Info Edge‘s online education portal Shiksha.com has launched a common application form for MBA aspirants that allows them to apply to multiple institutions from a single platform. The company has tied-up with 14 institutes for the service including  SDM Mysore, TA Pai Manipal, Kirloskar Institute of Advanced Management, Alliance University Bangalore, Nirma University, Loyola Institute of Business Administration, Xavier Institute of Management & Entrepreneurship IFIM Business School among others, and it hopes to sign up 100 colleges by the end of the year.

Students can register on the website and apply to multiple colleges through a common profile. They can track application form status, correspond with institutes and pay application fee via the portal. The service is free for both students as well as institutes. Since 15 days of its soft launch, the site claims to have registered 12,500 visits and around 885 completed forms. A few points to ponder:

– Two Years Too Late? When we asked what took the company so long to launch the service, since PagalGuy and Minglebox had launched MBA application services almost two years ago, in 2010, Hitesh Oberoi, Managing Director & CEO of Info Edge, responded that those services were more of test preparation services and even Shiksha allowed students to connect with colleges. When we pointed out that they were indeed application services, he said that “What many people tried to do was launch one form, and they went to colleges, and said “please accept this form”, but colleges said they want information in their format.” According to Oberoi, Shiksha’s new service allows students to apply to multiple colleges following the format prescribed by individual colleges, and the value of the service lies in the number of colleges that are willing to accept admission forms through the service; if the service is not able to sign up even 50 colleges after an year, it will be considered a failure.

– Shiksha users: Although Shiksha claims to register 10 lakh unique visits in a month, the number of active or repeat users is  less compared to users in other categories like jobs, according to him, since the number of students looking for an education course or college is less than the number of job seekers. “Choosing a course or college is an involved decision. During the process users are very active on the site, but once a student gets admission and has decided the course, he might not come back soon.”

– On not charging a transaction fee on the service: Oberoi clarifies that monetization is only through advertising. ” If we get a lot of students, it is more likely that institutes will advertise with us. All these institutes spend Rs 2000-3000 crore advertising across print and other media. So this service will pull in more students, and effectively more advertisers,” he clarified.  Further he reiterated the USP of Shiksha’s service over other similar services : “our form has been customized for individual institutes, because of this more institutes are willing to sign up and thirdly we have a network of offices and sales force and through them we’re confident of signing up more institutes.” Shiksha intends to launch a similar service for engineering and other streams if the service is able to attract good traction.

Other sites offering similar services  include YourNextLeap.com, which recently raised funding from Nirvana Venture Advisors and offers online tools, to offer personalized suggestions for Engineering streams (B.E/B.Tech/MS). It also provides information on Visa, Scholarships, and accomodation for students planning to study in the US. IndiaCollegeSearch.com also allows users to search, filter and browse through 1,000 engineering colleges across India by selecting their location, stream, criteria for admission, maximum fee and management style (public or private). It also allows them to select and short-list a college and send a profile to the college to apply.

Other players in this space include HT Media owned HTCampus, Indiatimes* owned EducationTimes, Educomp owned StudyPlacesPagalGuy.com (one of the earliest online education related ventures in India), Sequoia Capital funded former-social-network Minglebox.comCoolavenues.comMBAUniverse.com,  Accentium* owned StudyNation.

*Disclosure: Accentium is founded by MediaNama founder Nikhil Pahwa’s cousin Vivek Pahwa