YourStory.in in conversation with Rupesh Shah, co-founder of InOpenRupesh, what is InOpen all about?
InOpen is an education startup incubated by IIT Bombay. The Company was started in Oct 2009 with the vision to be a quality content generation and resource training company. Since 2009, InOpen Technologies has already empowered 40,000 students by providing them with computer science education.
The startup provides a fun and easy way for school children to learn useful computer skills. The computer science curriculum was developed in collaboration with IIT Bombay after extensive research across different disciplines of information technology, pedagogy and child psychology.
InOpen provides affordable education based on the open source software platform. The uniqueness of the model comes from its delivery mechanisms that ensure consistent improvements in learning efficiency over time. The solution is designed based on validations from experts and academic institutions in India and abroad. InOpen offers products and services to private schools, municipal schools, government schools, and various State Boards.
The first aspect of the company’s two-fold vision is to create quality content that is scalable and can be deployed across different sectors. The second aspect is to establish benchmarks for school teachers that empower them with holistic training, thereby creating valuable impact on the entire teacher intake process.
Tell us about your background. How did you meet your co-founder, Prof. Sridhar Iyer?
I am a Computer Science Engineer. I researched at IIT Bombay under the guidance of Prof. Sridhar Iyer who is a faculty member of the Computer Science Department. I was associated with another venture before InOpen, which I had started during my college. My team managed to do decent business of over 50 lakhs in 8 months. Due to some differences, we walked away from the venture, but I have always held the belief that I can start something on my own again.
During this time, I spoke to Prof. Sridhar about possible synergies in school domain; he was working on a project called Computer Masti to develop IT content to be taught at schools. Our conversation clicked and we co-founded InOpen.
We see that InOpen is a SINE incubatee. How did SINE support you in scaling your venture?
We started talking to SINE in July 2009 and got incubated that following November. SINE Incubation was critical because it helped the company in terms of infrastructure, mentorship, and overall visibility in terms of brand building and reaching out to investors. SINE helped us a lot by connecting us to the right people. I can say that incubators like SINE help a lot in shaping up startups.
What is the size of your team, currently?
We have a total strength of 35 employees within two broad divisions, Academics and Business Development. We have managed to assemble a group of very talented and creative people who share the same passion and energy. Personally, I think that I am blessed to have such a wonderful team.
Tell us in detail about the project Computer Masti.
Computer Masti (CM) addresses the need for active computer learning through a cutting edge IT curriculum. Based on extensive research that has been conducted since 2006, CM has been designed as a content service solution to teach computer science in schools. It adopts a constructivist pedagogical approach, which encourages students to keep asking questions, and to explore on their own. Apart from teaching computer literacy skills, the curriculum also teaches other concepts such as stepwise thinking and logical reasoning. The actual content is presented in a story format through two children, Tejas and Jyoti, who have a conversation with a computer conversant named Moz.
Some of the unique features of Computer Masti are
Thematic Integration - Thematic integration views learning and teaching in a holistic way and reflects the interactive nature of the real world. Traditionally, thematic integration was achieved via computer enabled learning that used technology to teach other subjects. Computer Masti adopts a reverse thematic integration approach, in that it reinforces what students learn in other subjects, such as Science and Maths, while learning computers.
Spiral Curriculum - As the name indicates the curriculum is designed in a spiral format. Topics such as word processing are spread across different level books, such that they are graded according to difficulty, from simple to complex. This provides students with the opportunity to achieve higher cognitive levels during successive encounters with a certain topic.
Narrative Style - For young children, story format works better than other methodologies because it uses contextual examples that seem realistic and draw in the natural comprehension of children. Additionally, it provides the children with role models and makes the course engaging.
Yoga and Ergonomics - Computer Masti also addresses ergonomic factors. It covers topics of healthy computer practices, such as proper posture, dos and don’ts, and different exercises. Yoga asanas are further included to imbibe healthy student lifestyles.
Sounds very interesting. How has the adoption been so far?
The feedback from the industry has been great. We started implementing Computer Masti in December 2009 and have since grown from serving 2000 students to approximately 40,000 students spread across 52 schools. We have trained more than 350 teachers and transliterated Computer Masti into eight Indian languages and two foreign languages. The e-book has been downloaded in 120 countries.
How do you make money?
We have three revenue verticals:
Revenue from Computer Masti content, teacher training, and teacher and sys-admin deployment that we offer to schools.
Revenue from our work with various state governments and consortiums.
Revenue from camps and short-term courses
Congrats on the recent funding round from VenturEast. How much capital did you raise? Tell us how the VenturEast plans to add value apart from the monetary support? What would you use the money for?
Thank You. We have raised 500,000 USD for a minority stake in the seed round of funding. A few other investors approached us, but we chose to go with Ventureast. They have immense experience in dealing with early stage startups and have the ability to help them scale and grow. The investment from VenturEast will be instrumental for InOpen to scale up across India. The goal is to reach one million students in the next two years. The money will primarily be used for fleshing out the team, attracting new talent, focusing on research, and enhancing logistical capacities.
Do check out their website for further details about the venture http://www.inopen.in/