Tripti Maheshwari (Finance, 2015) recently won the ‘International alumni of the year’ award at The Pie PIEoneer Awards. Now her platform Student Circus has been selected as one of the businesses to participate in the Mayor of London’s International Business Growth Programme. We caught up with Tripti to hear more about Student Circus and why students, universities and employers should watch this space.
Can you tell me about your time at Cass?
I had a few offers from different universities after I completed my degree at Lancaster but all of my professors said you should go to Cass for finance. Coming from an Economics degree and reading about what Cass has done, it was a no-brainer to say ‘let’s do it’. The masters is so industry relevant. They get experts who are working in the industry to teach you. It is not only academia and research, it is very very practical. It was the best time ever.
What happened graduation?
Soon after graduating I realised that I wanted a job. I finally landed an internship with a start up in Soho in London. They wanted to have me full time but I couldn’t because of my issues with my visa issues and that’s where the idea came up. I wanted to know why is it so difficult to find a job if you’re skilled and only your visa is a problem. Apparently because of a lack of a direct way to apply international students and graduates have been applying for the wrong jobs. Out of desperation we focused on quantity – how many applications have we sent out today – rather than understanding where to apply and who would sponsor.
How did you set up Student Circus?
We did three months of market research, made a business plan, did panel interviews. Oliver from the Cass Entrepreneurship fund helped us to break down and focus more clearly on our business idea. We also got in touch with the City team and we were offered a place at the City Launch Lab incubation space. We got so much support from how to deal with people, who to contact, how to sell your platform, and soon after Cass was one of our first clients.
How does Student Circus work?
The core of the platform is information about which jobs should you apply for versus which ones you shouldn’t. We get in touch with employers and verify with them whether or not they are using their license to sponsor for graduates and what criteria they have in place. We’ve built a customer algorithm on the platform which basically aggregates these jobs. It works like Sky Scanner. On Sky Scanner you find the cheapest flights, on Student Circus you can find the jobs which would sponsor and you can filter them based on industry or location. Students and graduates sign up using their university email ID and are able to access the jobs platform, do their applications and do their application management. We’ve also got features like immigration assistant; we have partnered with a legal company in London. Our features center around the user journey of a student. Because we went through it, we understand our user so well, and so we know where to plug the gaps. We call ourselves a seamless extension to careers resources. But we always welcome feedback, so every university that comes on board have full rights to ask for new features included in that cost that they are paying. They are building the platform with us essentially so it’s very user-driven.
Where is Student Circus based?
We’re a UK based company but we outsource a lot of our work to different parts of the world. Some of the team are based in the city I come from, Jaipur in Rajasthan in India. We’ve also got some content writers, who are primarily students across the globe and we take a lot of contribution from alumni. So it’s pretty much all over the world.
What has been the biggest challenge in setting up Student Circus?
I think the biggest challenge we face is perception. issue. The moment that we tell people that we have a jobs platform and a skill-building platform for international students, they ask ‘why would you do that, students don’t get jobs’. But this is absolutely false because students do get jobs and companies are ready to hire them, as long as they fit the criteria. Also students think ‘why should I apply, it’s so difficult to get a job’. It is difficult but it’s not impossible. Even if you’re a home student, it’s equally difficult to find a job these days. It takes 4-6 months for any graduate and as an international student you get only 4 months on your visa after you finish your degree. That’s not really enough. So you need to get it right from the very beginning. So I think enforcing that message again and again is the biggest challenge.
What has been the most rewarding part of it?
The fact that we’re able to help. As a student I would have wanted this and now we’re able to help those who are so talented, who come in with such high hopes and aspirations, and they finally have a gateway to make it happen. The moment we hear someone has got a job or got accepted, it’s like the best day ever.
Do you have any advice for people looking to start up their own business?
I think what I’ve learnt and what I really tell others is you really have to step out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t help to search on Google, you have to get in touch with people. You may feel they won’t answer but the worst thing they’ll do is say no. But if you don’t ask you don’t get and we often say that we’ve become shameless in asking for things because that’s the only way to get what you want. Unless people know that you need something, you’ll never get it so that’s the one thing we follow, just ask, ask, ask until you get it.
What are the next steps for Student Circus?
We are currently fundraising to take us to the next level. Last year we had four universities as partners, this year we have almost 25. It’s a huge increase and a huge responsibility to deliver. We‘re also launching a job readiness platform very soon. It’s called Ignis by Student Circus which will essentially prepare a student. I think there is still a large gap in the readiness of a student to apply for these jobs and on our journey we’ve met experts in their fields. So we want to bring them all to our platform and create learning content and job readiness content. And if anyone from outside the UK, wants to come to the UK market, they have to understand how it works. So we want to create the international mobility community but make it very information friendly and accessible. And hopefully, in the next 2 years, we are planning a launch in Australia. So those will be the next steps.