The Challenge

Explore business opportunities to address the college affordability crisis in India, and help design a startup venture and digital product to empower students with good information and sufficient funding.

The Outcome

Research memo, proof of concept, and business model design for a new startup which works with students to 1) make good college choices, and 2) secure smart financing options—a combination which delivers maximum return on education.



For most people, college education will be the second most expensive purchase they will ever make, after buying a house. Choosing a college and securing the necessary funds to attend often comprise a tricky experience for students and their families as they are inundated with conflicting information, few financing is determined after the admissions process, and the true value of specific degrees and courses is often unclear. This is especially true in India, where so far, there are few companies that help students make the right college choice. 

Quicksand approached us with a desire to explore a broad area of inquiry:  

How might we improve access to higher education for Indian students?

The team was committed to addressing this question using a design-led approach. They engaged us to lead the research and facilitate the design of a human-centered product and business model. See below for more on our process and for detail on the product which combines both good advice and exploration of funding options to deliver a high return on education.

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From question, to insight, to design

We started with a 4 week intensive research study, which included over 50 interviews with students, parents, academic institutions, funders, and counsellors to capture firsthand stories and perspectives on the challenge. It also included secondary research to document the current education financing landscape.

The research was synthesized and translated to specific opportunities for design. We facilitated a series of ideation sessions with the founders of the venture to develop a unique, student-centered product offering, grounded in the insights from the research. Next, we brought the product to life by designing a viable business model and a strategic roadmap for growth.

Ultimately, we helped design and launch a live prototype of the company. The live prototype was designed to test, iterate, and refine the concept by taking a set of early customers through the entire journey with a lite version of the final product.

This allowed us to stress-test everything from product features, to customer experience, to business operations, ensuring that the final product was truly human-centered, viable, and market ready.