Everyone of us has gotten into the never-ending argument of how the current education system is flawed on different grounds, but no-one has ever come up with a concrete solution to try and change it. Meet Rohan Mukherjee,who understood that lawyers/ legal professionals have a need of part-time associates and at the same time students needed a better working option while studying. He then, attempted to bridge the gap between the two and founded GrayScale during his 3rd year at National Law University.
Q) What inspired you to start Grayscale?
A) Honestly, frustration towards the system of higher education surrounding me. Here we have this amazing discipline in the Law which can be used and moulded to so many applications and colleges manage to somehow turn it into a dry subject with prime focus on internals and attendance. Apart from this, it hit me in my third year at law school that lawyers/legal professionals have a dearth of interns at their offices for most part of the year, while students at their campuses have access to sophisticated research databases and other resources. So it was my attempt at putting these two industrial needs together.
A) Grayscale focuses on letting students ‘earn’ their recognition and outreach. This is done by providing ancillary legal services to professionals, and if they are satisfied by the competence of an associate, they offer an internship to him/her to further test out his/her merit. We have also received direct recruitment offers from professionals aiming to set up their own law firms. Our services range from legal research, proof reading documents, drafting and proving inputs to drafting committees; essentially any activity within our capacity as law students. We also aggressively collaborate with other programs, NGOs, journals and other organizations that help law students get noticed, or to do something other than crib about their GPA. We also run GrayLine as a service for laymen and to make the law easier for them to understand in the form of an online helpline and blog posts.
Q) Share some information about your services. What is your partnership strategy?
A) Our partnerships are always based on mutually beneficial terms and since there is no monetary transaction involved, both the parties are free to be creative with what they can offer as a benefit to the other party. LawLex and The Lex-Warrior are our Media and Knowledge Partners respectively. In exchange for the promotion of Grayscale, we provide associates who can function as Research Associates for LawLex and also get a chance to publish their articles on an e-journal. This has worked out very well for us since Grayscale’s inception. Nothing can be more logical and practical than a pure barter of services.
Q) Share some information about the founders.
A) Grayscale was founded by me (Rohan) in my third year at law school. By the time I thought of Grayscale I had served as an Associate Director at Model Governance Foundation and had been involved in other outreach/impact oriented activities. Adhiraj Gupta, our COO joined me in some time and it was us who did the initial recruitment. Shivam Hargunani, who is our Diversity Consultant also tagged along with his encouragement during the initial phase. But a few weeks down the line and we had discovered some amazingly diligent individuals who were ready to put in their best towards our objects and a ton of our progress would not have possible without Swati Sharma (HR Manager) and Nivedita Saxena (PR In-Charge).
Q) What was the vision mission of your legal service? What exactly you wanted to do when you started with GrayScale?
A) The concept of LPOs is still fresh in India, and one that is purely run by students is even more so. But setting up a mere legal research organization was not the aim, the dream was to create a mechanism by which students can somehow get a foothold in the legal industry prior to their graduation, in the hope that it would make their transition from a graduate to a professional slightly smoother. There are students who are satisfied with the daily dosages of herd mentality that is produced in educational institutions, but there are some who aren’t. These are the people who are raring to go at their career and to grab hold of opportunities by the collar and utilize them for their personal benefit. Grayscale is for these people. This is also an attempt to call a spade a spade. In this field, it is extremely important that you know the right people in order to place somewhere, it is essential to hustle your way to the top in your 20s if you fantasize about being influential in your later years. Grayscale provides a platform for students to ‘earn’ their outreach, recognition and goodwill. Let me explain, when you deliver a quality assignment, even if you are not offered an internship, the client will invariably recommend you to his/her colleague and it is well established that word-of-mouth works much better than any promotional campaign
Q) What kind of difficulties have you faced in the process?
A) The difficulties that any start-up would face, but with a twist. My concern was never getting funded or aiming for a healthy valuation, my job was to change the attitude that students have towards their profession. Being purely a non-profit organization, we had to build on our client’s confidence; because no lawyer would just delegate his work to a bunch of students he hasn’t even met before. That is where we had to appeal to the needs of both students and professionals. Professionals had to be assured quality services and students had to be rewarded for their time, so constant vigilance at both ends is a daily task for us. Of course with time we had to let go of students who had signed up only to be associated with something, there are many who get a high out of seeing their name appear somewhere and not work towards maintaining that. We have a problem with that here. If I’m boasting of efficiency and quality service to our clients, I need to be assured that I have the team to back my words.
Q) Have you got any kind of funding?
A) No. We don’t require any funding because technically there is nothing to buy and sell. But whatever expenses are required by Grayscale, are split between Adhiraj, Shivam and me.
Q) What is your user base?
A) That would be NGOs, social workers, international organizations, law firms and independent practitioners. We have also worked alongside a fellow at JusticeMakers, of the International Bridges to Justice, Geneva; our associates are serving as Ambassadors for Wipro’s sustainability program called Earthian; we have provided inputs to the Drafting Committee of the Film Certification and Cinematograph Act and for the Natural and other Resources Requisition and Reparation Bill; we are working with PREDA Foundation, a Philippines based NGO that has been nominated thrice for the Nobel Peace Prize and we also promote the cause of Help children of India.
Q) What is your vision for the next five years?
A) I will consider this to be a successful project even if one associate gets placed via Grayscale. Some of the associates have already been offered internships as a result of their quality service. Since this is a pre-career choice it would be interesting to see what we make out of it when we graduate. Naturally, the time dedicated towards Grayscale will be difficult post graduation, but I would definitely want Grayscale to exist. After doing a status check, I might want to pass on the reins to someone else. Grayscale has some immense potential and we have barely scratched the surface, so apart from being a platform for the hustlers and rebels, I’d like Grayscale to be synonymous with an uninhibited aggression towards building your professional self.
Q) What will be your advice/suggestion to budding entrepreneurs for starting up a business?
A) My only suggestion would be to believe in one’s vision. The world around you will be skeptical, unsure and critical- it is their job to be so. But in order to go somewhere and to matter, you need to focus on your idea and nothing else. Be selfish about it; be obstinate and stubborn about what you believe. Because a few paces down the line, there is no better rush than seeing something that existed only in your mind, make a dent in the world.
The above article has been adapted from our partner Techaloo.com