MockBank Learning Private Limited recently raised about USD 400,000 in a funding round led by Blume Ventures. Singapore-based angel fund Mercatus Capital and India-based angels including Amit Ranjan, Co-founder of Slideshare and Srivatsan Rajan, Chairman, Bain & Company India, also participated in this round. The startup founded in July 2013 by Konark Singhal, Manesh Jain and Ramesh Narayanan claims to have 1,00,000 customers for its government recruitment tests.
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MockBank is trying to disrupt how people discover, apply and prepare for public sector jobs. Its current focus is PSU BFSI (Banks, Financial Services and Insurance). Konark, MD, MockBank, says, “Given the young demographic profile of our country, it is natural that the jobs space will see a lot of technology-led innovation. Most of the innovation in this space has been around private sector jobs. There is, however, a huge parallel universe of sarkari naukri (public sector jobs). It adds up to anywhere between 20 and 40 million unique government job applications every year.”
Arpit Agarwal, Principal at Blume Ventures, says,“For a vast majority of Indians, getting into a government job is a major aspiration as it is still seen as a ticket to a stable and secure life ahead. Unfortunately, the current methods of preparation for the myriad recruitment tests don’t leverage technology and connected lifestyles in any big way. MockBank’s approach is focussed towards solving a genuine problem on the ground."
MockBank considers its market to be a bulk of the pyramid and not just the bottom of the pyramid. It aims to disrupt the space by replacing the high touch, offline model that is currently prevalent in this market with an online model that provides quality services to all users, irrespective of their location.
The startup initially explored three main distribution channels to sell its products: offline test preparation institutes, scratch cards at book shops and online channels. It got the most traction from online channels through social media, referrals from existing customers and hence decided to focus on the same. Konark adds, “Over the last two years we have continuously listened to our customers and incorporated their feedback into our delivery model. Our vision and business model have been validated by the market. Most of our customers come back to buy again.”
Konark estimates that on an average they are able to earn Rs 1,500 per customer on a yearly basis. From a team of four people in 2013, MockBank has now grown in strength to 16. They now have four people focussing on technology, seven in content and remaining in sales and marketing.
Ravindran Govindan, Founder and Executive Chairman of Mercatus Capital, also an investor in this round, says, “Through Mercatus Capital, I have invested and incubated over 60 startups since 2006. The single most important factor that ensures success is the quality of the entrepreneur. I was excited to invest in MockBank within two hours of meeting Konark as I see the makings of a great entrepreneur in him”
Education as a sector has tremendous demand in India with parents willing to pay even a premium for quality content and coaching services. On an average, more than 15 million students in India prepare for competitive exams such as IIT JEE, CAT, banking etc., every year. Online test preparation startups are showing a lot of growth in India. Earlier this year in May 2015, Toppr raised INR 65crores led by Fidelity Growth Partners India, and existing investors, SAIF Partners and Helion Ventures to support their expansion plans.
Most recently in September 2015, OnlineTyari raised INR five crores from angel and VC investors, including 500 Startups, Mohandas Pai, Tandem Capital, Vikram Chachra of Eight Capital, and Aloke Bajpai, CEO of ixigo for their vernacular test preparation platform. Coming to public sector exams, TestBook is also in the same sector as MockBank. It raised INR1.5 crore from LetsVenture and Ah! Ventures, along with a few external angel investors in 2014. They recently launched a mobile app and crossed two lakh registered users.
Related read: Online Test Preparation startups being built from India
MockBank will use this round of funding to strengthen its technology platform and content offerings. It considers mobile to be a key customer acquisition medium and aims to continue focus on it. In this regard, it plans to launch a mobile app to cater to consumers who are currently relying on mobile web browsers to access its platform. Currently, MockBank’s products focus on the PSU BFSI sector. Going forward, it aims to focus on civil services, engineering services, judicial services and teaching services.