Rahul Deshpande was fed up with his 9-to-5 job as a software engineer. He wasn’t seeing any growth at the multi-billion-dollar tech company he had been working for since 2018. The 24-year-old craved a heady, frenzied startup work environment. But he had absolutely no idea how to get started. And he didn’t have the money, time or inclination to give the CAT CAT Common Admission Test The Common Admission Test is a computer based test for admission in a graduate management programs exam and chase a coveted MBA seat.

Then, about 12 months ago, Deshpande discovered Stoa School, which offers a 24-week, all-inclusive MBA boot camp. In July, he quit his job after successfully applying for the online course. “It’s very hard for someone like me to transition into the startup ecosystem. From the very first interview with Stoa, I liked that they were focused on getting me into a startup,” he says.

Deshpande’s career limbo is a common arc for young professionals in India, says Aditya Kulkarni, one of the four co-founders of Stoa. There’s no easy access to business education, while career transitions or securing higher-paying roles within the same company is difficult. “The business of business education is broken,” quips Kulkarni, on a Zoom call with The Ken.

This is only one of several quips that Stoa has packaged into marketing material for its near-omniscient social media presence. It’s been exactly a year since Stoa burst onto the Twitter-verse, with its promise to impart business school fundamentals at 1/10th the Rs 25-40 lakh (US$33,000-53,000) price tag of top- and mid-tier MBA schools. 

Stoa is now four batches or cohorts old and has graduated 100 Fellows from its StoaMBA programme. With a total of 300 Fellows, and a Rs 2.5 lakh (US$3,360) fee, a back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that its actual revenue would be close to Rs 7.5 crore (~US$1 million).

Kulkarni and his co-founders, Manoj Kambadur, Sharmad Kuvelkar and Raj Kunkolienkar, initially helped other entrepreneurs launch their own “learning communities”. That’s when they realised there were scores of people like Deshpande—new entrepreneurs, young or mid-career professionals, and fresh graduates—who had no idea what business education meant. 

“When you’re on the outside, looking in, getting an MBA degree seems like voodoo. Voodoo in suits. Even for people in business roles like marketing or sales, without an MBA degree tag, there’s a huge imposter syndrome,” says Kunkolienkar. “Business education is not rocket science,” adds Kulkarni. “It’s about asking the right questions and knowing a few concepts. We’re demystifying it.”

“The CAT can only select 5,000 out of the 250,000 candidates that appear for it.

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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