Transforming Skillset with Mercatrix

We live in an era where marks and grades are considered as the evergreen standards for success. Though we accept that practical learning is the need of the hour, but it is never exercised. Due to this lack of exposure to practical learning, most students do not possess the passion and curiosity to learn more than the scope of their textbooks. Entrepreneurs who transformed the world in the last few decades could do so because of the exposure to the technology that ruled the world in the next few decades to come.

The correct exposure at the right age is what matters. It inculcates curiosity in young minds. When nurtured from an early age, this curiosity brings about a passion to learn new things every second of a day, making a person open to mastering new skills. This is what makes one stand out of the crowd and victorious, in its true sense.

An engineering graduate duo found a potential for growth in these problems and decided to make changes in this arena addressing the needs of the hour with their venture. In conversation with Teena Jaison, Co-founder of Mercatrix, who aspire to be game-changers in education by successfully bridging the gap between theoretical and practical knowledge.

Brief us about yourself, your background, and your previous ventures.

      I am Teena Jaison. Co-founder and Head of Operations at Mercatrix. Mercatrix is a premium business marketing startup and edu-tech co-founded by Mr. S Sooraj and me, in the year 2020. Talking about our past ventures, Sooraj is a mechanical engineer by degree, who dabbled in formula student racing in his college years and is an alumnus of VIT, Vellore. After graduating, he pursued his family business of mechanical and civil contracting, mainly in the petroleum industry. I am an electrical engineering graduate and alumni of Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology, Kochi. Both of us are alumni of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Vaduthala and we had one more thing in common – ardent passion towards business, marketing, and teaching! This realization contributed to the ideation of Mercatrix and our growing virtual community of freelancers – MercSpace. 

    Our business marketing venture dates back to the days while we were in college. We used to deliver freelance work in online marketing and B2B marketing along with our group of friends. There were two outcomes, one – we learned a lot from our experiences with different businesses and felt like freelance work was accepted by clients regardless of our age and experience as long as it brought results. Two – it was genuinely satisfying to see the results of our marketing efforts.

How did you perceive the idea of starting your venture? What inspired you to start it?

     Spending four years in an engineering college pursuing a professional degree, it came to our notice that a good majority of students pass out of college with no reasonable level of practical experience in their field of study. This is predominantly because their fixation with marks and theoretical learning does not end in India. It exists even in the most prestigious higher educational institutions. Things taught in colleges do not make a person job-ready. The majority of skills learned are not worth monetizing. This eventually made it close to impossible for them to attempt job interviews and pass with flying colors. Very few lucky ones receive the opportunity of doing practical internships in their field of study. The fun fact is that freshers are required to have work experience despite having just graduated from college. 

We wanted to find a solution to the lack of work/internship experience in freshers. Provide opportunities that colleges do not provide them with. So rather than hiring professionals, we trained students to become professionals and provided internship opportunities. Every student who taught under us was given lifetime membership into our virtual community of freelancers called MercSpace, where they can network with other community members, share contacts, collaborate on projects, celebrate achievements, and so on. They could start working while they were still in college and start building their client profile. By the time they pass out, they can proudly claim that they have a minimum of 1 year of work experience. 

    A year ago, we ran into Ms. Maya Mohan. A true visionary and pioneer in the field of education. She was our school principal at Chinmaya Vidyalaya Vaduthala, an award-winning teacher and principal. They served that title for over 23 years, renowned for their approach towards teaching life skills and values to their students by exposure through extracurricular activities. She presently adorns Director, co-founder, and principal at Tattwa Centre of Learning, Kochi. We sat down and discussed our various programs and ideas with her. Until then, our batches included college students or working professionals. We hypothesized that if we could introduce these practical skills to school students at an earlier stage in life, it would encourage them to overcome their fear of technical skills and make them passionate about pursuing them. This would help them to be more technically knowledgeable even before they reach college. They would have a much more clear idea about what to pursue in life. She gave us a pilot batch at Tattwa, an opportunity to test our program with young kids. Our business marketing program was so widely accepted by the kids. They loved it so much that several of them came back to us and enrolled in the two-month program. This made our community more versatile, with Junior and Senior Mercateers!

How do you ideate a product? In your case, a course that you provide.

     Every program that we create comes with a promise to provide a hands-on learning experience in skills perceived as technical skills and hard to learn by most people. We have programs in business marketing, digital marketing, stock market trading, cybersecurity, and crypto-currency. The entire program is conducted through live sessions and pre-recorded video reference material for some topics after the live sessions. All the concepts and skills are cut down to such layman terms that even people from non-technical backgrounds can learn and implement them. The part that our students love the most is how the program is structured; we implement gradual learning from the start till the end. We would cut out a lot of theory and use a lot of relatable real-life examples. For instance, when we take classes on web designing for kids, we relate a website to a real live human being to help our students understand better.

What are the different products and services that you deliver? 

    As a business marketing company, we provide all kinds of online marketing services to our clients. To name a few, we offer solutions in web designing, SEO, blogging, content marketing, social media marketing, video content creation & post-production, logo designing, online advertising – Google Ads, Facebook & Instagram Ads, B2B marketing, dropshipping using E-commerce websites and much more.

    As an ed-tech company, we provide several educational programs in digital marketing, business marketing, cyber security &  stock market trading  – short term and long term, that are suitable for school and college students looking for work experience, budding entrepreneurs, startups, small business owners, working professionals looking to upgrade their skills, work-from-home mothers, anybody who is looking to generate a source of passive income !

Could you share a few instances where you saw your vision taking its shape through your customers? Are there instances that inspired you?

    We are most delighted to see that our students are using the skills they have learned to help their parent’s businesses by building websites, doing SMM for clients, starting their clothing brand, growing their YouTube channel, running paid ads, and even becoming content marketers. Several of them have even invested their time in earning passive income through stock markets, and some have even shifted their focus to a career in ethical hacking and cybersecurity.

    Some are working as part-time freelancers, doing paid internships as social media managers, web designers. The others have utilized the training to update their skills and make their resumes attractive in the eyes of prospective clients. The movement has also encouraged them to pursue marketing as a specialization as a PG degree.

    What inspired us is how school students as young as 6th and 7th grade perform beautifully in our Skill Up + program for web development, showing more confidence and comfort towards learning new tech-related skills.

Demo website made by Angelin Lopez, Class 10

How do you reach out to your potential customers? 

    When it comes to client work, we get new potential customers mainly through recommendations from customers we have worked within the past. We also believe in the power of effective networking, which has always opened doors for us. Having a collective of enthusiastic young minds as our workforce has enabled us to deliver quality services at very affordable prices.

    Now coming to edu-tech, we get new student inquiries mainly from our old students referring our programs to friends and family, college masterclasses, workshops, online ads, and social media.

Do you have a team? Tell us about your support system.

    The energy and enthusiasm of our young freelancers are the soul and life of the company. Every student who enrolls in the program is an active member of MercSpace, with a present strength of 200 + members. After the training, each student is invited to contribute towards the company’s growth, be independent and perform freelance work. But it’s so rewarding to see that every student we have trained so far has stayed back and taken up responsibilities. Either they play the roles of part-time marketing interns, in-house social media managers, advertisers, content creators, designers, or any skill they are passionate about. 

     The core team includes seven members who participate in the day-to-day activities, consultations, training sessions, and decision making; some are alumni of prestigious educational institutions like IIMs, IITs, and other top B schools.

What are your plans for the venture? Where do you see yourself in five years? 

    We see ourselves as the game changers in the field of practical education. Our vision is to release more programs without our community members combined efforts and the present educational boards. To identify new opportunities, new skills, prepare students ahead of time, and make them familiar with upcoming tech. The community shall bear tutors and marketers who shall invest their time to bring the digital revolution in India focused on practical learning, determined to bring about a change in the educational system.

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