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Interview with Minal Anand, Founder of GuruQ

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Ms. Minal Anand, Founder & CEO, GURUQ

GuruQ is a digital integrated platform connecting tutors and students. Founded by Minal Anand, an enterprising Finance major from Boston University, GuruQ aims to address the need for a single, simplified &cohesive ed-tech platform that provides online and offline tutoring.

According to GuruQ, the platform has been designed based on insights drawn from comprehensive consumer research to address the need-gap for quality tutors. It has been set up with a dual objective – it helps parents and students identify and connect with the best tutors the industry has to offer. Secondly, the platform addresses the challenges faced by the tutors and offers a robust, convenient system to simplify the tuition industry.

Students and parents have access to ‘GuruQCertified’ tutors for primary, secondary, higher secondary and undergraduate curriculums. GuruQ also helps them manage timetables and assess progress. For tutors GuruQ works as a digital integrated platform where they can be recognized for their quality of work and result oriented approach, reach and teach more students, manage time efficiently and be assured of timely payments.

guruq team

GuruQ Team

To know more about GuruQ, we interviewed the founder of GuruQ, Minal Anand.

What is the USP of GuruQ given that there are many Startups already disrupting the education ecosystem in India, especially tutoring sector? 

With the main aim to help students find their right tutors, GuruQ offers many features to support the cause. Firstly, to ensure that our students get the very best, every tutor is made to undergo 5-level checks spanning their knowledge, qualifications, background & experience, and only the best are inducted into the GuruQ fold. Students are allowed different ways to reach out to these tutors as mentioned above. Students today are pressed for time and we help them save this precious commodity by taking tuition completely at their convenience. They can do actual on-demand tutoring by booking classes at short notice and even booking them by the hour for special needs such as revision. In addition to time, students can personalize their tuition with respect to the mode (offline or online), type (individual or group) and budgets (hourly or monthly). Parents can keep track of their child’s progress and seek feedback when they want to.We stand out from the pack because it is India’s first platform where one can pick quality-certified and user-rated tutors.

How does GuruQ differentiates itself from its Key Competitors?

We have entered a market where there are many established players so we understand the need to stand apart. We have made sure our differentiation is not just in the solution we provide but also the way we approach the problem. Our market research even before we began the journey from concept to commercialization revealed the many pain points that our target audiences face and we have planned 101 ways in which will not just eliminate their issues but also make learning easy, efficient and effective for them. We are starting with 21 features, advantages and benefits that we will provide and release the others in a phase-wise manner.

What about demonstrating your venture to Startup enthusiasts?Have you displayed your products in any entrepreneur summit? If yes, how was the response?

 Yes, as a matter of fact GuruQ just attended the Ed-tech Review Summit held in Dwarka. The event focused on B2B players in the edtech field. GuruQ received great traction from various other players in this area – education consusltants, investors, along with various intriguing collaboration opportunities for complimentary services and offerings. The overall response to GuruQ was overwhelmingly positive. 

What were the initial challenges that you faced as an entrepreneur? 

The journey so far has been one of exploration and experimentation. This is best exemplified by the fact that just 5 months into operations and we have already began revamping our entire digital infrastructure including the website and dashboard.  While the challenges have been across various areas such as the processes, technology, design etc. but we have overcome them all keeping only one thing in focus – the ‘Experience’ we are able to provide by integrating the various ingredients of our operations.

It has been only 5 months since its inception and GuruQ has got over 15000 tutor registrations and has certified over 1500 tutors on its platform. We just completed 100 hours of tutoring and the best is yet to come after the launch of the GuruQ Platform 2.0. Our focus is on Delhi NCR for the 1st year but we intend to eventually cater to all major cities through a phase-wise expansion. But we have begun online tuition Pan India since the medium transcends all boundaries.

GuruQ has already empanelled academicians from reputed institutes as its Advisory Board members who will also help mentor tutors.

The company recently raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from High Net Worth Individuals HNIs and has started operations in Delhi-NCR with robust plans to expand in other cities as well.

More about the Founder

MinalAnand is a young millennial entrepreneur and the founder of her first venture, GuruQ, a digital integrated platform that connects tutors and students with ease. As Founder and Chief Executive Officer, she is the innovator at GuruQ, an ed-tech platform that promises to bring high quality standards and new age methodologies to the way education is delivered in India.

Armed with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the School of Management at Boston University, Minal worked on several eclectic projects at companies like Franklin Templeton, Citigroup and HPL Additives to gain relevant experience on business planning, pitching for funding, enterprise design and structuring and talent management.

Shecompleted her degree at Boston University in three years instead of the designated four with a sparkling alacrity to join the professional world where she could apply theories to real life situations. She returned to India to joinDelhi-based HPL Additives as Assistant Manager – Corporate Development.However, the urge to do something in the field of education drove Minal to explore the ed-tech sector – one of India’s most prolific segments. She had previously taught several under privileged school students and it is this very experience that helped her with the business idea.

While studying in the US, Minal had seen a dramatic difference in the education system, its quality, the predominant use of digital platforms and innovative teaching methodologies. Back home, Minal noticed a huge disconnect between children who studied abroad and those who hadn’t.  She realized thatsuch disparity stemmed from the fact thatmost educators in India are not well-equipped or wellversed in innovative teaching methods compared to their counterparts overseas. This raises the question of the quality of educators in India and how the talented ones received their due.

Minal sees the importance of equipping tutors with the latest teaching methodologies and keeping them updated with international and national innovations. Her quest for doing something innovative made her delve deeper, understand the challenges and create a platform that would revolutionise the education system.

Hence, she conceptualized GuruQ as a single, simplified & cohesive ed-tech platform that provides online and offline tutoring and designed it based on insights drawn from comprehensive consumer research to address the need-gap for quality tutors.

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Entrepreneurs

In this Interview New York Based Fitness Coach Larry Greenfield talks about his Entrepreneurial Journey and how he is helping folks over 40 live a better life

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Larry Greenfield Interview

Larry Greenfield is a certified fitness coach from New York, NY, who specializes in helping men and women over 40 get into the best shape of their life. Through years of experience, he’s discovered that personalizing his approach to fit each client’s needs and aiming for long-term results is the best path to improve his clients’ lifestyle. He uses a specific approach to help clients overcome all physical and psychological barriers. Empowerment through fitness and proper nutrition leaves his clients feeling confident in their own skin.

Being a Fitness Coach is a demanding job. There must be some good days and some bad days. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.

The best days at work are when I get to complete my morning routine, and everything goes to plan. The worst days are when, for some reason, my morning is hectic, and I have to change plans a lot. If I don’t have the best day, I try to take more breaks and meditate/workout to get my mind off things.

Who are the clients that you most enjoy working with?

I enjoy working with all of my clients, but I really love working with clients who have been with me for a long time. We know each other’s communication styles, and we are used to a routine. First-timers sometimes could be difficult since we are still building that trust and rapport.

There are moments in life which change you for good. What was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?

My biggest “a-ha” moment was when my kids were born. I realized that I had to provide for my family, not just spend time on anything I wanted. It took me some getting used to since I am a very independent individual, and I like my financial independence. But in the end, they’ve pushed me to strive for more. They still do.

Working with your first client is always memorable. How was your experience? What has been the most important part of your professional journey?

Working with my first client was indeed memorable. He was a referral from one of my close friends. Since I had recently graduated from a fitness certification program, I didn’t realize that what worked for me wouldn’t always work for other individuals. Understanding that I had to personalize workouts based on the age and the lifestyle of clients was a huge breakthrough. Those struggles early on in my career allowed me to be successful, now coaching 40+ year-olds and transforming lives.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has thrown challenges of biblical proportions. What would you do, if you are endowed with unlimited resources?

If you are talking monetarily, I would probably invest them in the economy. If I talk just about my City, the COVID-19 outbreak negatively impacted New-York’s economy, and unemployment is skyrocketing. Creating jobs and helping those in need would be how I would spend unlimited resources.

When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?

I enjoy being in nature. I am a massive fan of outdoor activities and outdoor eating. Last time we were BBQing, I lost myself in it and ended up 7 pounds heavier than my healthy weight. It’s a dangerous activity to lose yourself in.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I enjoy traveling with my wife; sometimes, we bring our dog with us if we are on a road trip. I also go hiking, boating and kayaking a lot, when I can get out of town.

How do you feel you make a difference in the world?

By helping 40+ year-olds live healthier lives, I change the way they see themselves and improve their relationships with their families and loved ones, even their work-life. I think it’s a big enough difference.

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Interview

Leading SEO Expert Justin Davis Shares Valuable SEO Tips and Explains Why Entrepreneurs Should Do it Right to Remain on Top

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Justin Davis is a leading SEO Expert and specializes in Link Building, an important aspect of Search Engine Optimization. SEO or Search Engine Optimization simply means how effective your business is optimized for search engine results. For example, if you provide plumbing services and if someone searches on Google with the keyword ‘Best Plumbers Near Me’ and your business website or your information comes on the top position, you can be said to be search engine optimized.

Given the kind of competition Startups and Businesses have, it is important that they have an optimized search engine presence.

Justin, Thank you for talking with us. Tell us more about the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) for small business owners and startups.

Thank you for having me. SEO only matters for businesses that have customers (or potential customers) that go to Google or other search engines to look for their products and services. One of the benefits to a small business is that SEO will deliver leads that do not directly need to be paid for.

Of course most businesses would enjoy natural, organic traffic to the website from people researching services or products before making a buying decision. But there are costs in getting to this point. The time required depends on how strong the competition is.

At a minimum, small businesses should have a grasp on what keyword phrases are important to their business, how much search volume is behind those queries, where they stand compared to their competitors for those keywords, and approximately how much traffic the competitors are getting from those keywords.

What are some of the biggest mistakes businesses make when planning their seo strategy?

I have seen lots of businesses waste countless hours and thousands of dollars optimizing their on-page SEO, and reoptimizing, redesigning, and on and on. Monthly spending on SEO services should almost be entirely for off-page strategies like backlink building.

Onsite optimizations should generally be a one-time fix and coaching for best practices moving forward. Let’s face it.. Most companies know little to nothing about SEO. That’s why they hire out. So the client needs to at least somewhat educated on the basics in the beginning.

Setting clear expectations by talking about what the deliveries will be, a timeline, KPIs that will track progress throughout the campaign, costs, results – these should all be covered. Properly setting expectations of how much the services are going to cost, how long it’s going to take, and what estimated results will help with transparency and clarification.

Panda update of Google was a big learning curve for seo professionals. What are some of the current trends in seo?

Nowdays I just focus on producing high quality content and getting high quality links to point to that content. I leave the trends and tweaks to the SEO bloggers and every once in a while I incorporate something new into my strategies.

Think about link building as being a timeless SEO activity. Getting links from high-quality websites will always be great for your SEO. Why? Because this is the system that Google search results was based off of. A linking/vouching system is similar to that used by many scholarly medical journals and so on.

Forget trying to figure out the new fads, tips and tricks. Stick to doing a lot of what we already know works. Optimize your site on-page, and then continue adding content to your site while getting links from quality websites in your niche.

Tell us the importance of link building for a website. How do businesses ensure that they have a quality link profile?

Link building is important for a website because Google’s ranking system relies on links heavily to reveal authority. The amount of links from trusted sources are looked at as a vouch, basically voting for the linked site.

Businesses have a quality link profile by setting standards in the beginning. Authority scores, organic search traffic, the number of keywords ranked in Google, rankings/positions for various keywords, Moz spam score, sniff tests, experience, PBNs and IP addresses – are factors used to determine whether a link prospect is qualified.

Lots of businesses try to go cheap when it comes to link building. This is probably because it takes a lot of time and money. I get it! But when taking shortcuts and hiring amateurs, they often end up with spammy links and little to no improvements in keywords and actual website visitors.

Even worse, they could be penalized and completely lose everything in Google search. Bad SEO can also do lots of damage to a brand, because a big part of off-page SEO is outreaching/emailing every other business and organization in your industry on your behalf.

There are many businesses that want to indulge in shady link building programs just because they are in a hurry. As an expert in this field, how do you handle these clients?

I am very clear with possible new clients. I go over the preferred types of links and associated metrics ahead of time.

One of the qualifying factors I look for in clients is that they respect my expertise and take more of a hands-off approach. Micro-managers need not apply! So I just politely smile and reject those clients. PS: I turn down 90% of businesses that reach out to me because they don’t meet all of my qualifying factors. This is multiple businesses per day.

What SEO tips would you like to share with all the entrepreneurs who are reading this?

Hiring the right person for SEO is crucial if your business relies on traffic from search results. In the beginning, talk about what the SEO goals are, what the ideal timeline would be in order to meet those goals, and what budget is available in order to get there.

The SEO person should be able to explain what can be expected according to your goals, timeline and budget. Properly setting and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) that are specific to SEO and the campaign will show progress.

A proper SEO campaign will result in your website gaining authority. These gains will be shown in higher numbers of organic search visitors (check Google Analytics for this), higher rankings for more keyword phrases (various SEO tools for this), and higher authority scores (various SEO tools).

Justin Davis is the Chief Link Builder for Link-builders.com, an off-page SEO agency specializing in building high-quality backlinks.

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Entrepreneurs

Marc Bakhos, Founder of Hitch’dtheshoe Talks About how the Absence of a Shoe Design During His Wedding led to His Entrepreneurial Journey

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Marc Bakhos interview

Hitch’dtheshoe, founded by Marc Bakhos, was created with a vision to add the element of comfort and design in a formal shoe. Marc initially came up with the idea of Hitch’dtheshoe in order to provide class and comfort solutions for a wedding. However, with growing popularity, these premium sneakers have been worn by people on other occasions too.

This UAE based brand is creating quite a ripple in the domestic market. We recently Interviewed Marc Bakhos to understand the idea behind his brand. Among other things, we also discussed the impact of Coronavirus on Entrepreneurs.

Coming up with your own shoe brand is a risky affair given the intense competition in this segment. What inspired you to create Hitch’dtheshoe?

I was looking for a casual sneaker to get married in, but could not find a shiny sneaker that has the shine and the comfort that I was looking for to last for all the wedding festivities. So, I decided to create my own brand to cater to the gentlemen with the same struggle.

The name is derived from the word hitched, which means that you’re getting off the market. We started with Hitch’d gents, which caters to the gentlemen and the launch has been successful for two months now.

These shoes which are created to add modern and stylish charm to any outfit, are created with 100% Italian patent leather and 100% rubber sole.

You are a young entrepreneur and will have your own learning curve. However, the ongoing pandemic has taught everyone a lesson. What is the biggest lesson entrepreneurs can learn from the ongoing Pandemic?

That is true. This pandemic is a great learning curve for everyone. I would say that people should always look for opportunities that potentially arise from any uncertain event like the one we are facing today.

I believe that humanity plays a big role in these circumstances and the people who are able to help should help others in any possible way. I would say that the biggest lesson entrepreneurs can learn is that there is nothing above humanity. Moreover, nothing is permanent and you should serve your clients from that backdrop.

Considering the fact that there are several big players in the shoe segment in which you are offering products, how small businesses can compete with established brands. What should be their strategy?

That’s right. Competing with established brands is tough. One should, therefore, tread his or her path carefully. I would suggest that one should look for a problem that people are facing and try to find solutions. The solution should be niche preferably and using the right channels you’re good to go.

So, with the acceptance you are getting, are you planning to expand your operations?

We ship in the UAE at the moment. Our operations will open to the world soon. We are in the process of finalizing shipping processes and rates. This has obviously been hit due to the ongoing situation.

How has shoe industry transformed over the past few years? Do you believe that premium brands face challenge from cheap, look-alike products which swamp the shoe racks in several markets?

“I believe that any fashion product is easy to imitate, but it is hard to imitate the story.”

The shoe industry is always changing and adapting to customers’ wants and fashion trends. I believe that any fashion product is easy to imitate, but it is hard to imitate the story. In our case, there’s a story to tell. Also, people have a sense of appreciation for good products. On any given day, quality wins.

What has been your most satisfying experience as a business owner?

Being a business owner, it has been truly a blessing seeing the reaction of my clients after I show them my products.

It is like a need that they have been waiting for a while, and finally, it has been fulfilled. Being born and raised in Lebanon also makes me proud to have come this far, in creating something special for the world, as well as making my country proud at the same time.

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