MyEd: Upkar, Harmil, and Eamon Pardesi

The start-up talks being a family run business, global and stock market aspirations, and bring transparency to choosing an educational route

Name: Upkar Pardesi, Harmil Pardesi, and Eamon Pardesi
Company name: MyEd
Location: London
Date launched: 30/03/2015
Website: myed.com

Tell us what your business does:

MyEd is an online platform designed to change the way we search for and evaluate education institutions across the UK.

Finding the right nursery, school or university can be a tricky and stressful process, and our platform removes some of the obstacles by presenting the relevant data on one page, allowing for easy comparison and analysis.

We also bring a new level of transparency via our review feature. Here, parents and students can offer frank and honest feedback on different elements of an institution’s offering, be it the quality of the teaching or the standard of food in the cafeteria. We capture opinions via a simple questionnaire, and this first-hand insight can be accessed by other users.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

As a team we have expertise and a background in higher education, enterprise development, marketing, media and communications. The concept of the business started when we identified the problems that international students encounter when selecting university institutions within the UK.

The process can be unregulated and extremely complicated, and we wanted to create a platform that offers free and impartial advice, helping them to receive the right guidance when making critical decisions about education.

This developed into the platform we have just launched; the fact that we draw on multiple sources of information for our listings means that users have a well-rounded understanding of what each place has to offer.

How did you know there was a market for it?

We carried out extensive desk research, interviews and focus groups with parents, students and institutions. Our research indicated that globally in 2008 there were 1.38 billion learners (from primary schools to universities) and that by 2020 the population of people aged 5 to 17 years-old will increase to 1.6 billion.

We also spent considerable time exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the key government and private sector websites that provide information on the different levels of education in the UK, USA and Europe.

We discovered that there are many single service sites, but no one is offering information and advice service on all levels of education. We decided to develop a solution by designing a service that has all the information and advice for parents and students in one place.

What were you doing before starting up?

Upkar was the dean of the Business School at Birmingham City University (1996 to 2008) and the director of Corporate Social Responsibility (2008 to 2010).

Harmil built a career in marketing in Higher Education and was the marketing manager at Birmingham School of Acting and Birmingham City University.

Eamon was running his own web development business that he started after graduating with a masters degree in Visual Communications from Birmingham Institute of Art and Design in 2008. He decided to close the business and to join Upkar and Harmil in this new venture.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

We all individually had the desire to run our own business for a long time. Upkar is an emeritus professor of Enterprise Development.  He helped many graduates, managers and entrepreneurs to set up and build very successful businesses during the 90s.  He also ran the Business School at BCU as a business, managing a £25m budget, over 200 staff and 4,000 students.

We recognise that managing relationships and having trust in each other are the fundamental attributes of a successful team setting out in a new venture; so we are lucky that as a father and two son team we work well together and have complementary skills and we are willing to work very hard to realise our vision.

How did you raise the money?

We raised money through hard graft and personal investment.  We each made an initial investment to set up the operations from our family home in Birmingham.

To pay for the early phases of the research and development Upkar invested a large part of his personal savings. We also took on several education consultancy contracts to keep us all afloat and to pay for the first version of the website development.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We plan to generate income through our listings and advertising model. We display detailed listings of all institutions and will include courses at no charge, but offer three packages for institutions to choose from to enhance their listing and ensure that no other institutions can advertise on their pages. We also offer banner and display advertising spaces on most pages of the site.

Our listing packages have been priced to penetrate the market and to charge a low price to ensure we receive a high volume of customers. Prices start at £2 per month and go up to £100 per month, all packages are offered at 50% introductory discount.

Banner and display advertising will become our main income generator, accounting for around 90% of the annual sales turnover.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Our greatest challenge has been our struggles with IT and web programming. As we are not web progammers or IT specialists, we have had to outsource the building and launch of the site. This has been a costly exercise and one that has provided a steep learning curve. We could have used suppliers in India through Eamon’s network – but we wanted a high quality and robust website built by a highly experienced team in the UK that we could work closely with.

Our other major challenge, as with most start-ups, has been the raising the finance to invest in the development of a highly ambitious business. We are now focusing on raising finance through business angels.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Our first major breakthrough was finishing the design of the website that would deliver our mission.  This enabled us to prepare a detailed web development brief and also helped to guide us with sourcing appropriate databases for building profiles of all the education institutions in the UK.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Our advice to all budding entrepreneurs is to have a bold and ambitious vision of what the future may hold.  It is essential to be driven by a desire to achieve success and to have absolute faith in yourself and to inspire your team to have the same.

Our own experience and research demonstrates that without making a full commitment of time, energy and resources, there is little chance of success. We also believe that by making a commitment to the venture and having a positive mindset helps you in all sorts of ways that you would never have imagined before you started the project.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

We have only launched our minimum viable product so we are already working on enhancing what we have launched with and adding hundreds of courses to university pages to help students.

We have planned services that we will launch over the next 12 months, which complement the education journey and offer an alternative to the traditional education route.  We will be working on getting our model right in the UK for the next two or three years and secure venture capital investment so that in five years time we can take our service globally, first to English-speaking countries and then to India.

We envisage floating the business on the stock exchange to raise funding for global expansion and to establish our business as a household brand.

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