Ravi Handa wants to make online test preparation affordable and mainstream
“Hi! I am Ravi, Ravi Handa,” a soft, soothing tone introduces itself every time you click one of the numerous videos that teach you Logical Reasoning, Data Interpretation, Quantitative Aptitude etc. Ravi Handa may come off as one among thousands of other instructors who prepare aspirants for the MBA entrance test. But, he is more than that for he is democratizing an industry which has run along similar lines for over two decades now.
Entrance Test preparation industry, especially CAT coaching, currently faces a bunch of problems and the two biggest ones are cost and availability. While there are coaching centres available in most cities, an aspirant still needs to go there and study according to the schedule provided by the institute. In many smaller cities, quality teachers are not readily available. Not to mention that it costs anywhere between INR 25000 to 40000.
“We are trying to fix these two issues by providing an affordable online coaching solution,” says Handa.
Education and mentorsRavi, who studied Computer Science at IIT Kharagpur, got into CAT coaching right out of college. He started working with a leading test preparation company about eight years ago, until he got an opportunity to work at Mindtickle, a gamification startup in Pune. “In terms of mentorship, the most learning that I have had for building something has come from Mohit Garg & Krishna Depura (founders of Mindtickle ). I worked there for slightly over a year. Not only did I learn a lot about building stuff from scratch but they also inspired me to take risks and do something which I really enjoyed.”
All this while, he tried several side projects of his own which never really took off. “I had made a bunch of video tutorials around 6-7 years ago and put them up for free on YouTube. I got a lot of feedback that they were great. However, since CAT coaching is a niche market, depending on ad revenue was never going to be enough to sustain myself,” Handa explains.
Handa ka Funda
Towards the end of 2012, Ravi requested the Mindtickle team to give him some free time to experiment with online courses on his own. He ran a few experiments which worked, and on January 01, 2013, Ravi launched his online CAT coaching course, smartly named Handa ka Funda.
The product which brings in more than 60% of the revenue for Handa is the online CAT coaching course. It is a set of 400+ videos with two doubt clarification classes every week. Last year, 630 students took up the course and Handa is hopeful of hitting a thousand this year. It is already at 400 right now.
The courses range from Indian MBA entrance preparation like CAT, XAT, and CMAT to GMAT, GRE and even banking exams. Pricing is in the range of 2.5K to 3.5K for the comprehensive courses and even less than 1K for smaller courses.
“The USP of our offering is the quality of the content. It is designed keeping in mind that it will be delivered online and a student will study from it at his own pace,” he says.
Handa uses a combination of available technologies and platforms. WizIQ is used to host the courses, SproutVideo is used to host the videos and, Oliveboard is used as the test series platform. Handa’s courses are in the process of being listed on Snapdeal, Udemy, Ufaber, etc. They also recently started collecting payments and selling their courses via Instamojo.The marketing is primarily via social media and word of mouth. Handa himself is a very well-known and respected contributor to various websites. A bunch of videos on YouTube always helps spread the word and he has been consistently helping out students on forums like PaGalGuy.
Since its launch, Handa ka Funda has had more than 5000 paid customers for its online courses. But those numbers were not easy to come by.
“The biggest challenge that I faced initially was convincing students that I will not take their money and run away.” Almost two-thirds of test preparation aspirants come from tier-2 cities. “Barriers to payment are essentially trust issues – whether this course would benefit me or not. Online coaching is relatively a new concept in India,” he adds.
Then there is always the fear of letting go of a stable job. “The key support that I got was from the fact that my wife works at a stable job in a bank. So even if I failed, I was not going to go hungry,” he says, adding, “It is excruciatingly painful being a single founder. Especially for someone like me who is often not sure when taking a decision. Having a co-founder gives you someone to bounce off ideas. I am a single founder not out of choice but because I could not find someone at the right time. I honestly can’t think of any advantage of being a single founder,” Ravi says.
He has just added a test series to the course and plans to add more features and content to make it easier for the students. He wants to have the courses listed on several platforms.
“We are using platforms which can handle much larger number of users and the core offering is inherently very scalable. We would like to get into coaching for Bank PO where the market is a lot larger, once we have a good handle on CAT coaching,” Handa charts his future strategy.
“We are three people working on this project. Calling it a company seems a stretch to be honest. As of now, we are looking to hire someone to handle marketing (SEO, Social Media, Digital Marketing, etc.) The fact that we work from the living room of my flat scares more people than the fact that there is only one founder,” he adds.
CAT coaching is a big market and there are a bunch of big and small players like IMS, TIME, Career Launcher, Test Funda, etc. When asked about his moat strategy, Handa says, “I don’t think we really have a moat strategy other than the fact that we keep on building more content and making the online course more effective. “
When we ask him for some advice to fellow entrepreneurs, Handa gives us an honest answer unlike many before him. “There is already a lot of advice available to entrepreneurs from people far smarter than me. I would not like to contribute to entrepreneurship porn.”
Entrepreneurship porn is something he loathes but what gives him the satisfaction is when he receives messages from students after the results are announced.
“While there have been students who have scored 100/100, the best testimonial was from a student named Kriti Pagariya. She had appeared for CAT the previous year and scored a 43 percentile but after joining our course she scored 86percentile. While the majority of the credit for her performance goes to her hard work but the idea that we were able to help make such a difference was really encouraging.”
What do you think about online training and test preparation? Is it an idea whose time has come? Let us know in the comments.