Remember the time you gave your Class X board exams? Many of us were confused about which stream to choose — Science, Arts, or Commerce? But the dilemma didn’t end there. After Class XII boards, we had to decide on what course to choose, in which college, and how to get there.
Most of us relied on the experience and knowledge of our teachers and parents to answer our questions, but not all of us have that privilege. For students living in slums and coming from poor economic backgrounds, and for those who are the first generation in their family to get education, access to expensive counselling to decide their career paths is limited.
To fill this gap and to help millions of children across India who lack such resources, Aditya Bose started ProBano in 2017. To this date, Delhi-based ProBano is providing feasible counselling, and has reached out to 12,000 students from 142 institutes across 11 states.
SocialStory met Aditya during Jagrati Yatra who says,
“We aim to democratise quality career guidance and don’t want students from the bottom of the pyramid to miss out on it because of the huge potential it possesses. That’s why we have career guidance offerings that provide a mix of online and in-person career guidance priced at ₹99-₹4,999 per student.”
Aditya recalls why he could only think of becoming a Computer Engineer in high school.
“There were two reasons to it – lack of information about career options other than Computer Engineering and Medical Science, and the fact that I was good at troubleshooting small computer-related problems that I or my friends faced.”
Aditya opted for a BTech (Information Technology) programme at Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur. Here, he came across a business plan competition that was being organised by NIT Silchar, for which he needed an idea to apply.
While ideating, Aditya thought about the problems he faced while learning computer programming as the course wasn’t appealing to him.
Aditya adds, “I had joined this course based on a misconception. I asked my hostel mates as to why they had joined their respective engineering branches. The answers that I got reeked of decisions made based on societal stereotypes and parents’ unfulfilled dreams.”
He concluded that he would have made better career choices if there was proper career guidance such as how to make the right career choice, the different career options available, how to go about pursuing a course, etc.
For the competition, Aditya pitched the idea to develop a web-based platform that would provide career counselling and mentor high school students. The platform would also include videos and courses on entrepreneurship, law, computer science, etc.
His business plan included details of the problem, the solution he offered, market research, business model, and how it would fare against competitors. This got him selected for the finals. Over the next four years, he applied to a lot of business plan competitions, winning some.
This led to the inception of ProBano.
“I did a lot of reading on the internet about education and entrepreneurship and pursued a lot of online courses on edX and Udemy about the same. During this period, I got motivated to pursue ProBano full-time after college and I did exactly that,” says Aditya.
The startup has designed its approach in terms of understanding the needs of young school children. Aditya believes the best career guidance solutions for students need to have a mix of online and in-person content, test(s) and support.
Aditya says, “There was a huge need to bring structure to this career guidance process. Keeping these points in mind, ProBano’s career guidance process consists of two cycles.”
The first cycle is centred around exploring and discovering one’s passion.
At ProBano, career counselling is a mixture of online content, psychometric tests, and in-person support to help students explore career options, and shortlist three career options they are interested in. Later, students are counselled to explore and pursue one of the options. Students are also mentored through online webinars and in-person sessions.
The startup then takes its students through career-based courses, where online modules coupled with a few in-person classes are conducted, to help them learn the fundamental skills needed to pursue the career option they have chosen. The students also have the option to undertake multiple courses and then decide on which one is appealing to them.
After the first cycle, the students are introduced to the second cycle, which is all about pursuing their passion. This cycle entails soft skills training. Aditya explains,
“Last year, we also added a soft skills module (again, online + in-person) to help students prepare for their future careers by building soft skills like communication, teamwork, creativity, etc, which are transferable to any job role.”
Students are also provided with information about relevant scholarships, entrance exams, degrees, colleges, internships, and jobs according to the stage they have opted for and their needs.
“Using the right mix of technology and traditional methods, we have been able to bring structure and tangibility to the solution of such a complex issue which affects a person’s whole life while maintaining quality. That’s why we call it innovative and technology backed”, says Aditya.
Probano has provided career guidance to high school students of Army Goodwill schools in Jammu and Kashmir, and branches of Government Higher Senior Secondary School in Jammu, Rajasthan, and Haryana. It has also offered its services to the Tamil Education Association schools in Delhi, multiple Zilla Parishad High schools of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and government ITIs of Haryana.
Many students to whom the startup has provided career guidance live in rural areas and come from humble backgrounds. When asked about the students’ background, Aditya says,
“Most of the students we provide career guidance to come from rural and semi-urban areas of India with financially humble backgrounds. It is these students who need career guidance the most.”
“With 50 percent of our population slated to be under the age of 25 years soon, we are focused on increasing our outreach to as many rural and urban areas as possible to help our youth maximise their potential”, he adds.
As per the prior and post-guidance assessment conducted at ProBano, 74 percent of its students started career planning after receiving guidance.
The team and the road ahead
ProBano’s nine-member team has a mix of educators, social workers, engineers, an HR professional, a senior psychologist, a Merchant Navy professional, and a business coach. They undergo a small training programme to ensure the career counselling has the required uniform standard quality and structure.
In future, ProBano plans to become the first youth-focused pan India career guidance venture. It doesn’t want to only cater to Tier I cities but also Tier II and III cities, along with having a presence in rural areas.
According to Aditya, ProBano recently started implementing the model of teacher training to use the insights and in-house talent that they bring to the table in its career guidance process.
He adds, “We plan to scale our career guidance through an effective mix of in-house teacher training and develop a mobile app where teachers/career guides and mentors can provide guidance to students and even involve parents in the process through online content, online psychometric tests, and their expert support.”
The startup has already started developing its mobile app as an extension of its website-based platform. It plans to launch its first version by mid-April 2020.