IITians start CrackU.in to help MBA aspirants crack CAT

By Emmanuel Amberber|22nd Sep 2014
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The number of students taking CAT (Common Admission Test) last year was around 2 lakh. That number is expected to rise in the coming years due to the increase in number of IIMs and other MBA colleges. With the expansion of internet and mobile network all across the country, most of the examinations are becoming completely online.

Hyderabad-based CrackU aspires to create a one-stop shop for online test preparation, currently eyeing to seize the post graduate exam market in India. Though the team was chewing on the idea for quite some time the startup formally registered four months ago.

CrackU - Hyderabad

What is CrackU?

Co-founder Maruti says, “We are trying to be a one-stop shop for CAT preparation. Coming from technical backgrounds and having an excellent in-house tech team, we intend to be the best in the three aspects of our business -- content, marketing and technology.

CrackU provides exceptional content and students don't have to search around the web to find the best possible questions, tips and short cuts. All the questions have detailed solutions and tips to help enhance the student's preparation.

The CrackU team firmly believes the current test preparation segment is completely individualistic. Although, there have been major advancements in the technology and internet space over the last decade, they feel there has been little change in the test preparation segment. Maruti says, “Most of the test preparation platforms today are not catering to the big leaps in technology in the mobile and social network aspects. We are trying to make test preparation more social and fun. The amount of preparation that is happening on social media sites, groups and forums is what we are targeting.”

Started in 2008, Test Funda is one of the existing competitors of CrackU, and it is the market leader in this space. Maruti says, “Our main difference with Test Funda is that we are more interactive with the students, and more social network and mobile friendly.”

CrackU Team Hyderabad
CrackU Team

How the co-founders met

Maruti Konduri and Srikanth Lingamneni knew each other since the 11th grade. They were also batch mates in IIT Bombay Computer Science and worked in Rediff together for a year before pursuing their MBAs at IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Calcutta respectively.

Maruti and Sayali Kale were batch mates in IIM Ahmedabad and worked in Hong Kong in different investment banks. When Maruti and Srikanth finalized on the idea, Sayali also joined the team.

Srikanth is the Co-founder and the geek in the team. He is an excellent coder and used to build many hacks since his under graduate days. One of his favorite products was a search engine he built to help students search for specific files in all the FTP servers hosted in IIT. He worked as a social game developer for Disney and is using that experience to make the online platform more social and fun. He is the CTO of the company and brings ardent passion and excellent coding skills to the job.

Maruti is the Co-founder & CEO, and considers himself as a people's person. He loves to help students prepare for competitive examinations. His comfort zone is in giving ‘fundas’ and advice to students. A chess enthusiast, he loves to strategize about everything -- from how students should manage their time during CAT to how an election campaign should be run. He is extremely passionate about startups and is an active member in the budding Hyderabad startup eco system. He drives the marketing and public relations aspect of CrackU and is the CEO of the venture.

 Sayali Kale used to work in the Quant side of an investment bank – known for her problem solving skills. She is interested in puzzles of all sorts from crosswords to probability problems. An avid reader, she loves reading up on obscure topics just to find interesting passages for CrackU reading comprehension quizzes. She is the head of the content section of CrackU and is responsible for developing high quality content for CrackU.

The product vision of CrackU

CrackU content development work is done in-house. Quality questions hosted on the platform are handpicked by the team.

“We are providing exceptional content, and students don't have to search around the web to find the best possible questions, tips and short cuts. All the questions have detailed solutions and tips to help enhance the student's preparation,” says Maruti.

CrackU has a Live Leader Board from all around the country to help students assess their relative position with respect to their peers in real time.

Regarding the metrics tracked behind the Leader Board, Maruti says, “MBA entrance examinations in general and CAT examination in particular lays a lot of emphasis on speed and accuracy of a student. The CrackU Leader Board also takes the same parameters into account, the number of questions attempted correctly and the time taken to solve them.”

CrackU’s challenge to pass the trust litmus test

One of the biggest challenges that CrackU faced was building trust.

Maruti says, “We only have online presence and students initially were hesitant to pay money to an entirely online entity. Many students used to tell us that they liked our content but were not sure if we were a genuine company. People are not hesitant to pay online, but the inertia to pay online is greater when you are transacting with a new brand. We tried to build our brand and became more active in social media to gain the trust of students and that helped in resolving this aspect to an extent.”

The CrackU team has three 99.9+ CAT percentiles and two top-30 IIT JEE ranks. After successfully going through these exams themselves, they are now trying to help students prepare for MBA entrance exam easily and successfully.

Monetization & pricing

Their short term revenue is being generated primarily from students. In the medium and long term, they are looking to source more revenue from advertisements and other affiliates.

Maruti says, “We launched our platform around two months back and the response has been very positive. Most of the users gave us feedback that the content was extremely good and that they liked our user interface. The number of registered users on our portal is around 2500.”

At present, CrackU offers two packages to students

- Eight Mock CATs in the new format of CAT which will cost Rs. 499/-

- The practice platform where the questions are categorized according to section, topic and difficulty level. The subscription to this platform costs Rs.1999/-.

During the interview the startup felt generous towards our readers and are offering a promo code ‘YOURSTORY’ to get a discount of 300/-.

In India, the test preparation space is ultra-competitive, and the market is filled with many players. It will be good to see them pass the test they are faced with.

Three tests that CrackU need to crack

In order not to be an opportunity-cost for test takers who chooses CrackU, it needs to pass the following:

-     The test of using technology in a way that recognizes evolved/new habit of students.

-     The test to provide impeccable content that will guarantee test takers’ success.

-     The test of marketing to be in front of the right audience with as little cost as possible.

If the team manages to cracks these, they stand a chance to win.

Here is the list of online test preparation startups in India

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