Class of 2024 graduate Vijay chose to study at Essex because of the provision offered by the Essex Startups team. Having recently completed his MBA, he is now developing a STEM-focused learning platform for children using robotics.

How it started…

I completed my undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering in my home country of India. During my studies, I was the vice-president of the National Society for Entrepreneurship Development student cell where we promote and encourage start-ups within university. After graduating, I went into employment within the pharmaceutical industry, primarily in cancer drug production, but had bigger ambitions of working for myself. In my free time, my friend Narendran Asokan and I began creating an online teaching programme for children, using robotics to enhance STEM learning.

Despite both of us having some business experience, my co-founder and I struggled significantly at the start. However, I wouldn't have made it without his support and encouragement. We were two young students with a passion for STEM education.

After establishing a small but enthusiastic customer base, we were able to leave our jobs and work on the business full-time. We were solely reliant on the revenue from subscriptions to our service, having struggled to inspire potential investors with the value of using VR concepts as a teaching tool. Despite this, our Indian customer base steadily grew, and we were able to expand our teaching offer to customers based in Qatar and the United States.

I relocated to Qatar in December 2019, as we were planning to run an in-person robotics camp for children in April 2020. All places for the camp had sold and we were in the final stages of organisation when the COVID-19 pandemic put the country into lockdown. During the months that followed, we struggled with the financial impact of cancelling the camp and I faced the personal challenges of isolation and destitution being stuck in Qatar. As restrictions began to ease, I was invited to stay with a local family to teach their son. While there, I started making YouTube videos teaching the basic concepts of robotics. Demand quickly developed and I was able to start charging for the service, allowing us to clear the debt from the cancelled camp.

After eventually returning home to India, Narendran and I resumed the running of our business. Having never paid ourselves and putting all revenue back into the business, I decided that I needed to broaden my overall business knowledge to be viable for the longer term. I started looking at MBA courses at various institutions across the globe, as I felt that studying abroad would also help to widen my perspectives of operating in different markets.

Having completed extensive research, I chose the University of Essex because of the dedicated team and event programme in place to support entrepreneurial-minded students. I was fortunate to be offered a scholarship, so made the leap to step back from the business and move to the UK to pave the way for my future.

Working with Essex Startups…

Building on my past business experience, as well as the knowledge I have gained since being at Essex, I am in the process of designing a dedicated learning platform as an aide for teaching STEM subjects using robotics to children from 7 years old.

The support I’ve had from the Essex Startups team has been invaluable. Through participation in their events and 1:1 mentoring I have gained a thorough understanding of the UK market and how to profile my customer base, which is essential if I’m to fulfil my ambition of starting a business here. Back in India, my understanding had always been that you build the product and then take it to market, however I now see the importance of knowing what the market needs before entering the research and development phase.

Participating in iTeams gave me the opportunity to work with a variety of different students on a real-world business challenge and find creative solutions for the organisation we were supporting. It provided each of us with the experience of business consultancy, as well as insight into corporate decision making. At the end of the programme my team was delighted to come in second place during the pitching session to secure a cash prize of £750.

The Summer Bootcamp involved two-days of interactive activities where we honed our business idea before identifying our customer base, considering sales and pricing strategies, and refining our value proposition. Over the weeks that followed I worked on building my business plan, submitting each section to the required deadlines and refining content with the team’s feedback. At the end of the process, I was invited to take part in the Essex Startups Big Pitch event where I was awarded for £500 in investment to progress my business further.

I regularly use Studio X in the Innovation Centre as a base to work on my business, which gives me direct access to the expertise of the Essex Startups team and the opportunity to make valuable connections with other founders at various stages of their start-up journey.

Vijay preparing for Big Pitch event 2023

Image: Vijay and fellow students preparing for the Big Pitch 2023

What’s next…

I have recently completed my MBA, so am able to dedicate more time to the development of my learning platform. As an international student there are restrictions to starting a business and having capital is key. Having an MVP will allow me to demonstrate the scope of my business further and has the potential to lead to collaborative opportunities with similar businesses already established in the UK.

I continue to teach for the robotics education programme I co-founded in India, as I remain a shareholder in the business. Some of the students have been learning with me for over three years, as their appetite to understand robotics and the ways technology is developing continues to grow. Having continued involvement provides insight into the expanding curriculum, which now includes teaching AI concepts, and the changing demands of the market allowing me to integrate enhanced elements into the design of my learning platform.

Words of wisdom…

To be an entrepreneur you need to have a thick skin. When I started my first robotics teaching business back in India, my co-founder and I had forecast that we needed 40 customers a month and we’d then be millionaires after three years of trading. However, the reality of finding a pool of prospective customers, followed by an intense period of conversion to get 40 of them to subscribe to our service, soon became overwhelming. We were extremely ambitious but also naïve, so it’s important embrace the challenges and accept that it’s part of the process.

Starting a business while you study gives you the freedom to fail. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given was ‘start a business while you’re young because you can take as many risks as you like’. You still have to be focused on what you want to achieve, and you will have to make sacrifices along the way, but the overall impact is less, and you are better placed to make changes.


I want to thank my dear friends who motivated me even when I had self-doubt. A special thanks to Katherine Thuan Nguyen, Sayoni Mukherjee, Nelson Kersey Natata, Wiknesh Balanayagam, Ooishi Natsuka, and Mark Farag.

A special mention goes to my mentors Dr Sonia S. Siraz, Deputy Director of The Essex MBA, and Georgina Watts, Centre Manager at the Innovation Centre, Knowledge Gateway.

Find out more

If you have a potential business idea, or are interested in developing your business skills, find out more about the training, events and support Essex Startups offers to current students and recent graduates.