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When Leap Finance launched in 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic was only a few months away. As a fintech offering education loans to students looking to study abroad, its launch couldn’t have come at a worse time. Within a few months of its existence, its core target market—students—were grounded and shut out of countries they wanted to study in. Leap’s young business should have slowed to a crawl and died.

Strangely, the opposite happened. Despite the constantly-shifting travel rules, and the threat of the virus, the study abroad sector rebounded quickly. In 2020, 260,000 Indian students left to study abroad—50% of the previous year’s traffic. By March 2021, another 71,000 students had joined their ranks. This traffic is only bound to go up, as countries like the UK relax their post-school work visa rules.

Leap Finance, and other fintechs like it, are cashing in on the resurgence. Leap’s “one-click”, digital-first loan product has attracted a slew of big-name funders like Sequoia, Harvard Management Company, and Jungle Ventures. All told, the startup has raised $77.5 million. According to information shared shared Times of India Leap Finance gets $17 million led by Jungle Ventures Read more publicly by the company in March 2021, Leap has “helped” 20,000 students on their study abroad journey, and has about 200,000 registered users on its platform. A media report report Business Insider Harvard Management Company backs Leap that helps students finance their overseas education Read more  from September stated that Leap “claims to have funded” $175 million worth of student loans.

At its core, Leap’s USP is that it is a simple, end-to-end, online process, taking students right from course selection to loan financing to organising essentials like a credit card, housing and even an international bank account at the destination. Atop its loan product, Leap has built a full suite of services like Leap Scholar, LevelUp and Leap Advantage, which provide counselling services, offer online IELTS classes and even help students land an internship while they’re studying.

“In the offline world, students would have to talk to 10-12 different counsellors to complete this journey. Online, they only need one service provider,” says Piyush Bhartiya, co-founder of AdmitKard, an online study abroad company that competes with Leap to provide similar services to students but doesn’t dabble in lending.

Untapped

“There’s fatigue amongst VCs funding edtech models. We now have FMCG-style monopolies in traditional edtech. The study abroad segment is an obvious niche to disrupt,” says a Bengaluru-based investor who wished not to be identified to avoid a conflict of interest

Through its end-to-end model, Leap’s USP is that it’s disrupting two traditional study abroad sectors.

AUTHOR

Olina Banerji

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

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