It had been a while since the first chance encounter with Kajal and Vidyarthi. Over the following months, the picture of what these two had set out to achieve steadily became less hazy. Their dream is simple but audacious: to provide each student personalised insights for him/her to make informed decisions at different stages of the career path using data analytics.
The problem is that while this seems straightforward enough, the basic building blocks (infrastructure & systems) necessary to deliver such reliable information to every individual student is virtually non-existent in our country (a nation which counts its demographic dividend as one of its competitive advantages).
Maybe it was the nature of this Goliath-like challenge and the fact that I had seen so many of my peers (including myself) struggling with career decisions, that made me want to learn more. I was invited to attend a product demo on a Sunday at a college in the city. I accepted immediately.
When you are working a 6 day a week job, Sundays tend to pass by pretty quickly. Luckily, the next Sunday turned out to be interesting. The presentation started at 3pm.
It was as if someone knew exactly what the pain points of students and Placement Teams were and had designed a product keeping these points in mind. From the expressions and smiles all around the room, it was hard to miss the sheer joy among those present. Having been a part of the Placement Team myself, I could guess what was running through their minds: ‘Ye toh humare liye hi banaya gya hai!’
Over the next few weeks, I participated as an observer in other such demos, some of which happened over Skype late at night. These were welcome breaks from the usual TV series or the odd movie. Gradually, I started looking forward to these sessions as I found this a preferable way to spend the evenings. Each time the audience was from a different college and the discussions that happened during the presentations enriched my own understanding of the myriad issues faced by these institutions. And then suddenly one day, Vidyarthi asked me if I wanted to do a demo myself. I knew I wasn’t ready but I said Yes anyway. After several sessions of practice and feedback and more practice, I was declared demo-worthy. So I made my way to this college in Haryana (let’s call it R, for convenience) on a weekend off from work.
Now, the thing that I find interesting about Murphy’s law is that it announces itself when you least expect it. Within fifteen minutes of starting for R, my personal laptop broke down. This came on the heels of my office laptop having already gone for repair the previous evening. I was forced to perform the ritual of ‘last-minute revision’ on my phone. Surprisingly, the demo went quite well. I actually enjoyed the entire experience. And this got me thinking.
I believed in the vision of what Reculta was trying to do. It was almost like a shared dream: the thought that Placements need to be much more scientific and data-driven crosses the mind of every Placecommer at least once. Hardly anyone gets a chance to pursue this thought. And here I was presented with an opportunity to contribute to something meaningful. I started thinking seriously about joining the Reculta Team. Kajal and Vidyarthi had hinted at the same more than once over the last few weeks.
The next few weeks were spent talking to family and friends on what was the best thing to do. Even with tons of advice pouring in, I knew that the final decision would have to be taken by me. Here I was with a good fat paying job out of campus and on the other side was the promise of an adventure, the opportunity to make a difference, to solve a real problem. However, there was no promise of a salary. No SMS would be coming to announce that your account has been credited with… In fact, Vidyarthi and Kajal had been very upfront about the whole thing during the discussions which followed: ‘Sales hogi, toh humari salary aayegi’.
In the end, I decided to just go for it. Towards the end of August, 2017, I finally put in my papers and then joined the Reculta Team full-time as a co-founder. I don’t know if it was the right or wrong decision; only Time will tell. But I do know that the journey at Reculta has been one of the most exciting and significant phases of my life. And I remain hopeful for the future, of Reculta and of all those students looking for a guiding hand in their careers.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.