An Educated View about Education in India- With Edurite Founder, Srikanth Iyer
Edurite underwent two acquisitions, first by TutorVista and then by Pearson Group. Srikanth now is the COO at Pearson
People in India had hardly heard about the internet in 2000 and at that nascent juncture, Srikanth Iyer had co-founded Edurite with an aim to provide for the educational needs of students across India. Raising an angel round, they kickstarted but the journey was rough and full of obstacles. After putting in rigorous efforts with no signs of fruition, Srikanth had thought of discontinuing but the will inside him made him keep going. He’s proud of the decision now. Srikanth has also been a judge for the ongoing event Edustars which will showcase some of the best education startups from India on 25th of August. We got in touch with him for a discussion on entrepreneurship in the education sector.
YS: Hello Srikanth, it’s an honour to have you with us. Can you take us through key milestones of the Edurite journey?
Srikanth: Yes, we began out in 2000 with an angel round but the initial situation was very gloomy. In 2002, we were questioning whether we should continue or not. At that time, we changed the business plan drastically and went into reboot mode which kind of worked. We progressed slowly and steadily and in 2005, TutorVista became our customers. We began to work closely with them and in 2007 they made an offer for acquisition which we accepted after some deliberation. Post the acquisition, we’ve been growing rapidly and raised capital from Manipal and Pearson. Once this happened, Pearson acquired all the investors and hence, now we’re a part of the Pearson group, the worlds leading learning company.
YS: You mentioned about a shift in the business plan in 2002. On hindsight, what was the biggest mistake you were making?
Srikanth: Primarily, all our products were targeted at students for them to buy and use at homes. And at that time, internet penetration being meager, choosing that target market was a mistake. Total market size we were addressing was very small and more importantly difficult to address. The change we made was to shift focus to schools and colleges and make products for them. Once we had that in place, the target market was easier to address and things became better.
YS: How have you seen the education sector evolve? What would be a trend you’ve noticed?
Srikanth: Let me talk about a very generic trend. One point in India is that volume is the strength and not value. What I mean by that is, we have lots of people who can afford to buy but you will not get them to pay a big ticket like $100 for a product. One thing we understood is that it is a volume driven market and it more prudent to attack volumes than higher margins.
YS: On a personal front, being a founder to again joining a bigger corporate, how was the transition?
Srinkanth: Well, it surely was different. From being on your own to having lots of other people involved in decision making, the change was huge. So, it was different but not very difficult mainly because it was in the best interests of the company. And I don’t regret it one bit.
YS: What parameters did you take into account while getting acquired?
Srikanth: I asked three questions: Is this the right direction I want the company to go? Is the strategic partner compatible with my company’s view? And third is obviously the financials.
YS: What are the gaps in the education sector in India you currently see for startups to address?
Srikanth: The first thing would be to be much focused because there are larger companies to compete with. Startups have to provide niche solutions. Areas like preparation for JEE and NEET examinations, lack of awareness about the CCE evalauation in schools and how to handle it, personalized eLearning (tablet space) are a few areas which one could focus on.
YS: Any advice to your entrepreneurs starting up in the educations sector?
Srikanth: This is the best time to be an entrepreneur. Make the most of the opportunity. The internet has enabled us dramatically to build business in a fraction of the time it took earlier, use it effectively. And don’t forget there is no replacement for hard work!
YS: And, how has the Edustars campaign been for you?
Srikanth: Very nice indeed. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the quality and quantity of companies coming in. The social media side has been also active and the numerous questions that are being raised are pretty thoughtful. I actually have already met a few of the founders and am happy about it. I believe Edustars to be a great platform and more and more such initiatives should definitely take place. I’m really excited about the finals and hope to meet many more startups there!