Indian students in the US are a confused lot when they first land. If they don’t have family there, there are bound to be a few goof-ups before they settle in. Most students have questions like these: Can I cook food in my dorm? What happens if I try to work illegally in the US? How expensive is a cleaning lady? How afraid should students be of the new H1B visa rules proposed by the Trump government? And how can I get placed after I complete my studies?
Enter Naren Y and DesiOPT.com. A startup that helps international students gets placed with employers abroad. “We have the largest community of international students; about quarter-million students connecting with more than 2500+ employers in USA who are looking to hire,” says Naren. DesiOPT shot into the limelight in December 2016 when Uber CEO Travis Kalanick signed up with DesiOPT within one minute of talking to Naren.
OPT in the name stands for Optional Practical Training, a term that all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medical) students are very familiar with. This refers to a one-year period after graduation where students can work on their student visa. Also OPT STEM students can extend their OPT for 24 months, hence they can work on OPT for total of 36 months. Most employers are looking to hire STEM students and DesiOPT connects both parties.
Ask how many have been placed and Naren says, “We don’t have the exact numbers but we know for sure it’s in the thousands.” That’s not bad for a website that started off as a hobby. “I started a Facebook page, DesiOPT1, to help Indian students in the USA. Over two lakh students went to the US from India last year. Here, you are pampered: Finances from parents, don’t have to cook food. Over there, you have to adjust to a new education system, and understand new set of rules. If you violate any of the rules, you will be sent back to your country,” he says.
The Facebook page began to attract fans. First, it was 5,000, then it shot up to 200,00 and now they have 130,000 fans. People asked questions and Naren would curate and answer them. He then started a website for the same. “I never really saw a business potential. Even though I had a platform, I didn’t know what to do with it,” he says. Then, one day, Naren received an email from Google AdSense. It was a coupon for $100. It said it would expire on the same day. He gave it a shot. He started getting calls from companies saying they wanted to put ads. The first call was a client who was willing to pay. In 24 hours, the money was in DesiOPT’s account. And then DesiOPT started growing. Naren increased engagement and traction on the site. “I realized if I can satisfy one client, I can satisfy thousands,” he says.
DesiOPT has now begun to attract international students from across the world. “There are quite a few Chinese students who are here as well. There are also MBA students who register with us, says Naren. ”
What’s the future for Indians students in the Donald Trump era? “See, Donald Trump is a businessman. If there are 2 lakh students from India going over there, they contribute millions to the US economy. He’s not going to randomly shut them down,” says Naren and adds, “My advice to students is to take it one step at a time.”