Exams are fun, only if you are in the business of conducting them. Ask Wheebox
My young nephew has an exam every month, and just the other day I was arguing about the need for such stress in children’s lives today. Well, the bad news is that exams and assessments will remain part of our lives, as long as we have the urge to grow. And, in today's super competitive world, it is very hard to find a job that does not require you to appear for some form of test – more so if the job you have applied for is a skill based one.
Nirmal Singh, founder & CEO, Wheebox.com pegs the assessment industry in India to be worth Rs 1,200 crore, which he says has the potential to reach Rs 20,000 crore by 2020. Wheebox.com is a skill assessment startup that conducts tests to evaluate a candidate on psychometric and cognitive ability before they enroll for a job or a course in the University. “India only conducts over 350 million tests each year from K-12 to high ed exams. Out of the total market only 9-10% is online (Internet based), in next 7 years, our study says that over 40-45% of the total exams will be internet based and that is the market we want to capture,” says Nirmal ambitiously.
And, if their technique is anything to go by, then Wheebox has taken good strides in the area since starting up in April 2011. Started with a personal investment of Rs 50 lakh, today Wheebox has around 40 enterprise clients, 600 educational campuses and 4 government bodies, that it recruits for. Nirmal has been in the training industry all his life, and was country head institutional business at NIIT, before that he headed New Horizons for SAARC – all of which he eventually gave up to start Wheebox.
Wheebox today competes with Pearson Testing Solution, SHL and Merittrac in its offerings. However Nirmal says, they are able to make a difference because of some hard earned credentials. He claims Wheebox is India's only certified member of International Test Commission; it has an online platform certified from IBM Labs on scalability. In addition to that, industry recognition from CII, National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, Ministry of MSME for Sales and Human Resource Skills Test are some of other feathers in its hat. Wheebox claims to also have the largest logistic chain in India, in the form of their partners across 13,000 physical locations in the country, where candidates can get access to Wheebox's testing and other educational services. They are also present in over 1000 colleges across India.
Wheebox recently partnered with CII to launch an employability skill test in 16 States and 1800 educational campuses across India. The test hopes to identify the skill gap that exists in the industry today by deploying a scientific approach across 244 domain areas. The outcome of the report will create standard reporting guidelines for corporate on potential skill gap involving all leading players of the industry, supported by CII and active government participation.
The startup, says Nirmal, has grown 300 times each year since inception, and enterprise businesses have been a bulk contributor to its revenues. The challenges however in the journey has been on the content standardization, logistics setup, team building and customer acquisition front. To tackle the problem, Wheebox has a team of 30 professionals working in R&D, product design, technology, business development, strategy and marketing. They also hire management interns each year to help them in their work.Being in the business of evaluating professionals, Wheebox tests are designed keeping in mind what set of users will benefit from the test they take. So for example Employability Skills Test is for final year graduating students, Cognitive Abilities Test is to understand learning abilities, Career Test is to identify possible suggested careers. The tests taken by enterprises are designed and customized based on the roles they hire for, key responsibility areas of candidates, years of experience, skill certifications etc. “The domain skill tests and cognitive abilities are changed after a certain frequency however career tests, behavioral tests are generally changed after a certain period and not that frequent,” says Nirmal.
A major focus for Wheebox has been to work and partner with AICTE and other skill development bodies in different states and sector skill councils. The said group form its current customer base. These customers are charged per use on the basis of volume of users, number of tests conducted, subscription period, test management SLAs and customization. Hosted on IBM Smart Cloud Enterprise Server and a cloud platform, Wheebox services cost between 5 USD to 15 USD per test per person.
For advertising and marketing its service, the startup relies on digital media and niche print media. While it continues to focus on India, Wheebox is also exploring Middle East and Canada markets through local partners and partnerships with industry partners who have skilling challenges similar to India.
Given the large potential that the space still has to offer, Nirmal is confident of growing and scaling. Todate, Wheebox has raised funding from Lumis Partners, which recently gave them Series A round. And, if the potential of the sector is anything to go by, then Wheebox is still just a drop in the projected Rs 20,000 crore sector.