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‘Digital education is the future for India’ – Vibha Kagzi, Founder & CEO, ReachIvy​.com

This interview is part of the series for International Women’s Day.

Vibha Kagzi, Founder & CEO, is extremely passionate about education and believes that it is the ultimate social equalizer. Leveraging her personal experience at various academic and professional institutions, she hopes to provide holistic guidance to young individuals who aspire to reach leading universities. Her Passion for education and her own journey of studying abroad drive her towards guiding students and helping them achieve their goals.
Vibha Kagzi
Founder & CEO, ReachIvy​.com
Vibha Kagzi in an interview with Suman Prasad spoke in length about journey, about her venture, role of technology in education, importance of practical training in education, women entrepreneurs and other interesting details.
Excerpts from the interview.

On her journey from Harvard Business School to starting her own venture

When I first considered applying to a top school abroad, I felt lost. I was overwhelmed with a range of choices and a fundamental lack of access to the granular advice an expert mentor could provide to help me evaluate and understand all the options, find my fit and then navigate the intricate application process. Neither my parents nor my family members had studied abroad, so we were all clueless on what steps to take. At that time, detailed inputs from friends, experts and professionals demystified a seemingly impossible process for me, which made me realize that expert guidance can take someone a long way. I knew there was a strong void in the market, especially for exceptional students trying to find their paths.

So, after I graduated from Harvard Business School, I moved back to India to found ReachIvy, a premium education and careers advisory. I wanted to share my global perspective on education and careers with aspiring students in India. My objective was to provide students with guidance on study abroad and careers from specialists who have first-hand experience of what it means to earn a degree from a top school. As a person, I am extremely passionate about education and believe that education is the greatest social equalizer, that anybody can fulfil their dream to study abroad; itʼs just a matter of grit, self-belief, starting early, and getting the right guidance. I therefore had the desire in me to assist students with their educational endeavors, which lead me to establish ReachIvy.

About and how it help the students

ReachIvy is a premium education and careers advisory. We offer our expertise across study abroad, Career Compass and Free Resources. Our study abroad consultants and career guidance coaches assist aspiring students in getting accepted into Ivy League and other top-ranked schools globally, and achieve their career goals using a wealth of knowledge accumulated over years of experience. Our services include:

a. Study Abroad: Counseling, college selection, essays and applications, interview preparation, test preparation, resume review, waitlist letter, financial aid letter, and ding analysis.

b. Career Compass: Career counseling, career test, career library, LinkedIn review, resume review, and career interviews.

c. Online resources: Relevant, rich video and written content in the form of masterclasses, video tutorials, blogs, guides, manuals and templates, online live events and information on financing your education

At ReachIvy, we help applicants by getting them one step closer to their dream schools and careers. We provide holistic guidance to young individuals who aspire to reach leading universities and have successful careers.

On how technology can enable access to customized education and career advice for candidates in smaller cities

Digital education is the future for India as it addresses the quality and accessibility issue faced by smaller cities in India.  There is a common perception that students require face-to-face interaction for education or career counseling.  However by leveraging technology, we can improve access and connect students in smaller cities to the appropriate teachers and programs, without compromising on quality.

Whether India lacks quality educational institutes when it comes to practical training

Educational institutes in India place a large emphasis on theoretical learning. A number of institutions are taking steps towards incorporating more practical learning and education policies are being redesigned to include more of apprenticeship and training.  However, there still is a visible gap.  Colleges need to focus on employability. They should prepare students to solve real-world problems effectively and decisively. In addition to lectures, the curriculum should encompass a number of components such as field trips and case competitions to ensure students are completely prepared to enter a professional set-up.

Educational institutes should also build on soft skills by encouraging group discussions, group projects, presentations, and active involvement in clubs on campus to enable students to interact efficiently. We cannot provide premier and relevant education to students without systemic change. Teachers need to be trained and the curriculum revised to ensure that students are ultimately job-ready. Internships over summer and winter breaks should be included in the curriculum.  Universities should have a dedicated career center working with students to help them find relevant jobs in their sector of interest.

On keeping the team motivated at work

I believe that any team or organization is greatly influenced by the personality of its leaders. Therefore, it becomes absolutely vital for me to be at the helm to create a motivational vision of the future, inspire my team to work towards it, and manage to effectively deliver the vision. I understand that people are watching my behavior and will be influenced by it. I therefore set the same standards for myself that I envision for my team members. I strive to lead by example. This builds a spirit of trust and transparency in the team. We communicate openly and ensure that each of us is heard and valued. As for me, my constant thirst to keep learning keeps me motivated to grow, adapt, and thrive.

On women being reluctant to take the first step towards entrepreneurship even today

Itʼs true that, traditionally, women have lacked the entrepreneurial attitude and have often shied away from taking chances. Even our culture doesnʼt support risk taking by women. We are brainwashed from our early years into thinking that we cannot make sacrifices when it comes to prioritizing work over family. We hesitated in being a game changer. However, the past few decades have seen a phenomenal change in womenʼs status.

Female entrepreneurs are breaking through the social maps. They are developing aspirations not only for self-employment but for employment generation as well. They are opening up new frontiers balancing both their social and occupational roles. We are making personal choices now, standing up to our convictions, and showing courage to make new beginnings. We have become more capable, competent, and confident.

On how receptive the industry is to women entrepreneurs when it comes to funding

Various organizations are actively promoting women entrepreneurs through various schemes, incentives, and promotional measures. The micro-, small, and medium enterprises development organizations, various state-level small industries development corporations, and nationalized banks cater to the needs of potential women entrepreneurs. There is also a Women Cell to provide assistance to women entrepreneurs facing specific problems. These efforts are supplemented by NGOs and other agencies that are playing an equally important role in women empowerment.

On industries where women can enter as innovators and game changers

Women can make a foray into whichever industry they choose to enter, and I am sure they can perform on a par with men! However, the 21st century belongs to telecom, IT, and financial institutions. Women’s expertise in these industries can make them emerge as a force to reckon with. Many of these industries are already headed by women pioneers and mavericks. Women have already ventured into entrepreneurial roles, to discover their relevance.

However, in relation to women population, the trend has not been spectacular. The topmost promising industries where women can play a prominent role are interior designing, IT consulting, fashion, food services, health and nutrition, education, healthcare, services for the elderly and disabled, VoIP companies (telemarketing), and real estate. Though the Indian market is still dominated by men, I am sure women can act as successful innovators and game changers.

On skills which are important to be a good leader

Any team or organization takes the personality of their leaders, which is why it is absolutely vital for a team to have a good leader. An effective leader creates a motivational vision of the future, inspires people to work towards it, manages delivery of the vision and builds a team so that it is more effective in achieving it. Here are 5 important qualities every leader must possess:

Leading by Example: When leaders don’t practice what they preach, it can be almost impossible for a team to work together productively.  Leaders must recognize that people are watching and being influenced by their behavior.

Ability to Motivate: Just getting people to finish their work is not a sign of a good leader; they need to motivate them and make sure they enjoy the tasks that are assigned to them.

Strong Communication: Leaders become the voice of their team, which means they need to listen actively, speak effectively and write persuasively.

Ready to Take Risks: For leaders to be successful they must be willing to take risks and create a culture that supports risk taking.  Only through risk taking can there be innovation and growth.

Continual Learner: To become a seasoned leader, one must be a constant learner. It is important that leaders learn and grow from their own mistakes.

On whether it is important to have an International Women’s Day

Yes, of course. It is an opportunity to appreciate the remarkable contribution of women to society. We must celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and honour their grit and determination. Many countries have even declared March 8 as their official holiday. We should also take a step forward to dedicate a special day to show love and respect to women. Not only that, it should be celebrated as a day to inspire women and promote social equality.

On this day, we as a nation should take an oath to ensure that the future of our girls is bright, safe, and rewarding, and that women should get equal opportunities as men in leadership positions, access to employment, and decision-making. Our women are doing wonders in every field and we should dedicate a special day to them.

Tips for women who want to be an entrepreneur

It’s not uncommon for women to face unique challenges, especially when trying to juggle traditional roles with the demands of starting and running a business. These challenges should not stop them from taking the plunge and moving ahead even when the odds are stacked up against them. Donʼt limit your mindset. Be passionate about what you do. Formulate your business and business style to complement to your personal commitments. Find a mentor or create a women’s support group where you can share your ideas, goals, and challenges.

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