Please provide some details about your backgrounds?
The management team consists of Sonia Topiwala, Vinay Navdhare and Vaibhav Saraf. Although all 3 of us bring in diverse skills to the venture, one thing common to us all is that we come from a family of entrepreneurs and we love finance. Vinay is our coaching specialist who has completed all 3 levels of the CFA exam in one go with top percentages in most subjects and has completed his M.Tech from IIT Bombay. He has industry experience in Indian Equities and Global economic research. Sonia is the content and marketing head who has also done the CFA exams and is currently pursuing her MBA from ISB. She has worked with industry leaders such as KPMG and ICICI securities in their research divisions. Vaibhav is our business planning head with rich experience in management consulting acquired from top consulting firms such as Deloitte and Analysys Mason. He is also pursuing his MBA from ISB and has acquired his Integrated MSc degree from IIT Bombay.
What is the present status of your venture?
FinBricks has been successfully coaching students for the CFA exam through classroom as well as online programs since we started the venture. We have already tutored many CFA candidates with an industry-leading pass rate. FinBricks currently offers the most comprehensive online learning modules for CFA coaching in India and is known for delivering quality coaching at affordable rates. It has built a network of best-in-class faculty delivering live online lectures and combines this with the benefits of structured learning solutions and real-world applications of finance concepts for its students.
What prompted you to start FinBricks?
We started FinBricks purely out of our passion to teach and love for finance. Having taken the CFA exams, we could totally relate to students who were looking for advice on how to ensure success in these exams. Besides a solid conceptual understanding of finance topics, one also needs to develop multitasking and time management skills to pass these exams. Thus we developed a structured learning program that not only connects excellent teachers to our students but also provides tools and consulting that helps students make the best use of their time as well as instills a disciplined learning approach, which is very critical to pass these exams.
What consumer pain-points do you address?
Our students come from diverse backgrounds- engineering, commerce, software, MBA schools, but one thing common to all is that they are extremely busy managing work, social life and studies. They are hard pressed for time and are looking at solutions that would save their time and help them learn faster and in a structured way.
Our students reside in various parts of India and the world where sometimes finding quality and reliable coaching is quite difficult. By providing an online platform we cut the location barriers and connect them to the best-in-class faculty from across the globe, who have not only cleared the CFA exams with top percentages but have also graduated from the top universities and b-schools.
Further, our online learning tools help our students to know exactly what specific concepts and problem they need help with and they can reach out to our faculty with any questions that they have. Even if they miss a class, or want to review the class again, they just need to log on to our on-demand class videos which provide a perfect recap of the live class sessions.
What are the unique points of your business?
Besides the traditional classroom learning centers, we offer a unique decentralized online learning platform that connects best-in-class tutors no matter where they are in the world to our students. Our prep methodologies aim to combine rich & dynamic content with online tools such as adaptive tests, self assessment & benchmarking tools and personal tracker for optimized learning created with sophisticated software programming that adapts to an individual's learning ability and schedule. We are also building an exam focused online community which will help us to constantly enhance and adapt to students' demands. We want FinBricks to fit into a student's life than the other way round.
What is the future vision for your venture?
Our vision is to ensure that every student that joins us is able to clear the exams in the very first attempt with high scores and also develop a very sound understanding of financial concepts and their practical implementation. This would help them perform extremely well in interviews and get the jobs they aspire for, be it in investment banking, equity research, private equity, fund management or financial advisory. We also plan to expand the portfolio of exams to include other globally recognized finance related tests such as FRM and CAIA, and are also looking at tapping newer markets and reaching out to more candidates worldwide.
What are the biggest operational issues you face currently?
One of the issues is to find the right talent. We are looking for entrepreneurial and bright people to join us in the venture, so talent acquisition has been a challenge. Piracy of our content is another issue that we are currently trying to manage.
How do you plan to scale the business?
Being an online service provider of structured learning solutions for the CFA exams, scaling up quickly & effectively is what we have been focusing on. A lot of students join us through referrals so word of mouth publicity has been extremely positive for us. Combining this with a targeted marketing approach we plan to expand quickly into newer markets and other finance exams.
Are you expanding your team? What kind of attributes you look before you hire an employee?
Yes, we are very much expanding our team and are looking for entrepreneurial and smart individuals who are willing to take up responsibilities and can work with minimal supervision. We are particularly looking at building our marketing and operations team.
How did the ISB program benefit you for the venture?
An MBA is an extremely useful platform to learn business management skills. Being part of a world class institution such as ISB, we got the opportunity to acquire these skills from some of the best professors and industry leaders in the world. Further, ISB has special courses and programs for entrepreneurs. Planning an Entrepreneurial Venture (PaEV) is one such program which taught us not only how to make the most of opportunities but also how to foresee and brace for potential pitfalls. Most importantly, the diversity amongst the students provides a steep learning curve. It exposes one to various ideas and cultures which in turn stimulate critical thinking and helps to manage problems and business decisions in unique ways.
What is your advice for MBA aspirants aiming for ISB?
Our advice to any MBA aspirant would be to do a deep reflection on their careers, both past journey as well as future aspirations. This is critical for evaluation of one's strengths and development needs so that they can identify learning areas and objectives for an MBA program.
ISB is a one-year roller coaster ride. Thus, clarity on post-MBA goals gains high significance so that students can tailor the learning to their needs and extract the maximum out of the program. This would also help ISB aspirants exemplify their best during the admissions process which also tests one on the unique skills, capabilities and attributes one has garnered over the years.
What is your advice for budding entrepreneurs?
In today's rapidly changing and high-paced business environment, it is easy for entrepreneurs to become impatient. We believe succeeding as an entrepreneur requires one to be focused on the venture's objectives, and let their business models evolve with the changing needs of customers and markets. Eventually, faith and persistence are an entrepreneur's best friends.