Who would think two graduates in architecture would find the ideal platform to help the next generation of students find their ideal coaches? Rohit Raheja and Sachit Dugar have found the secret to making school kids want to learn. Through their EdTech platform, Mentor Match, the team has successfully ‘matched’ college students from institutions like the IITs, BITS, Christ College, and NITT with more than 500 school students between classes 3 and 12, around India. “The concept is very simple. You would not follow your teacher on Instagram and you would definitely not be open to telling them about that party you went to last night,” shrugs Rohit. The young start-up works bearing that concept in mind, similar to the Big Brother Big Sister program.
“People always wonder how a couple of architecture graduates ended up in EdTech.” Rohit clarifies that his architectural education made the biggest impact on creating the unique initiative. In fact, the entire idea behind Mentor Match started when he was over at his friend’s place while they were collaborating on an architecture project. His friend’s mother was complaining about how she was spending a lot of money on her 10th grade daughter’s tuition, but her grades were not improving and the board exams were nearing. “I had just met a friend from IIT Madras that day. He was telling me about how he was looking to earn some extra money,” he recalls, “I called him up and asked if he would be willing to mentor the girl.” The girl who was scoring 60% in her exams was now at a whopping 94% while the IIT student earned enough pocket money to take care of his expenses.
“I immediately started looking for study buddy platforms in India.” There were none. Realising the gap in the market, he called up his batchmate Sachit Dugar with the idea. “Sachit and I were always inclined towards entrepreneurship during our college days. We even had a brownie business in our third year.” The duo had recently graduated from Measi Academy of Architecture and understood the big picture. “As a college student, it is really difficult to find a part-time job in India,” he explains, “My only option was to sign up to become a Swiggy delivery boy, which wouldn’t have made my parents exactly happy.”
“Most graduates from architecture want to get a job at a well-known architecture firm, gain experience and open a firm of their own. We decided we’ll do that in a little while, and give this study buddy project a good shot.” The duo began building Mentor Match part-time, roping in some of their friends from college, while working on their careers as architects. A few months in, after matching around 400 mentees with mentors and realising the demand for the mentorship program, the founders dived into the venture full-time. “What really validated our idea was that in a space where you would normally find parents forcing their kids to go for classes and tuitions, we had school students approaching us for mentorship!”
The challenge, however, was with the adults. Convincing parents about the idea was difficult at first, but the founders had a plan. They conduct aptitude tests for the college students, testing them on content based on the school syllabus. Based on a standardized grading system, the mentor is assigned to a school student, a.k.a. the mentee. The mentors who qualify then undergo training under the pioneer mentors on the platform. During this period the mentor is taught memorization and teaching techniques. Besides this, Mentor Match takes into consideration the learning styles of both the mentors and the mentees. “Some are visual learners, while some of the others prefer linguistic, social or auditory methods,” explains the co-founder about the R&D that went behind the initiative.
How did Mentor Match become so popular amongst school kids? The EdTech platform takes into consideration the hobbies and aspirations of the mentee. “If a kid wants to get into IIT and also likes to play football, we try to match him with a mentor from IIT who also likes to play football.” This kind of 1:1 mentorship is what differentiates Mentor Match from other EdTech platforms—it is more about tailoring a program to suit the learner rather than charge parents a huge fee for dubious outcomes. By onboarding popular content creator, Rayhaan Shaik (who also studied architecture with the duo) and a couple of artists, the company established a strong online presence through comics, Instagram Reels and memes.
“Architecture school did not teach us to become entrepreneurs, so it has been a huge learning process.” Nevertheless, the architecture background is what makes Mentor Match unique. “A lot of focus was put into the design of our office space,” says Rohit, “We tried to make the environment fun so that the mentors enjoy spending time here, at the office.” Besides, the young entrepreneurs have actively been experimenting with ways to break the ice and increase productivity.
As a result, they have developed ‘The Mentor Match Starter Kit’, complete with convo cards, a door hanger (featuring Steve Carrel from the Office), a build-your-own-toy (where only the mentor has access to the assembly manual and the mentee learns how to assemble it with their guidance), session planners, test trackers and career guidance templates. These objects were systematically designed based on mind mapping and Feynman’s Technique (a six-step process to simplify content to a story-like format.)
The process of learning is entirely rewards-based—every time a task is completed, the mentor and mentee pick from a list of activities like playing a sport or watching YouTube or Netflix together, thereby strengthening their bond. Schools and teachers have come on board with the idea of peer learning as well. “Some schools even recommend our platform to students who find it difficult to cope.”
With about a thousand college students signed up as mentors on the platform, covering more than thirteen subjects, the co-founders are now preparing for the next big step—investments. “We have received quite a bit of mentorship ourselves,” says the co-founder with a grin. “The good thing about being a Chennai-based start-up is that there is a lot of talent here and the pace is much slower (as compared to cities like Mumbai) which makes it a lot easier for someone new to entrepreneurship.” However, the young entrepreneur also points out that even though organisations like the IIT Madras Research Park exist, the city still has a long way to go to be on par with the start-up ecosystem that one may find in Bangalore.
Mentor Match is currently developing an app with the help of two second-year computer science students. The company plans to expand into preparation for competitive entrance exams like the JEE and NEET. Eventually, the team also wishes to diversify into non-academic mentorships as well. “Growing up, I wanted to become a pilot. If only I had someone who told me how that would be possible,” sighs Rohit. Fuelled by relatability and a deep passion for innovating in the field of education, the team at Mentor Match is only at the beginning of their long-term mission to create the best possible student ecosystem conducive to learning.