From a Hostel Room to a Multi-Million Dollar Startup: Unstop Founder’s Incredible Journey

Delhi-based Ankit Aggarwal started a blog to inform his college mates about upcoming events. Today, it is a full-fledged tech startup called Unstop — an early talent engagement and hiring platform, which was recently showcased on Shark Tank Season 2.

The one thing that 37-year-old Ankit Aggarwal was sure of was that he had a ‘bug’ in him that kept pushing him to become an entrepreneur and build something of his own. Even as a student sitting in his hostel room, when most students would run towards getting placements, he says he would be busy entertaining the startup ideas that kept popping into his head.

Today, Ankit is the founder of Unstop, a Delhi-based early talent engagement and hiring platform, which has over 5 million users and earned a revenue of $2.5 million this year.

The company was recently offered the highest offer of Rs 5 crore on Shark Tank, which they refused.

From a blog to a multi-million company

The idea of Unstop developed from a blog that was born in a hostel room and ended up being a full-blown multi-million dollar startup.

“I was in IMT pursuing MBA and wanted to participate in various programmes and contests that were held in different colleges, universities, and companies. However, the information about these events would not reach us on time,” he recalls. “This is when I started a blog where I would post the information as soon as I got it. This was way back in 2010.”

While still working on his blog, Ankit joined Harvard Business School to pursue a scholarship programme. “I noticed the same trend in Harvard too. The students wanted to explore more opportunities and find out which industry they were suited for, gain CV points, and eventually get placed. Getting placement and the right industry exposure is all that the students need. So, while in Harvard, I realised this idea might have a monetary value to it,” he shares.

The first big breakthrough that Ankit got was when the Aditya Birla Group and Reliance approached him.

“It was the big push I needed. In consecutive months, these two big giants approached me. They asked me if I can reach out to students and start an employer brand. I then decided that this is the right time to transform that blog into a website,” he says. 

So, in 2017, Ankit decided to give his full attention to building his blog and making it something bigger. “When I started in 2019, the company was quite restricted. We were collaborating with a few schools. Slowly we started building on it and incorporated different fields being offered in colleges, such as engineering, arts and commerce in 2020. Then, in 2021, we pivoted from being just a listing platform. And now, a user can create web pages, make and take payments, do coding, and also do assessments on our platform,” he says.

The Unstop platform
The platform has over 5 million users with a turnover of Rs 2.5 crore per year.

Explaining how the platform works, Ankit says, “We look at Unstop as an early talent engagement and hiring platform. It is like a combination of Naukri.com, LinkedIn and an assessment platform like Mettl. In a nutshell, if you are a working professional or a student, we can upskill your talent journey by helping you learn new skills, showcase those skills to new employers, gain CV points, and then finally, get the reward in hiring.”

“Eventually, that is the goal — to get hired. Today, we have 5 million users, 10,000 colleges, and more than 1,000 companies listing their opportunities on Unstop,” he informs.

Unstoppable journey to success

While Ankit always had an eye for business, his journey was anything but easy.

“Unstop was not my first try at business. I have been trying my hand at different startups and failed. They all came with their set of problems and learnings,” he says, adding “The hardest one was to overcome the fear of going solo. In my earlier gigs, I think I was dependent on my co-founders a lot.”

He shares an instance from when he was working on his first business idea. “The idea was to build an app where people can book shows. We were working on it, and then just three months later, ‘Book My Show’ got launched!”

While Ankit was convinced that this was a good idea, he couldn’t convince his co-founders to go ahead with it. “I knew there was a market for such a platform, but I did not hustle enough. I let go of it, and the only reason was that I was not brave enough to take that leap and go solo,” he says, adding that it was an internal barrier that he had to overcome.

The entrepreneur recently appeared on Shark Tank Season 2, where the ‘sharks’ offered his team Rs 5 crore, the highest offer in Shark Tank history, which they refused.

He says, “It was an amazing experience, seeing all the sharks and answering their questions. Initially, it can be a little intimidating, but then I was prepared with all the numbers. It was surreal to see the glimmer in their eyes as I shared about my startup and the plans ahead.”

“We got an offer from Amit Jain, but we did not accept it for some business reasons. The most important takeaway from all of it is that the ‘sharks’ saw so much potential in the business and that is really motivating,” he adds.

As his startup’s name goes, Ankit too has no plans to stop.

Sharing future plans he says, “For now, we are looking at sustainable growth. We want to form a community of students and employers. A person can create tech overnight, but you cannot create a LinkedIn overnight. We are looking to grow our five million users to 10, 20 and so on. We are not looking into the revenue side of the company but the community side for now.”

Edited by Pranita Bhat

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