Acquiring 4 lakh users within 8 months and raising funds from TIL: GradeStack’s story
Adoption of technology and dissemination of educational content on the go have been increasing over the past few years. With debut of low cost smartphones, India is set to buy over 230 million smartphones this year(Guardian study), out of which a major chunk will be bought by students (between ages 16 and 25). With the aim to make education engaging and available on the go, Vibhu Bhushan, Sanjeev Kumar and Shobhit Bhatnagar started GradeStack.
GradeStack brings educational content for GRE, CFA, CBSE boards, IBPS (Bank Clerk/PO) among others to the student’s mobile devices where they can quickly learn, practice and compare with their peers. It also has social element where students can ask and solve doubts.
The Noida-based company recently raised an undisclosed amount of investment from Times Internet Limited. GradeStack was also part of the summer 2013 batch of TIL owned accelerator TLabs.
“Being a part of the TLabs program worked well for us while raising funds. Times Internet is very bullish on mobile and like us they also believe that education is a huge consumption category. TLabs liked our team, traction and what we were doing. It also aligned with their philosophy so they further invested in us,” says Shobhit.
There are multiple players in the ed-tech space and some of them are well funded too, but the biggest USP GradeStack has over competitors is that it follows mobile first approach. “Seeing our consumption numbers we have figured that the biggest driver is the smartphones and not tablets where we initially started. We are working really hard to understand how users are interacting with their phones and our learnings are the key differentiators over competitors,” adds Vibhu.
Besides this the trio understood that investing in content is too expensive and the return was much harder to get. Hence they built a strong comprehensive backend system that can take up any form of content and can manage multiple courses structured in different manner. “This helps us operate more like a marketplace giving us the flexibility to get into multiple courses and exam categories with minimal investment,” reveals Shobhit.
The startup has been drawing significant response over the last eight months. At present, it has over 4,00,000 downloads across 30 plus courses. “When it comes to popular courses, a lot of job oriented courses have done really well, we have received over 60,000 downloads for courses related to banking and other government services,” says Vibhu.
GradeStack offers freemium model where some content is available for free and charges student for accessing the complete course. For scale, the startup is looking to add more course categories. “International markets are a huge opportunity that we are betting on. We are in the process of launching our first set of international courses,” adds Shobhit.
Acquiring users for mobile is challenging as it’s quite different from web and a lot of the traditional channels that work on the web are of limited use. “We have worked on a lot of innovative strategies specific to mobile and some of them have done really well for us,” says Shobhit.
“Taking GradeStack to multiple platforms is our first priority — we are working on our iOS version right now and plans for Windows are also underway,” adds Sanjeev. The company also plans to turn its platform into a DIY tool where publishers can create and publish their courses themselves. “We are already working with a couple of content companies to test it out and fine tune it to match with how publishers work,” says Sanjeev.