Below you’ll find a nice chat we had with Soumik Ganguly, VP of Global Sales from Pagalguy.com, a networking community for MBA applicants. Thank you Soumik for introducing us to PaGaLGuY – we look forward to continuing to use our official account on PaGaLGuY, and suggest that our readers open their own accounts as well!
Accepted.com : First, we’d love to hear some PaGaLGuY basics: what does your company do and how/when did you get started?
Soumik: Pagalguy.com started off as a way to network with MBA applicants at a time (9 years back) when certain “online groups” were the only way people could get information related to their preparation, application, experiences, etc. Such online-groups weren’t accessible, were difficult to scale, and did not provide any framework to build a community. Pagalguy.com solves this part of the problem wherein participation from early adopters in the system as well as from the followers and laggards is beautifully integrated through a great community that can now be scaled globally.
The platform allows amazing ways to interact with applicants from across the world for someone who may not have direct access to such people through any other means. The feeling of “contribution to one’s community” drive people to help with brilliant inputs (pure philanthropy) across various topics such as – preparation for tests, choosing a b-school, internal facts about specific b-schools, essays/applications assistance, discussion on fitment, etc.
Such a large community also enables great opportunity for Business School and Universities to interact directly with these aspirants, and strategically integrate this platform into their Enrolment management system. This platform is therefore serving as a connect for branding, engagement, interactions, official queries, etc for over a large number of B-schools and University programs.
Accepted.com: How has PaGaLGuY grown and evolved over time? Is the company now the way you had envisioned it when first starting out?
Soumik: Pagalguy.com was never envisioned to become such a successful platform at the outset (as is the case with many other niche products that went on to become mass successes). Credit goes to the early adopters of this platform to dedicate their time and resources in order to create the strongest premise on which the next generation of aspirants interacted and helped out each other. From about 5000 unique visitors each month in the initial year to about 600,000 unique visitors each month today, the entire platform is a reflection of the way a great community was built by its own users who have consistently contributed to create more than 350,000 pages of content. We do have an improved news section that now has strong international presence along with regular features from Indian b-schools, which allows the users to have updated info and news from various b-schools.
Pagalguy.com also built and successfully implemented world’s first social networking educational portal (it’s an achievement given the fact that the new platform was coded from scratch by our in-house team). The current social networking capabilities allow us to enable better networking, tracking, and learning functions for each user who is using Pagalguy.com. Aspirants can now follow b-schools, Universities, Consultants, Official Accounts of important tests like GMAT, fellow applicants, current b-school students, admission committees, etc. This ecosystem allows us to understand applicants behavior and social-interactions (inside the platform), and design better products that would create brilliant experiences for future users.
Accepted.com: How can MBA applicants take advantage of PaGaLGuY?
Soumik: There are three things that an MBA aspirant should use at Pagalguy.com – the network of fellow aspirants available, the resources and content inside forums, and the preparation section (MBA Prep) that is a free and social way to prepare with others.
I would urge every user to subscribe to specific threads (inside forums) that are relevant (like b-schools, programs, preparation, hobbies, topics, etc), follow and network with aspirants/accounts who they want to prepare with or get help from, and actively participate in preparation and discussions of the same across various related forums.
Active participation ensures discovery of like-minded groups inside the forums/community and also gives one the chance to verify one’s preparation and application process. Also, the presence of world-class consultants allow free inputs on essays, application tips, VISA etc.
The news section also publishes great interviews with Admission Deans/Directors amongst other prominent people whose inputs would be of great value while preparing for those specific programs. This is a priceless input that any aspirant using Pagalguy.com gets alongside the other values derived from its forums and accounts.
Accepted.com: How can MBA programs around the world take advantage of PaGaLGuY?
Soumik: MBA Programs have the following ways to use Pagalguy.com:
• Be a part of the community through an Official Account and a very own brand-page, which allows them to participate in discussions and also send out daily broadcasts to their followers
• Follow the trends of applicant behavior and design a learning system that will help them to fine tune their communication and enrolment strategies
• Integrate their Enrolment Management system into Pagalguy.com through various commercial and non-commercial options available
• Track applicants who have applied throughout the application funnel
• Ensure continuous brand presence through dedicated discussions, inputs, etc in the community
Accepted.com: I see you have a bunch of active forums on your site. What is currently the most popular topic that applicants are talking about?
Soumik: At present, the most discussed topic should be the 2nd stage of selection process across most b-schools right now – which consists of Personal Interviews and probably the group discussions/essays. Users who are experts in these are the busiest right now helping thousands of aspirants with queries to prepare, figuring out bottlenecks, and individual inputs. The International Section also involves a lot of conversations related to the next cycle of admission and the related preparation for the same.
Accepted.com: What would you say is PaGaLGuY’s “edge”? In other words, why is your site better than other MBA forum and community sites out there?
Soumik: Pagalguy’s “edge” is this community that holds everything together, and its our consistent endeavor to ensure that we plan and do everything keeping this community in mind. It’s something that got built by some of those amazingly dedicated aspirants themselves and is one of the largest MBA community in the world. The kind of “commitment” and community behavior that one gets to see on PaGaLGuY isn’t noticed anywhere else. These aspirants have their own Offline meets (without any intervention from Pagalguy.com) to catch up with like-minded people who share the same vision. Thing like these make it work here. People know the rules and the contributions they are making to the community. Our moderators too are aspirants or B-school students themselves who have done great work in guiding thousands of aspirants through their work in the community. I can’t comment on other community sites, but on Pagalguy.com, every user/aspirant is treated as the First-citizen by this community. Their contributions in guiding, reporting, debating etc are applauded by their own kind, and that’s something wonderful to have.
Accepted.com: Some critics compare applicant forums to the “anxiety factories,” and “rumor mills.” Do you feel the criticism has any validity and how would you respond to it?
Soumik: There are a lot of positives that I have seen which come out of a community like Pagalguy.com. This applicants-forum allowed thousands of people to get to their dream institutions and careers. There are stories and feedback of how some users changed the lives of others through their work in the community (and one of such stories I had the privilege of witnessing myself), and how true information shared by users helped others make the right choices.
For obvious reasons, there are the negatives wherein sometime an open forum could be a place for people venting their ire or writing something unparliamentary about another user. However, the good part is that such instances are taken care of by the community itself, due to its commitment and involvement at all times. The beauty of democratic forums is the way someone gets a chance to voice his or her concerns and inputs without the fear of prejudice. For a matured community like Pagalguy.com, instances wherein someone “crosses the line” is dealt by such committed individuals themselves who care about the freedom of this forum.
Accepted.com: What are some of your visions for the site in the future?
Soumik: We intend to allow organic improvements as well as introduce innovative products into the platform in regular intervals. We are also working on improving the overall value that the site would add to the aspirants probably as a part of their user-life-cycle. So a big challenge for us is to ensure that aspirants use Pagalguy.com even after their admission process is done and the initial value that they seek is fulfilled. We are also looking at providing our users access to great content and regular inputs from domain experts from across the world. This is an endeavor that we are currently working on, and we are working with great partners who see the value in associating with us to enable this access for such a large base of users.