This story is a part of the mSocial Venture series.
Problems without solutions
With 20 years of experience including a long stint at Cognizant starting from 1995, Vaidyanathan in his last years in Cognizant noticed that people often spoke about the problems in the Indian education. At the same time, he noticed that nobody was coming up with a scalable solution for the constraints of the Indian environment either. “Somebody has to do something about it so I decided to do it,” shares Vaidyanatha, CEO & Founder, Classle.The Rural Cause
Though the beginnings of Classle were to address some of the fundamental problems in the Indian education system, Vaidyanathan was not looking for a business idea that would lead him into the social space. But the roots of these problems led him towards addressing the students in rural India who constitute 85% of the student population in the country today. Thus Classle was born in 2009 as a social learning platform based out of the web to later include mobile services to students in the rural parts of India.
“This rural space has not been well studied and is an untested environment. Idea of transformation in that area was a challenge. Especially, it becomes a challenge to investments to back this idea,” points out Vaidyanathan. After trying to raise capital, he eventually committed his savings and started the journey with a clear road map that included the milestone to raise capital later. They have recently received angel funding from Chennai Angels. While capital was only the first hurdle, the next hurdle came to him in the form of employees. Often getting talent to work in a startup becomes very difficult, especially in a social enterprise, it becomes exponentially difficult. This problem was solved by going to the rural market and finding talent right there.
Classle, a social learning platform
As a social learning network, Classle has a two sided model. One side has individual student users while the other side has customers who are potential employers of these students. Currently, Classle has over 2,00,000 registered users in little over 100 partner colleges in their network. Colleges make adjustments on their timetable to offer Classle hour to the students. Mobile being an integral part of their initial vision for the platform, they were focused on building in features so that students can continue to engage with the platform even offline. ‘Kaiyal’ (meaning in your hand) was created to enable students to access audio-video resources from their mobile phones. The mobile interface has been designed to work even with basic mobile phones. If the students have a sim card and mobile phone then they can send test questions over SMS and the system in turn sends reply over SMS. However, Government of india’s SMS policy changes in the recent times have seriously affected their mobile services.Classle has two fold revenue model generating revenue. Educational institution pay for SAAS based per user per month cost. Apart from that, when the students engage on the platform the activity data is rolled up to recommend the students for jobs to companies and they charge companies for the students. “We are able to get jobs for students who are ignored otherwise for their capabilities,” explains Vaidyanathan.
The Road Ahead
“Everybody wants to be in the education space but almost all of them are trying to replicate an existing model rather than understanding the fundamentals of learning in a new setting. We want to make a difference and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. The biggest opportunity is in India. If you can make it work here then it definitely becomes competitive and the model can be definitely used anywhere else. I encourage people go out there and have fun,” concludes Vaidyanathan.
In the past 6-18months, the combination of online, mobile and social learning has shot to limelight. Classle has however had a head start in this space due to their early start 3years ago working against conventional wisdom that has eventually turned in their favour. Online social learning is indeed the phenomenon that is going to be the thing of the future.
Want to find out more about their social learning platform? Take a look at Classle.
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