It's safe to say that most students go to college for that electrifying campus experience. But unfortunately, the COVID-19 situation has meant that the pandemic rules the roost over the need to collaborate with others on campus. But not all is in vain. Thankfully, students now have CollPoll, a software solution that seeks to bring the campus atmosphere on your mobile. We talk to Hemant Sahal, the CEO of the organisation, about the story behind CollPoll and how it is catering to the needs of colleges and their student base.
1. Could you tell us a bit about CollPoll?
CollPoll is in the business of digitisation and automation of higher education institutions. Now with COVID, all the attention has been on online mode of delivery. But somehow, the central hub of everything is still the institutions and nobody really focused on them, infrastructure wise. We provide digitisation and automation for about 40+ processes and functions related to academic and administrative functions of an educational institution.
2. Where did this idea of digitising the campus atmosphere stem from?
I started my first venture while in college and I always felt like I could not engage with like-minded people from my institution. From my own experiences, I came to realise that in education, people are still utilising jugaad technology. Communication via emails is still the way out for people. The education sector on its own does not have technology of its own that people could use. So we started brainstorming solutions for the education sector and soon people were throwing several problems at us and we kept coming up with solutions. And the result was this one overall package named CollPoll, which combined all our expertise to solve all the problems that educational institutions had.
3. And you believe that there's a need for educational institutions to equip themselves with the latest technologies.
I think the whole supply-demand cycle has shifted. Now, there are so many institutions that are of good repute which means more competition for students. They can no longer rely on outdated infrastructure to deal with problems. Institutions have been forced to resort to the latest technology to solve their problems. You cannot afford to be lazy and passive. The second big change has been the curriculum of institutions. Earlier there used to be just subjects that were taught and exams to be written on them. But now you have a choice-based credit system, internships, exchange programmes and project-based learning. The complexity is far greater and this cannot be simply addressed by simply adding more labour. There is a big case for technology to step in and solve the complex issues.
4. How did your team adapt to the pandemic times?
So our user base expanded massively when the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns struck. At first, we were not prepared to cater to the needs of our growing list of customers. The users started expecting a lot of online solutions from us and we had a hard time developing answers to each one of their queries. But overall, our team has been able to serve them very well in the end and we have come together as a group to identify the areas where we have had to work as a team.
5. What are the new features that you are working to add to the application?
The new National Education Policy has tried to make interdisciplinary pathways in academics possible in institutions. For example, the system of having a major, minor or specialisation or elective. What CollPoll does is operationally manage the vast array of processes in a non-manual way so that the load on the institution is lighter and can be managed by using minimum manual labour.
6. What are the challenges that you currently face in your line of work?
One challenge that we face commonly is to make the institution come on the same page as us in offering the best practices to the students. What this means is that often the colleges do not employ the ideal solution in handling an issue. We have to convince them to do a certain thing in a set way so that our product can handle it. So working with institutions and their leadership to align with the best practices sometimes becomes very challenging. The second challenge is to me, a big opportunity. A lot of the institutions have not embraced technology at all and CollPoll addresses the solutions they need. They might face a lot of difficulty in adopting new-age measures but I feel it is a big opportunity for us to make our presence felt.
7. What would be the guiding principle for you moving forward?
We have to understand that the real engine of the educational sector continues to be the institutions themselves. There is a huge opportunity to pair up with them and try to create an atmosphere wherein the best practices from their side as well as from the technological perspective can be clubbed to provide the ideal mode of education to the students of tomorrow. At CollPoll, we understand the problems and expectations of every stakeholder involved and we plan to continue along that path of understanding the needs of our partners.