Back in August 2018, Rohan S Nair, a 14-year-old student of Class 9 from Delhi Public School, Bangalore (East), launched a Skype-based platform called ‘Schuniversity’ on the hallowed grounds of IIT Madras.
It is a platform which offers career counselling to students from different schools and colleges in India, and give them an opportunity to interact with world-class experts and achievers from around the world.
Yes, a 16-year-old, who hasn’t even graduated high school, is helping other students, even those older than him, to help them navigate their career choices.
If only some of us had similar avenues while growing up!
“I run a company called Sprinklebytes along with my mother and Schuniversity is a part of the work we do,” he says, speaking to The Better India.
For Rohan, who was aspiring to become a national level tennis player, an opportunity to interact with Zeeshan Ali, the legendary Indian tennis coach, at the age of 10, was a significant turning point.
“That meeting changed my perspective of how to view the game and life in general. He told me about the career opportunities in tennis, how to find a university which could help me hone my game and the various scholarships I could apply for, among other things,” says Rohan.
Three years later, it was a meeting with Infosys founder Narayana Murthy, which further inspired him to take the plunge into entrepreneurship.
“When I was 13, I met Mr Narayana Murthy because of the Live Disease Tracking Map, an idea that I had developed. He called me in for a discussion and advised me about a career in entrepreneurship. That’s when I thought to myself these are the sort of meetings young students need and I wanted to provide this kind of mentorship to students in Bangalore and all over the world,” he says.
Since conducting a session at IIT Madras in August 2018, he has gone onto conduct 12-14 such sessions all over Bengaluru and Chennai.
How did Rohan manage to rope in all these experts onto his platform?
It began with a lot of hits and misses while also leveraging his family’s contacts (his father is a scientist). However, it was a specific networking tool he is still working on which helped him accelerate the process.
When prodded to divulge more information about the networking tool, Rohan says he cannot discuss its details and rightly so. What we know is that he sent out more than 6000 invites to achievers and experts from all over the world, and the results have been quite spectacular.
Rohan has roped in approximately 100 mentors from seven different counties.
They include GP Padmanabhan, the ex-director of IISc, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson and managing director of Biocon Limited, legendary tennis coach Zeeshan Ali, Brian Wilman, programme director of London Business School, Nikhil Arora, VP and MD GoDaddy, and Mohan Kumar, ex-defence secretary, among others.
“What I do is free of cost, because I wanted to provide a platform that students could join and learn,” says Rohan.
At Schuniversity, the focus isn’t on traditional careers like medicine or engineering, but on non-traditional careers like music, sports, and various such fields that parents don’t generally allow their children to opt for.
It’s been more than 18 months since Rohan first began running his company, Sprinklebytes. With his mother as CEO, he also has time to focus on his academics as well.
“Right now we are bootstrapped, and are looking for funding opportunities, but none have come up yet. We run the sessions with mentors through Skype, but if we receive funding, we would like to create a platform just like Skype, but for the private users of Schuniversity. I am also planning to create an App wherein anyone can use this facility, and we can schedule, monitor and re-schedule the sessions,” says Rohan.
Next month, Rohan is headed to an NIT for a session. Various private schools in Bangalore, including Delhi Public School and Cambridge School, have already held Schuniversity sessions.
“However, our main focus will soon be on schools in rural India, where students don’t have those opportunities. Our main focus is on rural schools because these children are very talented, but don’t get the opportunity to prosper in different fields. So that’s what we were aiming towards,” adds Rohan.
What’s the next step? Well, board exams are a year away. After school, Rohan plans on taking his SATs, apply for an Ivy League college and hopefully get in.
“As far as Schuniversity is concerned, I want to expand it to all over India, and eventually take operations abroad to countries like Israel and Singapore, where some of our mentors reside,” he says.
The future indeed looks bright for young Rohan, who has his goals firmly set.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)