“Completely Online Educational Solutions won’t Work for India” – Arun Kumar, Co-Founder Suphalaam
Over the last few weeks, we have covered a number of e-learning solutions. Ever since we started researching for the Edustars campaign about a year ago, the amount of activity in the education sector in India has astounded us. And within this, the e-learning vertical has especially received a lot of attention. And from content providers to platforms and enablers, there is a common thread connecting all of these solutions – the use of cloud technologies. It enables unprecedented accessibility and the distributor can forego the problem of buying and maintaining servers.
But does the Indian ecosystem have the infrastructure to support and provide cloud based e-learning solutions to the masses? The reality is that high bandwidth internet is only available in urban India while 70% of India suburban and rural have sub standard connections.
The question to ask here is that do these solutions address the masses? With internet penetration deepening but only still at a miserly 10%, the larger problem lies in taking the education to the wider cross section of the population. Understanding the nature of this ecosystem is very important and Suphalaam is possibly the only one of the organizations we encountered that addresses the problem of the masses.
Technology Solutions in Education for India
Suphalaam Technologies Private Limited designs cost-effective embedded system products that bring rich multimedia applications into the hands of consumers. Multimedia is a powerful agent in education and it is has been fully leveraged in their range of educational products.
Suphalaam is headed and co founded by Purushottam Mishra who is an IIT B aand ARM Aluminus and Mr. Arun Kumar, who has also ex-ARM. Together, they have led Suphalaam’s drive towards some innovative solutions in the technology eneabled educational products such as a hand held device which aids in preparations for competitive exams.
Their most recent product is a tablet based learning platform which aims to make quality learning resources from coaching institutes availible in a portable and interactive platform. In a conversation with Mr. Arun Kumar, co-founder of Suphalaam, we were introduced to the infrastructural shortcomings of India and how they have a stop-gap solution that overcomes it.
Tablet is the way forward; fully online solutions, not so much
“One thing people have got right is the migration to tablets and personalized learning solutions. Every child has his/her own pace of learning and tablets are a good medium to learn as they are more portable and more interactive.”
“What won’t work currently for most parts of India are the fully online solutions; the ecosystem doesn’t support it. We cannot assume that everyone will have a high speed internet connection. We need specific solutions for India.”
Arun also believes that there is more scope for e-learning platforms than content based solutions as the former can fit into other people’s systems better.
Less online, more offline
Suphalaam has tied up with 4-5 key players in the coaching industry and are rapidly expanding the availability of their system in other parts of the country.
“I worked at ARM before and so our organization has a good understanding of system hardware requirements. We have tied up with a premier OEM as our device partner. As for content, we have tied up with famous coaching institutes such as Sriram academy in Chennai, who have converted their coaching material for digital distribution. We now have 10 clients and over 3000 students using our system.” Says Arun on the success of Suphalaam
The secret, he revealed, lies in the independence of the system from the Internet. “We courier content to the users on mass storage devices and only require a low bandwidth connection for tests and assessments. This makes it easier to access content and is not limited by a transmission medium,” reveals Arun.
This model can suit any coaching institute in India and quality content can reach the masses without any limitations. “We have made substantial revenue with this model”, he adds. Suphalaam are looking for funding to scale and provide this service to a larger number of people.
While the long term solution would be better IT infrastructure spread uniformly across India’s geography, solutions such as Suphalaam’s is an effective alternative which ensures that the masses of India are not deprived of technology enabled learning.