Kolkata is not the first metro that comes to one’s mind when talking about technology startups in India. But, with the third most internet users in the country (source), and the recent explosion of interest in technology startups, it is joining the bandwagon too. In the city for a few days, we conducted a meetup to bring together startup enthusiasts. It was here that I met Sumit Marda, one of the co-founders of MindHour, an online education portal built on the concept of gamification.
Meeting over coffee the next day, Sumit introduced his friend and technology head of the startup Varun Choudhary. The duo had an interesting story to share. Sumit says, “Both of us have been friends since school days and our wives are co-founders in our venture. The coordination we share is a big strength for the company.” Sumit, himself, had started up earlier with MOOZ, a pulp-based drink for rural India. Sumit says the company was doing well but he exited as he wanted to enter the world of technology and have scale on his side.
“The world of manufacturing has taught be the importance of revenues but I wanted to try my hand at a more scalable model. We’re trying to build a sustainable business with MindHour,” says Sumit. MindHour is an edutech startup for students to ‘practice, play and progress’. It is a curriculum-based Adaptive Learning Programme, designed to ensure a child’s complete preparation in maths and science. “Our exhaustive and in-depth analysis reports highlight specific weaknesses and strengths of the child to help him or her in smart preparation and better resource management,” says Varun. Somya Agarwal, co-founder and head of content development, has built with her team, a pool of 25,000 questions for students of Classes VI to X. Swati Maheshwari, the fourth co-founder, heads the ‘customer delight’ department.
The four have been working on MindHour for a year and have managed to get 10,000 registered users since their formal launch six months ago. They have recently launched paid plans too and a small base of their users has already converted to paying clients. The model hinges on incentives for students answering questions and amassing points, which they can then redeem to win coupons at stores around them. “We have partnered with online portals and offline local restaurants as well to engage the students,” says Sumit. Think of Freecharge in its early days.
The field of online education has been growing fast, and the likes of Coursera, Udactiy and Khan Academy have led the way. Closer to home, test preparation has been the hottest sector. Zishaan Hayath’s Mumbai-based Toppr raised Rs 65 crores in its last round; Kalaari Capital has backed Embibe with USD 4 million, and there are a host of other startups all across the country building in the online education space. For MindHour, the journey has begun and with good user testimonials and willing paying customers, the energy is high on building and scaling from here.