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  • Writer's pictureGreat Companies

Mayeling Bilpodiwala & Sudeep Fernandes, Co-Founders at The Catalystz

Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Mayeling Bilpodiwala & Sudeep Fernandes :

Both of us are thoroughbred professionals and were fortunate to work with some of the best brands in the country. In our respective roles, (while recruiting freshers for our teams) we noticed that seemingly “bright intelligent students” were just not able to deliver organisational objectives. It seemed that their brilliance was confined to academics and they could not demonstrate their theoretical knowledge to deliver real-world practical outcomes. This had nothing to do with their intelligence. These freshers were raw and had no idea of what was expected from them. It was as though they were trying to navigate the corporate world without a GPS.

They had to be trained for several months before they started contributing towards the team/organisational objectives. Today, organisations do not have that kind of patience. Freshers are expected to deliver results within the span of a couple of months at best; failing which, they are fired. The irony was that these were rock-stars in school and college, however, in the real world they felt like “failures”. This was not their fault at all. They developed low self-esteem, frustration, depression, social anxiety and a myriad of other complications at a very early age. Something had to be done to remedy this.

After digging deeper, we realised that there was a huge chasm that students needed to bridge when transitioning from academia and joining the corporate world. In order to bridge this gap, we began working with college students informally to understand their world and figured that the gaps existed on multiple fronts. We realised that our education system didn’t provide the necessary tools required by students to navigate the journey called “Life”. We put together a practical and experiential Life Skills & Employability Skills programme for college students, aimed towards their Personal Growth. In the process, we realised that the malaise was not restricted to the student fraternity alone - it extended to college professors and school teachers as well. So, our next pilot project involved building key skills in 21st century educators.

Our focus areas were breaking mindsets, enabling teachers to become aware of their own bias, enabling educators to reach out to learners of various learning styles, use various modes of teaching. Our metric to measure success was student outcomes – absorption, retention and application of key concepts in real world situations.

Through our work with Post Graduates, we realised even at that level, they seemed to lack direction. Career choices were made very casually with little or no thought. There didn’t seem to be any scientific basis to their choices. Since very little thought was put into deciding on a career, these students made poor subject choices which resulted in a whole host of new problems – disinterest in the subject, poor performance, backlogs, frustration, emotional issues as well as financial issues. To those who managed to get through, it seemed that the only important factor in choosing a career was “How much money can be made in this profession?”.

We realised in India, we usually approach the entire career decision making process backwards. We first decide which stream to take in class 10, thereafter which college and course to study at UG level, then try figuring out what career will match my academics and if there is a neutral option. Sadly, this process only leads to heartburn and a deep hole in the parent’s savings. In fact, students must first fix a career and then chart the path toward it building competencies, selecting relevant courses and the right college to pursue these courses. We took it upon ourselves to figure out how to help these students make accurate career choices.

We realised to be able to make an impact in all these areas, we had to Re-skill ourselves and so we took several courses to upgrade our Knowledge and Skills and as a by-product our Attitude as well. We are both trained and certified Career Counsellors, Psychological Counsellors, Trainers as well as NLP Practitioners. We were absolutely clear from the beginning that our Programmes would never be some off-the-shelf programme, delivered and ticked off. The programmes had to have an impact and address challenges. We have made it our mission to equip faculty and students with the tools to ever evolve and be ready to face the pressures of the dynamic and volatile world we live in today.

Till date we have impacted the lives of over 15,000 individuals through workshops, seminars, speaking assignments, webinars, online courses, in-person courses, career counselling as well as psychological counselling.

Great Companies: What are the various services provided by The Catalystz?

Mayeling Bilpodiwala & Sudeep Fernandes:

For Students

  • Life Skills & Employability Skills Workshops and Courses

  • Career Counselling for Grade 10 onwards up to Working Professionals

  • Study Overseas

  • Mock Exam Portal – Preparatory practice exam series for over 1600 different competitive exams – 69,000+ tests

For Educational Institutions

  • Outcome-Oriented Faculty Development Programmes for School & College Staff

  • Setting up Career Cells in Institutions

  • Collaboration National & International Institutions

  • Student Orientation Programmes

  • Parent Orientation Programmes

  • Building a vibrant Alumni

For Corporates

  • Facilitation of various corporate initiatives

  • Training on organisation specific challenges

  • Leading Corporate Retreats

  • Mentoring Think Tanks

For Individuals

  • Basic Counselling Skills

  • Set up a Career Counselling Practice

  • Train the Trainer

  • Soft Skills Training

  • Employability Skills Training

  • Psychological Counselling

Great Companies: What makes The Catalystz different from hundreds of other similar service providers?

Mayeling Bilpodiwala & Sudeep Fernandes:

Today’s competitive climate requires a workforce that is trained, has a wider skill-set, and is able to learn new skills quicker than ever before. “Upgrading and Up-Skilling” is crucial for the survival of individuals, institutions and businesses today. Thus, individual success is a precursor to organisational success.

Our model for integrating Individual & Organisational Success

The Catalystz offers the following edge:

The Training & Facilitation Edge

  • We address REAL challenges

  • We work from inward-outward as well as outward-inward– work from individual towards organisation and vice-versa

  • Within Training - Our interventions measure the efficacy of learning as well as impact on the organisation

  • Through Facilitation & Training; employees see the larger picture and how their role impacts achieving Organisational Objectives

  • Fulfilled and engaged employees are more efficient and this leads to Organisational Efficiency

  • Our Interventions help in evolving an Organisational Strategy and growing the bottom line

  • All activities drawn around meeting and exceeding Institutional Objectives

The Attitude Edge

  • We firmly believe Clarity precedes Performance

The Counselling Edge

  • Enabling accurate Career Choices by discovering Personality, Interests, Skills & Abilities, Motivators and EQ

  • We journey with individuals through their career life-cycle

Great Companies: What are the struggles and challenges you face?

Mayeling Bilpodiwala & Sudeep Fernandes :

Training – Spreading awareness on how SMEs and MSMEs can benefit from training and continuous upskilling initiatives for their employees has been one of the many challenges. Many mid-sized organizations believe that they do not need to provide training to their staff. They are of the opinion that people should come to them fully trained. These organisations also feel that training is an unnecessary expense. However, there is ample evidence supporting the fact that poorly trained and disengaged employees cost businesses very dearly. There are several challenges within organisations which can be addressed and remedied through training, facilitation and coaching.

Some of the benefits of training employees are:

  • Improves employee Productivity and Efficiency

  • Enables employees to collaborate, network and communicate effectively

  • Increases Employee Retention

  • Enhances Employee Morale

  • Smooth Onboarding for new hires

Counselling - Another challenge is that the term Counselling has been severely abused in the past couple of decades. Today, sales agents or people selling courses are all termed as counsellors. The original meaning of the word “Counsellor” is lost and forgotten. The term “Counsellor” refers to a person trained to give guidance on personal or psychological problems. Surely the many tele callers trying to sell courses or subscriptions or admissions are not trained in Psychology to provide appropriate guidance.

Further, a counsellor works in the best interest of the client and not to serve their own or their organisation’s interest. Due to the unscrupulous peddling of courses, admissions and so many education-related products; today, even authentic career counsellors are treated with a lot of suspicion.

Another predicament is parents still resort to the same methods they employed for selecting a career way back in the 80’s or 90’s.

The traditional choices when choosing a career back then, could easily be enumerated on the fingertips. In the last 30-40 years, the world as we know it has transformed on practically every front. Yet, surprisingly when choosing a career even today, we still only consider those few conventional careers. Today, there are in fact over 12,000 careers listed across the world. Now you will agree if we process limited information when selecting a career, we are unknowingly sabotaging our potential to succeed.

Parents and students need to realise that the data sets they are using to evaluate career options are faulty and obsolete. Selecting a career is much like planning a holiday… You first decide the destination, then figure out where to stay, sightseeing and other activities; and finally, you look at what mode of transport to select. So, when choosing a career, it is important that we first select the career best suited to the student, based on a scientific approach and then select courses, colleges, universities, countries etc. Sadly, even today only 3/10 students ever avail of career counselling; this data is from the metros and mini-metros.

The smaller cities, towns and villages are oblivious of what Career Counselling is all about. To many career-counselling is only about accessing information about what courses they can do after selecting a particular stream. So, the biggest challenge within career counselling is educating parents and spreading this awareness about how to go about the entire career-decision making process and the value a career-counsellor adds.

Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for The Catalystz?

Mayeling Bilpodiwala & Sudeep Fernandes :

Our agenda for the next 5 years is

  • Impact the lives of over 100,000 individuals through training, career counselling, facilitation, and psychological counselling

  • Set up our practical Life-Skills and Employability Skills programme in at least 10 Universities

  • Create a network of over 50 highly skilled Career Counsellors

  • Build our online experiential courses platform to offer Life & Employability Skills courses

  • Work towards building a Franchise Network on a pan-India basis

Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Mayeling Bilpodiwala & Sudeep Fernandes :

We would like to share some of our beliefs that have guided us on our journey through all our ups and downs:

  • Work with Passion & Persistence

  • You are unique – just like your DNA signature and fingerprints are unique, hence you are invaluable. Find your unique genius and carve your niche around this to excel

  • Failure is simply a wrong turn on a long journey. It is never final and never too late to change course or make a U turn. Life will be a roller coaster, at times also bumpy. Enjoy the ups and don’t dwell too much on the way down. Believe in your abilities and power on ahead.

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