Lie Nathanael Santoso was already sitting pretty as the executive director of Indonesia’s prestigious private university, Universitas Pelita Harapan, when he decided to build a tech startup called GoKampus in 2018.
Campus life, as many of us know, is not confined within classrooms. Students commit to extracurricular activities; some need access to student loans and scholarships. Santoso realized that many aspects of this could be made more efficient. “For example, the enrollment process needs lots of paperwork and it may require prospective students to go back and forth to the university. Applying for scholarships or financing assistance can also take months,” Santoso told KrASIA in an interview.
GoKampus wants to make students’ lives easier by digitizing the administrative process, like enrollment procedures, searching for internships, managing campus events, and applying for student loans and scholarships, giving students the chance to allocate their time toward more productive activities.”
To enroll at a university through GoKampus, students just need to key in their tuition budget and upload their ID, high school transcript, and headshots. The app then generates a list of universities that match a student’s profile. “University partners give us authority to issue acceptance letters on their behalf, so it is very practical for both students and universities,” said Santoso.
Surging demand due to COVID-19
The platform has around 150,000 registered users and partners with 150 universities across Indonesia. It has logged a spike in sign-ups and inquiries since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Indonesia. “Normally, we have around 10,000 new users each month, but since March, we have nearly 30,000 new users register on our platform in March and April. Our customer service team reported hundreds of thousands of students inquiries, and 70% of them are about financing options including scholarships and loans,” said Santoso.
Because of the pandemic, millions of workers in Indonesia have been placed on unpaid leave or have even lost their jobs. In turn, there is an impact on their children’s education. With the incomes of so many parents slashed, many young people must now seek loans to cover their tuition if they want to stay in school.
Before the outbreak, Indonesia already had a low gross enrollment ratio for tertiary education at 31%, running well below other Southeast Asian countries, such as Malaysia (38%), Thailand (54%), and Singapore (78%), according to a report published by Global Business Guide Indonesia. Santoso worries that Indonesia’s enrollment rate will dive even lower because of the COVID-19 crisis. “Imagine if millions of students lose access to education within one year, this will have a long impact in the future and hamper economic growth. Therefore, we’re creating a number of new services, including instant approval services.”
The urgency is a pivotal response to the problems faced by Indonesia’s student population. GoKampus provides immediate evaluation and approval for three verticals—campus enrollment, scholarship applications, and student loans—giving applicants confirmation within 15 minutes. For scholarships and student loans, an applicant needs to upload their ID and personal data, transcript, and parents’ termination letter or other evidence to prove that their financial standing has been affected by the pandemic.
“This is a breakthrough; you won’t find any companies offering loans or scholarships within 15 minutes like us. I believe we have to move quickly in creating new innovation for students because their education is at stake,” Santoso said.
GoKampus has teamed up with major corporations and private donors for its scholarship program. The startup also recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to generate more funds for scholarships that will go to students who need financial assistance. And the firm works with various banks and fintech companies such as KoinWorks and Pintek for its education loans, getting more than 12,000 loan applicants through GoKampus. The instant approval loans program will be ready for users in the next few weeks.
The platform is also a boon for universities that partner with GoKampus, Santoso said. It helps educational institutions cut costs put toward student recruitment by 30–40%. “GoKampus helps universities to transform digitally since day one with our dashboard and API integration. In addition to the enrollment process, we also provide a push notification feature, so universities can broadcast announcements for their students easily,” he added.
GoKampus is currently developing personalization features, as each campus has a different culture. It also works with colleges that offer remote learning method so that students can access their online materials on the platform.
The company draws revenue from several channels, including B2B partnerships with universities and financial institutions, as well as from fees for processing students’ applications. The startup recently closed its seed funding round, with investments from Sovereign’s Capital, EverHaus, and Azure Ventures.
Going forward, GoKampus will improve its instant approval services. It aims to have at least one million registered students and partnerships with 500 universities by the end of this year. “Education is key for a better future, and we have never been more focused on our mission to help as many students as possible to get better access to higher education.”
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the writers of KrASIA speak with founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.