When Ankit Gautam and his brothers first came to Canada as international students, they were immediately surprised by how complex the system was – and how easy it was to get exploited.
“Since my older brother was going into university here, we got to see the different challenges faced by international students. The process is not streamlined,” says Ankit. The family wanted to fight these problems and make the process simpler for other students. This led to the creation of Student-Stop, a virtual one-stop-shop for international students coming to Canada.
The problems faced by international students are complex, and Ankit notes that they’re worsened by the presence of certain fraudulent student support agents. “Many of these agents don’t intend to help students, and charge an insane amount of money!” Ankit exclaims. “Students often have to take loans just to pay these agents, and in reality, sometimes never end up coming to Canada. When these agents are paid, they often disappear! We heard similar stories from many students, and this is what inspired us to start Student-Stop.”
Having a broad set of methods to support students was important to the founders. “When an international student comes here, they may not be aware of a lot of things, right? They need help with housing, banking, admissions,” Ankit points out. “Our mission is to provide everything an international student needs to study in Canada, available at their fingertips. They shouldn’t need to go anywhere else.”
The team behind Student-Stop previously participated in ICUBE’s programming for early-stage entrepreneurs. They attended weekly workshops and completed coaching sessions while forming the idea for the venture. Since then, as the startup has continued to expand, they have maintained a presence in the community by proceeding to the Venture Forward program.
Now, Student-Stop offers an array of services to help ease the burden on international students wanting to study here. These range from support for university admissions and legal support for study permits, all the way to assistance with finding housing close to campus and meal plans in select cities. These services begin long before students actually come to Canada, ensuring that they are safe and well-prepared on arrival.
Ankit highlights that transparency is the name of the game for Student-Stop. “We want students to know exactly what the process is and what they’re going to get on our platform. Often, agents paint a picture in their heads that isn’t always true. As we speak, it’s probably still happening somewhere in the world. Student-Stop provides transparency, so students know exactly what they’re getting.”
The startup has already had an impact, helping students around the world. Ankit says that Student-Stop has provided assistance to clients not only in Asia but also across various African nations, where prospective international students face similar challenges. Student-Stop now has over 200 students from around the world registered on the platform.
But Ankit notes that this comes with a unique set of challenges – particularly that every case is so different. Each student has different needs, requirements, backgrounds, and situations. Often, students might have issues with graduating or want to bring their families along. “Everything is dynamic,” remarks Ankit. “You need to constantly change the platform to cater to a larger set of student requirements. The environment is always dynamic. Working with that is challenging, but it’s also fun for us since we get to solve student problems.”
This was particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had an immense impact on international travel. Student-Stop launched just before the pandemic, which led to a difficult start. “It was pretty challenging,” Ankit remembers. “You couldn’t fly, and there were new requirements. Every day, we were checking the news and seeing how everything would change. It was a confusing time.”
“But it was also good for us, in a way,” he remarks. “We learned a great deal during that time and were able to assist many students in dire need. Helping them gave us a sense of fulfillment and further motivated us.”
Through all these problems, Student-Stop’s goals remain ambitious, but humble. “When an international student wants to study here, we want Student-Stop to be the first name that pops into their mind. They should know they don’t have to go to ten different agents and instead have one platform cover everything,” Ankit emphasizes.
“But, as long as we’re able to help any number of students come here without difficulties, we’d call that success for us. As long as we make a difference.”
To read more information about Student-Stop, visit their website: https://student-stop.com.