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Back in 2007 when Payal Doshi was in the second year of engineering, her father introduced her to an idea -- a software that would randomly select questions from a database and compile a test of the student’s choice of topic and total marks. Payal tried to develop this based on whatever knowledge she had at that point about computer programming, and got it working by testing it on a LAN. But she realized that the knowledge was certainly not sufficient to take up the complete project. As time went by, Payal got busy with studies. But the idea always remained at the back of her mind.
Payal went on to complete her Masters from USC in Computer Science in 2011 and started Prime Softech Solutions Pvt. Ltd. She decided to take up the ‘longed-for-idea’ as her first project. She roped in two of her engineering classmates, and was finally able to convert the dream into reality.
PREXAM was launched as a beta version initially for testing purposes. The team collected the first round of feedback and apart from a few small bugs, the software was running flawlessly. This boosted their confidence and they launched and advertised for the CA-CPT (Charted Accountancy Entrance Exam) in February 2012. The response from students across India was tremendous.
“We got some excellent feedback from teachers as well as students, and a few of them have now become star features in PREXAM. From here, PREXAM has never turned back and has grown to host more and more courses,” Payal exclaims.
What is PREXAM.com?
PREXAM.com is a tool for self-evaluation of one’s preparation for exam. PREXAM is like a study partner. Every time you read a chapter or subject, you can login to PREXAM and take a test on that topic. Once the test is over, your answers are evaluated immediately and you can view the correct answers along with their solutions. Further, the ‘Prep Analysis’ report will compare your scores and tell you where you stand among your peers appearing for the same exam as you. It will guide you on your current preparation level and help you understand where you need to improve. In addition, you can take an error correction test for incorrect answers.
“This website was developed and launched in its initial form in December 2011 and we have adding new functionality and new courses since then. We recently launched discussion forum for students where they can ask their queries and discuss with professors and other students,” she adds.
The market for exam preparation
In India, more than 45 lakh students appear for entrance exams for Engineering, Medical, CA, CS, Banking etc. These students are in the age group of 17-23 and have good technology awareness. Students are increasingly using internet on their PCs and Smartphones for studying and the number of such users will grow tremendously in the coming years. Further, few of the engineering and banking exams are being taken online and this is driving more students to use computer and internet to assist them in their studies.
This is the opportunity that PREXAM.com is looking to cash on.
“Through the means of Internet, we are able to reach students even in remote locations and help them pursue their dreams. We currently have a brilliant student appearing for CA-CPT, registered on PREXAM, who lives 40 kms away from Dehradun. The PREXAM Team of guides and professors are helping him with his study queries. Something like this makes us feel proud as well as fortunate that we are able to help out students in such unique way,” says Payal.
The unique feature that distinguishes PREXAM from other similar websites is that PREXAM is not based on fixed tests. PREXAM has a huge database of questions. Students can decide the test criteria like subject, chapter, marks and difficulty level and the web-based software will randomly select questions based on the given criteria and present a test to the students. Even if a student selects the same criterion he/she might still get a different question paper every time.
What’s in a name? Zeroing in on PREXAM.com
“Naming a product is always tricky. I had done some reading on how a name should be. When we were thinking about a name, we thought of many related to ‘online test series’ or ‘test guru’ but the word ‘pre-exam’ was most catchy. It did not limit the product to just tests but also all other preparations that needs to be done before exams. Pre-exam was then coined to PREXAM which was a perfect jargon and said it all," Payal states. She adds,
The most important thing was that the domain name for the same was available in the .com listing. The .com domain was an obvious choice because it is the most widely recognized top level domain and is a must for any internet-based company
PREXAM team consists of around 15 people. In the initial phase, Payal was responsible for designing the architecture of the web-based software. “I asked two of my college mates to help me out as an additional work to their existing jobs. We then added content developers and PROs to the team who helped us grow further. We now have a separate unit for content development, team of engineers, designers and lot of interns who help us with our work day in and out,” she says.
Payal tells us about her biggest business learning. “PREXAM was not a commercially built software with a pre-decided business plan. Since we did not have any business professional on the team we had to struggle to bring out a good business model for this. We initially launched a business model for a small part of our website which did not work as we had imagined and we had to change the complete business model to the current one to begin with real progress. Business-wise this was a major decision and I feel good that I didn’t stay adamant and pulled back the model that was not working out.”
The portal currently has 41,000 registered students from across India for various courses. “The number keeps growing. In the coming months, we will be launching ‘PREXAM for Institutes’ where institutes like coaching classes and high schools can buy PREXAM test packages for their students and track the progress of their student individually and also the overall class performance. This would help them know where the students lack in their preparations and need more revisions,” she explains.
“We would further like to create a library of videos, study notes and presentations to facilitate students,” she adds.
Hiring continues to be a major challenge for the team similar to other start-up. “We have many friends, siblings and friends’ friends working at our office. Certainly employees who come through references have more sense of belonging and work with responsibility.”
“What keeps us going is the never ending demand from the students who have registered. We receive so many emails and feedbacks each day asking us to add new features, pointing out what needs to be improved. We try our best to fulfill most of them and believe me it’s amazing to know that the list of demands for new features is never ending and your product is being liked so much,” she signs off.