Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Monica Mehta – Strategic Initiatives, LeapScholar

Enabling millions realise their study abroad dreams through digital innovation

Over the last decade, the Indian overseas education industry has grown multifold. With a steady rise in Indian students moving abroad for studies, it is estimated that by 2025 there will be over two million Indian students studying overseas whose combined spending on international education will exceed $100 billion. Earlier, there were certain barriers towards achieving universal access to education such as student financing, availability of data and information, along with accessibility to courses and programmes. However, times have changed with many options being available making global education convenient for everyone across the economic spectrum.

Today if a student aspires to study abroad, many organizations can now provide them with the opportunity to gain global education and careers. In this article, we are going to talk about one such organization – Leap – which is helping students fulfill their dream of studying abroad. Co-founded in 2019 by IIT Kharagpur alumni, Vaibhav Singh and Arnav Kumar, Leap owns LeapScholar, LeapFinance, and Yocket. It is South Asia’s largest study abroad platform with products & services in overseas education.

Through modern financial products and solutions, Leap has pioneered the platform way of end-to-end services for students pursuing international education and careers and has a thriving community of over 2 million students. It is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Singapore and Bengaluru. The company is on a mission to make global education accessible for students across the spectrum.

The online format helps them serve students in every corner of the country, and hire the best counselling and teaching talent for their students. The core idea of the platform is built around a thriving online community of study abroad aspirants. With over 2 million students, the Leap community is one of the largest global platforms for international aspirants. Leap is a full-stack student mobility platform that provides a full suite of products and services to community members to help them navigate through their entire journey abroad.

Taking care of end to end needs of a student in their study abroad journey

The study abroad journey generally requires aspirants to approach multiple service providers to meet different needs. Leap provides a full suite of products and services to students to help them navigate through their entire journey abroad. The company’s offerings include study abroad counselling, IELTS online coaching, visa application, pathway programs and financing among others.

Leap started with an education loan product that calculates risk based on alternative data (such as future earning potential) and thus allows students to borrow money for funding their international studies at rates 5% cheaper than traditional education loans. The company has pioneered a technology-first approach to a traditionally offline industry which has allowed for rapid scaling. “The group we intend to cater to as a business comprises students & working professionals in the age group 18-30, from metros & select tier 2/3 cities and their parents”, says Monica Mehta, who leads Strategic Initiatives at Leap as Vice President. She has been spearheading the ideation, development and launch of innovative hybrid pathway programs in the last two years.

Monica’s experience spans across strategy, investments and operations. Before her time at Leap, she was the Executive Vice President at Wadhwani Foundation, where she led the Wadhwani Entrepreneur Initiative, focusing on delivering entrepreneurship programs in India, South East Asia & MENA. Her time as a Director at Omidyar Network enabled her to bring in education/skilling investments and grants in India. She has also been the Founding Partner at Kaizen Private equity and an entrepreneur. Monica enjoys solving complex problems in early-stage businesses where solutions aren’t direct, and need an acute problem-solving approach. She is drawn to leading teams with diverse skill sets, which she has successfully done both as an entrepreneur, investor and professional. She is an alumnus of the Thunderbird Global School of Management, ASU, USA.

Network, network, network

She believes one’s character, intelligence and creative abilities have the potential to grow and change. “I use challenges as an opportunity to shift my thought process and become a better version of myself – if I am not hitting my goals, something needs to shift. Growth mindset is an absolute enabler”, says Monica. Her mantra has always been – network, network, network – and pull others up around you. “I have successfully established networks & mentors throughout my career, whilst also using them to pull others up”, she asserts. She differentiates herself by not shying away from owning outcomes – the responsibility to own and steer initiatives. She operates with integrity and demands the same of her team.

Her journey has always been centred around achieving the perfect work-life balance. This is still extremely challenging for women around the world, particularly in more patriarchal societies such as ours. She believes that despite the hardships faced by women, there is still a need for women to vocalize their ambition and fight for their place in the corporate world. There are always people that are willing to be mentors and help guide young people in this journey, and building a network of people that can help navigate this world for you is imperative to succeed.

As a part of the Leap leadership team, she ideates on innovative programs that can provide greater access to foreign universities for Indian students. She drives decisions on the countries, universities and degree programs that they would launch as part of their hybrid program strategy. “Each person in the Leap team believes they have a critical role to play in helping students achieve their aspiration for global education, so most of the encouragement comes from their motivation to help students succeed. However, good leadership is key to achieving our goals, which I do by setting clear goals and objectives, providing opportunities to grow, creating spaces for constructive feedback, and facilitating open communication” says Monica.

Synonymous with study abroad success

Globally the study abroad market presents a $200 bn annual opportunity estimated to increase to $430 Billion+ by 2030. Leap’s vision is to make it synonymous with study abroad success. They want to enable 10 million students over the next decade to pursue their dream of international education and global careers. The company aims to expand its global footprint exponentially in key markets including the Middle East, South East Asia, South Asia and North Africa in the next three years.

Leap continues to invest in and lead the massive transformational growth witnessed by the study abroad market. The company was featured amongst the top 100 most promising edtech startups by HolonIQ in India and South Asia and is also one of the very few Indian edtech firms to feature in the coveted global list of 2022 GSV Edtech 150. It was also recognized as the ‘Edtech Startup of the Year 2022’ by Entrepreneur India.

Whilst they have launched hybrid programs with the US Universities for Indian students, they plan to start hybrid programs with UK, Australian and Canadian Universities in the near future. They also plan to offer their hybrid programs for aspiring students across the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa.

From her decade-long leadership experience, Monica shares her words of wisdom for study abroad aspirants. She says, “It is essential to capitalize on your talents and create a path for yourself. Confidence is the key to being an effective leader and networking goes a long way. Keeping an innovative approach, thinking creatively and being a problem solver are the keys to professional growth”, she concludes.


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