"Tech based learning systems needs to be more mainstream," - Pavan Chauhan, Co-Founder Meritnation

By Raghu Mohan|22nd Oct 2012
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Education solutions that depend on minimal infrastructure is the requirement for today, and a handful of companies have managed to do this in India. One such company is Meritnation, an online learning platform for schools and more recently provides online tutorials for competitive exams, namely IIT JEE

and NEET. Critically acclaimed in the startup space, Meritnation now enjoys over 30 lakh users of their online education programs.In a conversation with Pavan Chauhan, Co-Founder and Managing director of Meritnation, we covered some broad topics on the workings of Meritnation, adoption of technology aided solution in India and Meritnations place in tech based education in the coming future.

YS: What was the reason behind building Meritnation? Was this something that you wanted to do?

PC: Yes, I've been involved with the education space for a long time now. I have counselled a lot of students and I have realised that learning has to be customized. What is happening in today's education system is that a teacher addresses the average of a classroom. While everyone over the average level will pick up things quickly, the ones below the average level will not learn properly.

Technology helps us provide customization, I think that is what has resulted in Mertination.

YS: There is an infographic on your site, it says that there are 30 lakh users on Meritnation. How many of these are paid users? Is Merination profitable?

PC: To answer your first question, I can't give you a number on that, but of the users that we have, 5 to 6 percent of it are paid users. As far as being profitable is concerned, we operate at close to break even and invest the surplus in scaling. By scaling I mean, increasing the capabilities of the product.

YS: What is the nature of the tech based education industry in India? What are your views on the mobile platform for distribution?

PC: We are in the retail space, meaning students buy educational products directly from us, and not schools. Partly because of this and the current education system, the offerings of the tech based education Industry is very supplemental in nature. I assume this is how it will start. But over the years, adoption of these kind of solutions is definitely picking up.

I'm really not sure about mobile though. It has many constraints such as screen size and content delivery channels being flaky. We are investing in this area, but as I said, so far I'm not too sure about this model. We'll have to wait and see.

YS: With regard to your recent offerings on the competitive exams space, how do you think Meritnation's IIT JEE or NEET training be better than the conventional and very successful coaching centers such as the one's in Kota, TIME etc?

PC: See, IITs and other educational institutes are not the same any more. Along with providing truly customized learning solutions, I feel the learning using

tech solution will make students more savvy with using these solutions, as this is the norm at these big institutions these days.Furthermore, learning online also allows collaborative learning in the most effective manner, which I find to be most useful in the preparations to an exam.

YS: What are some of the current challenges that you face at Meritnation? Is the current education system a barrier?

PC: We need to figure out how to get people back on our site. I think this is the biggest challenge so far. Figuring this out requires investments in product development and understanding student behaviour.

While the system is the cause some inertia in the early phases of adoption, I don't think it is a barrier for Meritnation as such. Because this results in good results for out students, many parents have written to us saying that Meritnation has successfully replaced the conventional tuitions!

YS: What is in store for Meritnation's future? What are some of your goals?

PC: I think we need to increase our userbase through better outreach to students and along the same lines, also to keep the international scope in mind. In terms of goals, we're focussing a lot of our efforts into making Meritnation less supplementary and more mainstream. That is something that I would like to see in the next 2-3 years.

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