Is this for real? How can you apply to a college of your liking from the cozy confines of your home? Wouldn't you have to stand in long serpentine queues just to submit your application form for getting admission to first year of junior college, FYJC, after clearing the Class X exams?
Well, this has been made possible by three engineering-cum-MBA students from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, NMIMS, Vile Parle, a western suburb of Mumbai.
In co-operation with the Directorate of Deputy Education, Mumbai, (the nodal agency that looks after the administrative affairs and policy-making of colleges in Mumbai), Sugato Banerjee, Varun Seth and Urvish Kukreja have developed a web site mumbaiapplication.com (NOT mumbaiapplicationS) that will enable Class X students to file online applications to colleges of their choice. Interestingly, none of the three has a software programming background.
The only catch is, this is a Mumbai colleges-specific web site, and only those students wanting to get admitted to a Mumbai college will find it useful. Also, you can't apply for an engineering diploma college like, say, the Bhagubhai College as it is not within the the DYDE's ambit.
The interesting part, however, is you can apply to any junior college (even for vocational courses like, say, IT) in Mumbai even if you are sitting in Lucknow, Kochi, Kohima or Anand. Or abroad, for that matter.
While the web site is likely to be officially launched early next week (the date is not finalised as yet and the students are requested not to register until then as it is still in trial mode, so all the data entered will be permanently lost), Class X students can have a look at its beta version currently.
In an e-mail interview Sugato Banerjee tells rediff.com's Prasanna Zore that mumbaiapplication.com offers the current batch of Class X students and their parents a comfortable option to apply to colleges from this year.
How exactly will the web site help Class X students?
The web site provides a single window for students passing out of class X to complete their applications to junior colleges. Since most colleges basically ask for the same student information in their application forms, students are required to provide these details only once. Hereafter it doesn't matter if students apply to one college or 100. There is no duplication of data entry and hence a huge amount of effort is saved. Not having to submit attested documents/marksheet copies and not physically visiting any college, are the obvious benefits.
How user-friendly is the web site?
One of the most important things was the intuitiveness and trust-feel that a web site should give anxious students and parents. We have tried to keep things as simple as possible and if the step-by-step guidelines (which will be put up on the site in the final version) are followed, the entire process should be quite simple. Ultimately only students will be able to tell how easy it is for them to use the system. We are excitedly waiting to receive comments of the first users to help us improve or add features in forthcoming versions.
How can students make the necessary payment?
Currently payments will be made only via ZipCash which is a mobile prepaid card-based system. Students will be required to create a ZipCash account (this will help students make payments online too; each application will cost them a standard charge of Rs 50; so if you want to apply to two colleges in Mumbai you will have to buy ZipCash worth Rs 100) and top it up with recharge cards easily available at various outlets. At the time of sending their applications, students will be able to use this mode for payment, and the requisite amount will be deducted from their ZipCash balance.
The balance, if any after applying to all the colleges that a student wants, can be used as their mobile talk time.
How will they know if their application has gone through successfully?
Each application successfully submitted will generate a unique application number which the student will be presented with. S/he may simply take a print-out of the same for safekeeping and present it if needed at the time of taking up admission at a college.
How will students know if their names have appeared on any college's merit list?
Colleges will be allowed to upload their merit lists as scanned/Excel sheets and students would be able to view them online. However, given the situation that some colleges might miss to do so, I would recommend that the student visit the college physically as well.
What about those students having no access to the internet?
Yes, we have thought about them too. The DYDE has decided to facilitate such students by making several schools as application centres. These schools will be equipped with computers and internet connections and their teachers and staff will be trained to assist students to complete their applications. Hopefully this will work out fine, to aid such students.
Will this web site help SSC/ICSE/CBSE students only in Mumbai or throughout the country?
As long as you're applying to any one of the colleges within Mumbai, it doesn't matter which part of the country you come from. The DYDE is targetting to cover CBSE and ICSE in addition to SSC this year. So that is excellent news for other board students to smile at. The current implementation is only for Mumbai colleges, though.
Are you having any plans to take it to all Indian colleges?
We would love nothing more than implementing such a service for all colleges across India. In the next few years, a lot of individual colleges across India will start realising that the internet is a good way of processing applications and will start providing their own applications/tools for achieving that. We believe this approach should be discouraged as it may lead to system under-utilisation, non-standardisation and, most importantly, duplication of effort.
As far as possible we would like to see institutes have some foresight and agree to come under a common umbrella to give students a single window approach to institutes at a particular level.
The platform we have developed for Mumbai is completely generic and extremely customisable. It can be ported to any other situation by plugging in the correct data. So yes, we will try and implement it for other boards or states given the opportunity and resources.
Do you have any plans of making it applicable to Class XII students as well?
Well, perhaps! Our ideal situation would be if institutes or boards approached us to do the development for them. Let us hope we will be helping out a far larger student base in the future.
How was the idea born? Who enabled the idea?
The idea sprouted last year around this time, when Varun got involved in the long and tedious process of his brother's admission, collecting and submitting forms all over the city. He really wished there was a single place he could go to and order all the applications he wanted, just like a restaurant menu. I said why not make it into a web site and that is where it all started. We immediately roped in our friend Urvish and together we have reached till where we are.
Can you tell us about your educational background etc?
Well, we are three of us in this. I, Varun Seth and Urvish Kukreja. But I can speak with fairness only for myself. Quite inspirationally none of us are from a computers/IT background. The three of us are pursuing our MBA Tech in chemical engineering and finance (a unique five-year course that combines an engineering course with MBA) degree at Narsee Monjee. But programming is a wonderful second love for me. The site was developed from whatever experience I had had earlier, developing several in-house applications for my college.
Both I and Urvish have done our schooling from the CBSE board, and Varun is from the state board and has spent most of his useful life in Mumbai. So understandably, Varun is more on the button when it comes to the experience that students go through in Mumbai after passing out from Class X. He thus had the honour of being in the most annoying position while we were developing our software. He was our homegrown 'critic'.