Originally from Melbourne, Jenkins now splits his time between Australia and India. She previously held senior positions in international strategy, recruitment, external relations, marketing and admissions functions at three Go8 universities in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Being at home during the pandemic and not traveling was the catalyst for Jenkins to start the business while also becoming part of the “Great Resignation”, says The PIE.
“In the middle of the road until 2021, I was never home so much, I couldn’t travel, I couldn’t leave the country. I hadn’t traveled that much since high school, so I was literally grounded and had a lot of time to think,” she says.
“Every day at work we were in strategy crisis mode about international students – what are we going to do without them? How will we teach them online? How will he come back?
“I wanted to do something bigger on a much more global scale, which I’d never really had time to stop and think about before.”
Another reason Jenkins was inspired to go out on her own was that as an international director, she often only saw students when they needed it, when they came to her office after receiving bad advice or missing out somewhere along the way around home.
“These things got me thinking, what if they got much, much better support and advice in their home countries?
“I knew it was now or never.”
“I knew it was now or never. And I haven’t looked back.”
India has been and is Jenkins’ second home since he first visited the country more than 20 years ago as a young recruiter and has returned several times every year since then.
And so Gradstar was born. Jenkins describes it as a “co-design experience,” where counselors, or “dream makers,” work with students in the early stages to shape their futures.
Jenkins was concerned that students were often pressured into a “quick sell” and notes that there are no algorithms in Gradstar.
“It’s really highly personalized,” he explains.
Now with two offices – one in Delhi and one in Mumbai – and over 20 employees, it’s been an exciting inaugural year for the firm, with over 200 applicants applying to over 450 universities since launch.
“It probably doesn’t sound like much in India, but because of our high-touch approach, we spend a lot more time with each individual student and have a high conversion rate.”
But it’s not just about recruiting students. Gradstar also works with high schools and colleges to build partnerships with universities, setting up articulation agreements, travel programs and generally acting as a “partnership facilitator,” Jenkins says.
Jenkins describes the Indian market as “super exciting”, partly because it has the largest population of young people in the world.
“There’s really no limit to what you can do in this market, and you have to be very selective in your approach to make an impact in a way that creates value,” he says.
Jenkins notes that while the market is saturated, she is confident she can use her college education to differentiate herself and provide a trusted premium product and service to students and partners.
Throughout her career, Jenkins was aware of the “brain drain” the sector was contributing to by taking the brightest and brightest citizens out of the country, often not to return.
“You have to be very selective in your approach to make an impact in a way that creates value”
“It was hard for me not to give up. I decided that Gradstar would be a profitable business.
“There is so much diversity in the education space in India. A percentage of profits go to educational development projects in rural and regional India.
That’s not without its own challenges, says Jenkins, who worries about squeezing money out of corruption and the lengthy bureaucracy and red tape that setting up a foundation in India would entail.
Ultimately, she decided to partner with established NGOs and provide them with project-based grants to report on their findings.
Jenkins joins the PIE webinar to mark International Women’s Day on March 8.