Startup Spotlight is a series by UIncept to share our stories with the world.
It takes a lot of courage and commitment to build a startup, and we strongly believe in ideas that change the world. As the new batch of young and enthusiastic individuals begin their journeys at UIncept, we are taking the opportunity to interview them and gain an insight into what drives them.
Today, we are in conversation with Noor Ali Lalani, the founder of a startup called ‘StudyTact’.
What is StudyTact and where did you come up with the idea?
StudyTact is a web-based and personalised learning platform that focuses on traditional education while complementing supplementary learning.
The idea came from the simple fact that today, traditional education isn’t enough. Students need to learn things they are interested in beside their coursework, and also acquire life skills.
A lot of research and personal experience went into the creation of StudyTact. It was actually my time in the U.S as a student that inspired me to do something about my idea. I developed the application with the same name when I was there but decided to bring it to India to help students here.
What would you say makes your startup different from the ones that already exist?
My app focuses on child-centric learning.
We take a holistic approach to education, integrating traditional and supplemental learning. We have created 4 major streams- business, technology, creative and culture.
Students between grade 8 to 12 can sign up for short term courses based on their stream of interest.
Thus, they can take up different courses and figure out what they truly want to pursue at a young age.
Can you take me through your educational journey?
I was a science student in high school and scored quite well in my boards. After that though, I wasn’t sure where my interest really lied. I tried my hand at B. Com but realised it wasn’t for me, so I left college.
Then, I thought of taking up hotel management, but somehow that didn’t feel right either.
My last option was to go to the U.S. That changed the game for me. The education system there gave me the opportunity to study a variety of subjects and figure out what worked for me.
I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double degree in MIS (Management Information System) and Finance from the University of Houston. I also worked as a tutor there, teaching stats to university students.
You said you had already developed your app while in the U.S. Can you tell me more about StudyTact’s journey from the U.S. to India?
After graduating, I worked as a Data Analyst at Rushmore Energy. However, I still loved teaching and was doing it on the side. That’s when I decided to develop an app to connect the students on campus.
I created StudyTact as a peer-to-peer learning platform to connect freshman and sophomores to juniors and seniors. The idea was that people who have studied from particular teachers and aced those classes can help the new students.
We did pretty well. Starting with 1 college, we went up to 10 colleges now using this platform. I eventually decided to help the students in my own country with my application. So, we tweaked the entire concept of the application to suit the needs of Indian students.
What are 3 things that college taught you?
First, I believe what you learn in college doesn’t apply in the real world.
However, a couple of things that I learned from college include the importance of networking, and creating a balance between work and play.
Describe yourself in 3 adjectives.
I would say I am hardworking, analytical and, of course, a big foodie!
What were you like as a teenager? Did you ever think of starting up while you were in school?
Not at all. I was just a confused kid. Coming from a small town, my opportunities were especially limited.
That is the sole reason I moved to Hyderabad when I was young. I was still confused and directionless, but with opportunities!
Which entrepreneur do you idolise and why?
If I had to choose one, it would be Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook.
I admire everything about her- from her thought process to the way she has enhanced Facebook as an organization.
She was one of the first employees of Facebook, so, while she is not a founder, I have to say she is a real inspiration to me.
What was your family’s reaction to you wanting to start a startup?
At first, they were a little against me leaving a good job. They kept asking why I wanted to risk a stable job for something so uncertain.
They were also concerned about me actually being able to do this, as there is no surety of success with startups. But I’m sure they will come around sooner or later.
How do you deal with setbacks?
Not going to lie, I have seen a lot of hard times. When people quit on your startup, you take it personally. You feel like they quit on you.
What kept me going through such hard times was my passion for education. The determination to provide help to students who need it and make a difference- that was my biggest motivation.
One misconception you had about startups that got cleared once you began working on yours.
Oh, that’s easy. Overnight success.
I thought people get overnight success with their startups. Now I realise how much time, hard work and dedication is needed to run a startup.
The biggest example for this is Pokemon Go. They worked for years to develop and perfect this game, but most people assume the game found success just like that.
What made you apply to UIncept and what do you expect from your journey here?
Before coming back from the U.S., I started researching about incubators that supported educational startups in India.
My major concern coming back was that I didn’t know a lot about the Indian education system.
I also had no network or contacts whatsoever in India.
When I read about UIncept on the internet, I thought that the faculty was amazing, the workspace looked great and the networks I would be able to build was a big incentive. That was it for me.
My main aim is to learn as much as possible about being an entrepreneur, and I expect I will get that in this programme.
This session was hosted by UIncept, India's premier business incubator and accelerator. In our pursuit to share the best industry knowledge, we host founders to share their learnings and journey through conversations and interactive sessions. Learn more about UIncept and our programs here.