TQ Feature: Our Last-Bench! Heroes
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On one hand, thousands of students are graduating with hopes and dreams in their hearts about their dream careers. At the same time, employers are increasingly complaining about the lack of ‘employability’ and the quality of education imparted to Indian college graduates. In fact, IT majors like TCS and Infosys, which hire tens of thousands of engineers off campus each, hold their own training programs for months together in their various campuses before deploying freshers on client service teams. I have always felt that the education envisaged under the Indian education system, was incomplete and not in line with what is needed in today’s world
It was in the light of these thoughts, that I happened to have to come across Last-Bench!, a startup by two young professionals, dedicated to imparting to people skills that they actually need today.
Today, we feature a quick chat with Rajeev and Sajid, founders of Last-Bench!
1. Hi Guys, so happy to have Last-Bench here at TQ. Tell us, what is Last-Bench all about?
Rajeev: Last-Bench! is an education services start-up aiming to fill the gap between traditional formal education and applied learning. Its focus is on supplementing formal education with meaningful and enjoyable experiences so that the learner can apply this additional training in a practical and efficient manner. We want to create this web of learning that allows learners to constantly revisit their learning needs, progression and career goals.
Sajid: To build on what Rajeev just said it is important to highlight what makes Last-Bench! different. Last-Bench! explores alternate, holistic approaches to traditional learning and promotes self-reflection, self-evaluation and sharing of ideas to provide a different perspective on education as a whole. Learning is an opportunity for fun for the learner, allowing for the experience to transcend the traditional classroom, and provides the foundation for personal growth and creativity.
2. I have to say, Last Bench is a very interesting name. What was the philosophy and thinking behind this name?
Rajeev: We’ve been learners ourselves and we understand the drawbacks of the current education system. Customization and personalization of learning is perhaps the most important aspect of education and is almost completely ignored in the current system. The concept ‘Last-Bench!’ literally signifies the last bench of the classroom where the methods of learning are unconventional and requires a more comprehensive approach to aid the idea-generation process.
Sajid: ‘You can never stop learning’ and hence Last-Bench! is focused on imparting knowledge in a manner that aids experimentation and reflection and provides the opportunity to apply the learning in the real world. In addition to solving the shortcomings in the learning process, Last-Bench! highlights the difference in the learning needs of individualsand aims to provide customized learning solutions to promote personal and professional growth.
3. What specific problem in learning are you trying to solve? How do your current offerings address it?
Rajeev: The current business environment is extraordinarily challenging, competitive and dynamic. We’ve been in the position where most undergraduates or young working professionals are at present- undecided, unsure and nervous. We have understood what potential employers are really looking for and how there is a dearth of young professionals who can make an immediate impact on their organizations. A lot of students entering the workforce or people already in the workforce are from non-business backgrounds and now find themselves on career tracks where they are expected to possess business acumen to ensure success. Others are entrepreneurs who need to stay ahead of the curve in order for their business to succeed and grow. In any case, you need the business and management skills to advance your career to the next level.
Sajid: What springs into my mind is this quote by Bill Gates that almost underlines what void we wish to fill in the current system. “Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself.” The education system now fails to integrate technical concepts with self-assessment and self-reflective modules of training. How can you learn about all matters under the sun without learning about yourself to begin with? In accordance with our research, we have developed our first offering- a highly flexible yet comprehensive program suite, ESSENTIALLY BUSINESS, involving courses specific to the core aspects of business, strategy and cohesion to ensure an overall enhancement in productivity, leadership and personal improvement.
4. That sounds very interesting! I guess this is very relevant in today’s environment. Who can avail these courses and how do they sign-up?
Rajeev: Anyone! That’s the best aspect of this! Whether you are a student currently in college, looking for employment, a working professional or simply someone who is looking to hone his/her business and productivity skills, ‘ESSENTIALLY BUSINESS’ is tailored for you. As an initial offering we have a specific course called ‘MANAGE WHAT’, an important component of the ‘ESSENTIALLY BUSINESS’ program suite. This is a specialized course for young, ambitious students and working professionals and focuses on effective management skills with a strong personal dimension to help individuals attain their goals.
Sajid: What we always focus on is the classification of anybody interested in personal improvement- technical or otherwise- as THE LEARNER. Of course what you can gain from each program varies with content. The ‘MANAGE WHAT’ program puts you on the path to become a complete professional and a good learner with a high level of self-awareness. An added bonus is the ability to learn about teamwork, communication and to manage stress and time well. Apart from all the applied knowledge you’ll get, you also get a personalized report with detailed feedback about your strengths, weaknesses, performance and contribution.
5. What are Last-Bench!’s short term and long term goals?
Rajeev: That’s an excellent question because at Last-Bench! our entire attention is directed towards enhancing the learning experience from the perspective of the user and improving accessibility and quality. Keeping this as our prime focus, we have identified our short-term and long-term goals. In the short term, our goal is to round off our ESSENTIALLY BUSINESS program suite by offering courses, in addition to MANAGE WHAT, that focus on other core aspects of business such as strategy, finance and marketing. We are constantly in the process of broadening our content database and adding the core technical skills required to help learners attain knowledge-based and skill-based development.
Sajid: We have a picture in mind and we’ve set about painting it. We might switch the colour about a little but the BIG PICTURE is constant. The goal is simple: We want to be able to offer a complete learning solution to the learner ensuring personal and professional success, while retaining the self-improvement aspect of the program at all times. Long term, we plan to leverage technology to an extent to expand our user base and also empower our learners in a better way. The core focus will be to allow users (spread across all learning spheres and age groups) to gain access to content in a personalized manner and with an enhanced learning experience. In short, we aim to be the pioneers in applied learning and education services in a business-to-consumer perspective.
Thank you for inspiring us with your experience. We at TQ wish you all the very best in your journey forward!
Check out some of ThincQuisitive’s other write-ups on all things entrepreneurship at http://thincquisitive.com/category/entrepreneurship/
Coming soon on this space: Insights from Rajeev and Sajid on their journey to entrepreneurship, the obstacles they faced and what makes them tick.
(Last Bench is an educational startup based out of Mumbai. Check them out at www.last-bench.com)