It was the evening of 5th March 2016, when I received an email from ISB- the subject of the mail was “Your EEO Application Result”. After 5 minutes of anxiety following an increase in my heartbeat rate, I gathered the courage to open the mail and I was in! I couldn’t have been happier. I had prepared myself to be good enough for the Indian School of Business for 3 long years and finally the offer letter was in my hand. Celebrations were followed by an existential crisis since I’d have to join class only in 2017, which means I had exactly one year to go before I join the school. I had already decided that if I get an admit through EEO (Early Entry Option), I would use the one year (prior to joining) to the utmost of my capability. And what could have been better than using it to help others get an admit?
Very soon Whatsapp and Facebook groups started forming and I found myself among my fellow EEO Admits- a bunch of extremely talented individuals and leaders and I saw immense potential in each one of them.
I pitched the idea of starting an admission consultancy company to them, with the focus being the quality of service and reasonable pricing. The reception was quite encouraging since most of the other admits had faced the same problem as I had, “the lack of quality consultancy services at reasonable pricing”.
Thus The Bootcamp, a company comprising 15 very talented and scholarly admits with a hunger to drive impact and change, was born. Together as a team, we started working on setting up our initial organisation structure. Since most of us were working another day job, we had to figure out common times for meetings and collaboration. At the onset, we decided that we had to be as lean as possible and thus came up with a hierarchy of core members and consultants. The flat hierarchy ensured that the team had no conflicts and worked efficiently as a unit.
We had small teams handling Strategy, Operations, Marketing and Finance. Most of our collaboration was virtual on platforms such as WebEx and Hangout. I started off creating the internal process and organisation of our firm, along with outlining the services we were planning to monetize. I realised that it’d be best if I could have my talented team collaborate on this one and thus my first step towards organisation was to request the expression of interests from team members for taking up various team lead and hierarchy positions. I knew I had had minimal interaction with them and it’d be extremely difficult for me to judge their merit for the roles and responsibilities they’d be taking up.
However, I succeeded in coming up with a stand in board and hierarchy which was open to modifications as per performance. I established a process of weekly team meetings for marketing, strategy, technology, finance and the board ensuring maximum collaboration and involvement because as of now my only offering to satiate the motivations of team members was my vision of our firm. Our first major task was to carry out a market survey to understand how to define our services and our pricing and ensure that the market was ready for us. Surveying a huge pool of subscribers coupled with analysing competitors and feedback from various channels, ensured that we had the most optimal pricing for the best suite of services in the market.
Within 2 weeks with extraordinary collaboration among strategy and marketing teams, we were ready with the scoping of the market and had started penetrating the segment we were targeting, various MBA applicants, who were interested in applying to the ISB this year. In the coming months, we utilised social media and digital marketing to build a healthy presence on platforms like Facebook and GMATclub. We carried out various marketing campaigns that helped us build our customer base. The outbound marketing worked wonders for us.
We had a niche market, but I knew with the correct marketing strategy and a 10% penetration, we’d have a good chance of breaking even and achieving our vision of converting at least 30 applicants in round 1. I now realised the vacuum that was our sales team, we collectively had no sales experience and while a month had been devoted to marketing and gathering prospective client information, we had to now make use of that and convert it into actual sales. In order to find sales talent within our team, I allocated proactive sales calling to everyone on the team and ensured people tried their best to convert leads. We suddenly found that a few of our team members were naturally adept at sales, and thus formed our now experienced sales team.
In a matter of a couple of months, we had already broken even. This was unprecedented since we were entirely new in the market without any success stories to bank on. However, our team entirely comprising of ISB admits, worked wonders for our branding. The magic had begun even before we started our class at ISB.
Soon enough our clientele started showing results of our exemplary mentoring. A lot of our mentees began getting great GMAT scores, including some who managed to make a 350 point jump. The Young Leader’s program intake by ISB was right around the corner and we had quite a few YLP mentees, each one of whom got an interview call. The results were declared on September 15th and we managed to get a 90 % conversion rate for our mentees. We now had something to bank on, we had proven our mettle. The tables started turning, our focus shifted from outbound marketing to inbound marketing and suddenly we were the “Go To” consultancy for ISB.
We, however, had expansion plans, so we started supporting Global MBA programs too. We onboarded quite a few consultants who were alums of Top 20 B-schools in the world and kicked off our Global MBA consultancy services. In a matter of months, we had succeeded in expanding our customer base to geographies such as the Middle East and South Asia. Our global MBA clients have been admitted to the likes of Columbia Business School, Kellogg School of Management and Rotman School of Management, among others. We have also been supporting MS and MiS programs globally and can boast of admits to Carnegie Mellon University as well as Kelley School of Management. Closer home we are planning to support CAT aspirants with their applications/interviews to the b-schools such as IIM-A/B/C, FMS and XLRI, whose alums are already a part of our team.
After 7 months of operation, we have more than a 100 clients, a team that has expanded to 20 mentors and is rapidly scaling up and most of all a brand for our firm, which is now well known among MBA applicants. We have expanded from our niche to catering for global MBA consultancy and have broken even and generated profits to the tune of 400 %.
While our focus has expanded, our primary goal is to enable as many deserving applicants to join our class at ISB in 2017 as possible. In the PGP intake, 94% of our mentees received interview calls and more than 85% converted and got admitted to Indian School of Business. As the testimonials from our future classmates keep rolling in, we feel a sense of achievement in impacting the careers of so many people.
We have done exceedingly well as a young start up and our vision is to impact the education system in India and make it more efficient. We intend to move to EdTech and target K-12 as well as undergraduate students in the near future and we are actively looking for investors to help us with our expansion plans.
Part of our team as well as many of our clients will be joining the Indian School of Business in 2017 and we hope the school’s support and an extremely conducive entrepreneurial environment will help us grow exponentially.
To the place where the magic happens, to ISB.
About the Author:
Nishant Das, Founder & CEO, The Bootcamp Consultancy Pvt Ltd