Dread the tiresome process of filling and submitting college applications – the unending queues, city hopping, etc. Well, there’s a solution for it all. Nopaperforms.com takes you through a three step process wherein students can submit their applications online by way of web forms and the data pooled in forms a concrete database. The end-consumers here are colleges and educational institutions that can instill the online form application process to manage student enrollments during admissions.eBrandz chats up with Vishal Shah, the visionary behind NoPaperForms.com and the following is an excerpt from the same.
Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business.
NoPaperForms.com provides a software-as-a-service that will help thousands of academic institutions across India accept admission applications online for free and in a matter of 15 minutes.
We have introduced India’s 1st on-demand enrollment management solution. Schools and colleges can dynamically create admission forms, publish online and instantly start receiving applications electronically - all in less than 15 minutes, at no cost and with just a little more complexity than setting up an email account!
Prospective adopters include all academic institutions - schools, colleges, universities, vocational institutions, tutorials and other academic bodies – that engage in recruiting students each year via a standard application process. End-users will also include the broad set of applicants including college applicants and parents applying to kindergartens for their toddlers.
We solve the problems of two broad categories of consumers:
1. Academic Institutions: We significantly ease the logistical and financial burden imposed by paper-based admissions - designing and printing thousands of paper forms, distribution, collection, sorting, mailing, data entry etc - and help achieve greater transparency.
2. Applicants: We simplify the job of an applicant who struggles in long queues just to buy or turn in an application form by providing them an easy-to-use online application.
Kindly give us a brief description about yourself.
I’m Vishal B. Shah, the CEO & Founder of NoPaperForms. The idea struck me while watching my cousin apply for college admissions in 2008 and decided to springboard a solution for it.
At my previous job at CompuCredit Corporation (a diversified financial services firm) in Atlanta, I built and led the entire forensic audit function. Through that experience, I developed acute management and team- building skills that contributed to NoPaperForms' formation. My audit background has helped me become a stickler to perfection combined with a strange addiction to aesthetics.
Prior to CompuCredit, I’ve worked as a Senior Consultant with Deloitte & Touche, Atlanta. I am also a Certified Public Accountant and hold an MBA from Cornell University, MS in Information Systems from the University of Florida and M.Sc. in Finance from the University of Lancaster (England).
When not working, I like to spend time with my 18-month old daughter whom I just can't get enough of.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business? How did the idea for your business come about?
Watching my cousin apply for colleges in 2008 was horrendous. He had to travel from one end of the city to the other in buses and trains just to buy and submit application forms. It reminded me of how things were back in 1997 when I was in a similar situation and was very surprised to find that things hadn’t changed much since then. At that point, I also saw an enormous business opportunity that could spread across India.
Readers can get a visual glimpse of how bad things actually are by watching this video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HulNk-aeVAA
How important have good employees been to your success?
I cannot state enough to emphasize how important a team is to any startup’s success. I consider the initial set of employees business partners because that’s essentially what they are.
So far, we have been awarded the first prize at IIT Bombay’s business plan competition (Eureka 2010) and featured on ET NOW, Hindustan Times, Mumbai Mirror, Pluggd.in and Economic Times. Without the right team in place, I don’t see how we could have come this far.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
There is no secret to entrepreneurial success. We are still struggling but are confident that we will arrive soon. I believe what’s most important is being persistent, resilient and maintaining an unending determination to create value. Last, it’s important to know this – don’t be an entrepreneur if all you want is to get rich. Go become an investment banker, if that’s all you care for. Be an entrepreneur if you truly want to build something that can change the world around you. Money will just follow, regardless.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
If you had asked the same question 2 years ago, the answer would have been yes. But not anymore, I couldn’t imagine going back to a regular job be it management consulting or investment banking. The thrill is just not as addictive as entrepreneurship. Every day is a challenge and while this is the most professionally demanding job I have ever taken up, it is also the most professionally gratifying.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
One must be professionally motivated, have the ability to foresee a vision, and know how to lead a team to convert that dream into a reality.
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
First off, get your idea validated multiple times by various experts. If all you hear is, “this is a fantastic idea and will certainly become the next game-changer”, absolutely never throw in the towel. Go for the kill with all the energy you can draw.
How many hours do you work a day on average?
There is no start or end time. Normally, I work 70 hours / week.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
One has to be ready to sacrifice personal life to a certain extent if you want to create something of value. For that, it is important to have the right support from the family. I have had to sacrifice quite a bit but am blessed to have a very understanding wife and a cute little daughter who still loves me, regardless!
What motivates you?
Setbacks and successes alike. The challenge of facing situations and making tough decisions on the go motivate me tremendously.
How do you generate new ideas?
Just look around you. There are numerous problems to solve in India and there has to be a better way to do almost everything we can set our eyes on. Identify what the consumer would want most and can identify with and there is winner idea.
What are your ideals?
Be ethical in all your dealings – with clients, customers, employees and investors. There is nothing more you can lose once your integrity is lost.
How do you define success?
Money is certainly not the measure. Success to me is excellence. If you believe you created something that exceeds most expectations and can be an excellent problem-solver, I believe you have hit the jackpot right there. Follow excellence, success will follow you.