We talk to Radyum Ikomo, CEO of Schoters, an initiative that aims to support students as they prepare for higher education applications, particularly within international institutions.
Schoters is part of the 2021-22 WISE Edtech Accelerator Cohort and has supported over 500,000 users across Indonesia, of which hundreds of them were admitted into top universities in 30+ countries.
How did you come up with the idea of Schoters?
Schoters was established with an idea to help Indonesians study abroad. It was started by the founder and CEO, Ikono, who spent 11 years living and studying abroad. He felt that the chance to study abroad was huge. Nevertheless, when he came back to Indonesia in 2012, he realized that the majority of people in Indonesia do not know how to go about traveling abroad, and struggle to understand the process of preparation in order to fulfill the requirements to get accepted at universities abroad.
To address the above pain points, Ikono and Aziz (now the COO of Schoters) at first initiated a community named Sahabat Beasiswa (literal meaning: Scholarship Friends), in a bid to drive Indonesians to dream big and pursue their study abroad dreams. The term “scholarship” was used as an anchor to persuade everyone that finance is not the issue to study abroad. The community grew large. It even had 50,000 members from more than 50 cities.
To further scale the impact, Ikono and Aziz decided to build Schoters in the form of a digital startup at the end of 2018. We are now in the 3rd year of our operation. We never imagined that we could grow our impact to help 30,000+ students and assist them to get admitted to top universities in 38 countries worldwide. We still will focus on Indonesia as our main market, but we believe that we can bring this solution elsewhere, especially to other developing countries.
How do you think EdTech is changing the way students approach traditional applications?
In our market in Indonesia, the massive outcome from EdTech and COVID-19 is that customers’ behavior changed dramatically. Before the pandemic, most Indonesians had little conviction in online learning (especially live/synchronous ones). Since March 2020 (the start of the pandemic), customers have been forced to accept that online learning is the only resource available. To their surprise, a lot of them felt “Oh online actually is not so bad…”. Some confessed that they feel online learning is superior compared to offline due to several aspects, including reducing travel time (in Jakarta you may spend 2-3 hours getting to the learning site due to a traffic jam), more flexible time, and the ability to replay content anytime.
Behavioral change needs time. And March 2020 to possibly early 2022 (1.5 years) is a very good timeframe to enforce that new behavior to stick. I am one of the people who believe that the future online learning ecosystem that we predicted to happen as early as 2030 is already here today.
What are three lessons you learned from students who use your platform?
1. Independent learning is good (as in those who love self-study at their own pace), BUT not suitable for everyone. A lot of students who joined our platform told us that they love being forced/scheduled to achieve their target (e.g. to improve IELTS score from 5.5 to 7, to prepare admission documents 1-2 months ahead of the deadline, etc).
2. No matter how good your platform is, or how top-notch your teachers are, you can never beat the power of motivation. Students who ended up getting good grades are those who were super motivated since day 1.
3. The desire to study abroad is immense in Indonesia (and I suppose the same in other developing countries). Most students do not care about the COVID situation. They still feel that spending some time abroad is like a once-in-a-lifetime wish list that needs to be accomplished whatever it takes.