' that was built in the mind of Hiten got a whole new dimension when Perceus and Rahul added their part of abstraction for Campusknot. Soon three of them began to reside under one roof and decided to take this project into an implementation stage.
"We used to spend hours brainstorming coupled with performing intense market research," opines Rahul Gopal. They reached out to different faculty members and friends to receive their respective suggestions and opinions regarding Campusknot. Perceus Mody happily recalls, "Throughout the journey, all our faculty members and friends forwarded a very supportive hand to our vision and initiative."
Living the Dream
By now they had prepared a business model and also collected some funding from friends, family members, small business competitions and grant money from the business school at Mississippi State University which helped create the minimum viable product and validate the idea. "But as we had a desire to take this company from an apartment to a functional operation in two countries, the need of the hour was to get an investor, who will believe us and invest in our project accordingly," pinpoints Mody.
Observing their potentialities and the confidence they had in the project, an angel investor, Mr. Rajan Kher offered whopping USD 100,000 funding in 2015. "It was a turning point for us. We do not know where we would have been, without him today. He saw the spark in Campusknot and since then he has been with us," states Gopal. Overnight this turned into a big news- the news of such a huge amount invested on a student startup in Mississippi. From that point, the creators of Campusknot never looked back.
"When I explained about Campusknot in the early days to my family, they were not convinced. They wanted me to meet the societal milestones hence; I had to distance myself from my family members for two years. Anyhow, now they have finally witnessed what Campusknot is about and is now the fuel to my fire," shares Patel. Fighting the drawbacks, the team of Campusknot had the responsibility to stand on the faith that Mr. Rajan had shown by rendering funding. The next thing they did was building a capable team in Vadodara and the US.
Today 13 people are working in India and 7 in the US respectively for Campusknot. "It's amazing watching them bring their passion and push each other. We have a lot of respect for this core-team for the phenomenal job they are doing," claims Mody.
Twisting the Conventional Route
The idea that was born in the mind of three Indian students now got a shape and is helping several academicians as well as students by increasing the accessibility of education on one single platform. "We have not just generated a website or an app; we have created a first of its kind learning engagement system and tried to change the classroom culture to fit the modern educator and its students and we are still in the process," mentions Gopal.
Since the inception, Campusknot has evolved into a one-stop solution where users can chat, share notes, check class schedules, post questions, buy and sell books, among other facilities which are currently available. Patel proudly says, " And that was very satisfying moment for us when one of our faculty members who were an early adopter of Campusknot showed us how many hours and paper sheets we had saved for him. At that time we felt as if our hard work and sleepless nights were paid off that day in the real sense."
The team of Campusknot believes that the Indian government is doing a wonderful service to open up the red tape for startups and India is on the right track to unleashing its potential. The company has received appreciations from around the world and is set to introduce more tools on its website which will enhance and change the overall teaching-learning scenario. "I will suggest the youth to not get into the race of becoming the youngest millionaire or billionaire as there is no fulfillment in such materialistic goals. Believe in yourself, find your center, do not think short term, seek out good mentors and enhance the quality of life for others," concludes Patel.