B.Tech graduate Prashant Deshwal has always believed in the saying: there’s nothing like a free lunch. And so, when he decided to appear for the IBPS exam to pursue a banking career, he was mentally prepared to spend money in the preparation. However, living in remote Bijnor town in Uttar Pradesh, he had access to neither coaching institutes nor tutors. Browsing through the web, he came across Pyoopel.com – an online test and coaching portal where he found courses that were completely free of cost. Pyoopel is a portal that offers free online video coaching with extensively researched courseware. It has now reached 5,000+ students through eight free test courses. The site stands out among portals offering free tests in that students will not have to pay any money at all to avail the tests, as opposed to others who provide some tests free of charge, but have a pricing model for tests taken later. The site is, in that sense, truly MOOC (Massively Open Online Courseware).
Pyoopel Co-Founder Bharat Patodi notes that coaching industry in India is still an unorganised sector. “They charge exorbitantly since they have no standardisation of fee structure. Our effort is to offer at least the coaching for competitive examinations free of cost,” he says.
Currently, Pyoopel is a pool of eight test prep courses, including 150 lectures. The team has built 1000+ questions from scratch, says Bharat, adding that this ensures their tests/quizzes are original and competitive. “We are also working on creating quality mocks for aspirants so that the learning experience can be complete,” Bharat explains. The free test prep courses include mocks tests like IBPS, CAT, CMAT, CLAT, GRE, SSC, NDA and CDS, all of which students can access by signing up on www.pyoopel.com.
The team is analytical in its approach. For instance, it noticed that after 15 lectures, there’s a dip in the interest level of students, since they watch the lectures out of self-motivation. “Even portals offering the best of online lectures across the world face a similar challenge. So we are improving our content every day. Our courseware is methodical. The duration of almost all theory lectures is less than seven minutes which is followed by 15 minutes of practice time,” says Pyoopel Co-Founder Swati Choudhary.
“Also, we have started a crowdfunding event to help us get a better studio so that we can make our video lectures more engaging. The crowdfunding is right now trending at indiegogo.com where we have raised about 80 per cent of the funds so far,” she adds.
Bharat is FMS Delhi alumnus who got into entrepreneurship soon after college, while Swati holds an MBA from IBS Mumbai and has worked with ICICI Bank for about two years.
The duo had bootstrapped Pyoopel in December 2014 in Indore but wished to rope in course sponsors apart from raising money through crowdfunding campaigns. Pyoopel’s office is a small room in Bharat’s home in Indore. “While preparing for CAT from a noted coaching institute, I also did part-time teaching to support my fees. It was during this time that I met Swati and both of us felt that students paid exorbitant amounts of money on coaching. This was a gap we wanted to bridge,” says Bharat, who, along with Swati, has published a couple of books as well.
How do they wish to keep it running in the future? “We are currently in talks with institutes and universities for sponsoring our courses. For example, for a management college, it makes a lot of sense to sponsor a course like CMAT. It’s a synergistic approach towards getting the universities to realize the importance of test prep and yet not burden the students with any extra fee. Pyoopel will soon earn from ads and sponsors,” informs Bharat.
There are eight lakh test takers for IBPS exam alone, and close to two lakh for CAT. While Pyoopel is already catering to this market, their target is to include SAT and GMAT free preparation too by the end of this year, making the free test course tally to 10.
“Our target is to reach 20,000 students by the end of this year,” Swati adds.
Do they have mentors? “None, really. Difficult situations we faced during our startup journey become our lessons,” says Bharat.
Inspiration, however, is drawn from student testimonials and volunteers who wish to work for them. One such volunteer is a 17-year-old DPS Raipur student Akshat Tripathi, who had stumbled upon the website in his search for online help. “When I realised they are providing every test course for free, I wanted to join them. This is such a good cause for the student community. I am currently preparing SAT content for them,” says Akshat.
Pyoopel.com may have triggered a quiet revolution that would make MOOC culture popular in the student community. With two founders, one volunteer and a Nikon camera, the startup is attempting great things. And there may be more volunteers (and sponsors) waiting to join the bandwagon.