One of the glaring disparities in this diverse world is that of knowledge. Between the developing and the developed nations, not every student gets equal access to the bounties of knowledge. Even within a country, talent and great mentorship is focused in metro cities, and aspirants in smaller townships may not meet their full potential due to lack of access. Isn’t this a bizarre problem to have in the digital age of the global village?
“My mother would ask neighbours, school seniors, local bookstores, call up from newspaper ads, but her search for an ‘excellent’ teacher mostly ended up in disappointment. Three years later, while I was in 11th grade, I prepared for the Olympiads and took the test, but did not make it in absence of proper guidance and mentorship. When it was time to appear for National Competitive Exams like IIT-JEE, AIEEE, JEE, PMTs, etc., devoid of ‘good’ teachers, we considered other options like migrating to Kota (Rajasthan). But, parents aren’t always comfortable with the option, as they feel that you are gullible and may fall in the trap of bad influences,” recalls 33-year-old Subham Das, Founder of TutStu.com.
He went on to procure a Bachelor in Mathematics from Calcutta University and a Bachelor in Information Technology from Kuvempu University. He then went on to complete GNIIT (Software Engineering) and Business Administration (Project Management).
While in the second year of college, Subham started his career as a high school level online tutor (USA), where he interacted with students from USA and UK. That’s when he realised that the problem he had faced was a household story not just in India but even abroad. “I saw how few companies were providing online tutoring to students, mainly in the US and UK. I worked with those companies and tried to learn and master the art.”
He spent nine years in the educational technology, E-Learning and online learning domain, with several prominent startups including 1to1Tutors, TutorVista, TutorPace, EMath360, ScholarLive, etc. “Education to many is an ‘ever-green’ line of business, something that’s asking to be capitalised upon endlessly. Having spent many years in EdTech and E-Learning, and brainstorming about the further possibilities, a brainwave struck and I left my job to pursue my dream ‑TutStu.”
42 percent of the people in the world are below the age of 25, and 41 percent are between 26 and 55 years. “The 41 percent of people aged between 26 and 55 years, might be great engineers, doctors, academics, bankers, scientists, etc., with tons of experience, knowledge, and wisdom. However, they’re mostly located in metro cities and are busy with their jobs and research. The other 42 percent, who might want to become successful engineers, doctors, academics, bankers, scientists, astronauts, etc., need people to teach, tutor, coach, guide and mentor them. I wanted to help this ‘learner’ group overcome the social, economic, and geographic barriers to reach the 41 percent ‘learned’ people.”
TutStu – wordplay on tutors and students‑ is a platform that enables learned professionals from across the globe become tutors and mentors to a worldwide community of students, by becoming “teacherpreneurs”. “When it comes to education, which itself is hugely fragmented, it’s better to promote teacherpreneurs. Teachers, mentors, tutors, coaches, counsellors, and guides should all be able to form their own individual ventures, where they can then share their knowledge, worldwide, hassle-free, during their free time. To promote teacherpreneurship worldwide, there is a need to unify teacherpreneurs on a single Global Marketplace and provide them with all necessary tools for independent functioning,” says Subham.
Teacherpreneurs refer not only to academic teachers, lecturers or professors, but also any and every individual who possesses sound knowledge. The requirements of an individual turning to teacherpreneurship are mostly a website and hosting server, marketing and advertising, online video or audio conferencing, email, tools to manage students and their appointments, PayPal to accept payments – all of which costs Rs10,000‑15,000 per month.“Basically, teacherpreneurs need to hop around on several softwares, and get discouraged thinking about these hassles.”
TutStu provides teacherpreneurs all these resources and advanced tools on one solid platform. Apart from help with marketing, TutStu also promotes their websites through major search engines and social media for free, and global exposure as all teacherpreneurs are made searchable on a global marketplace. For teacherpreneurs, TutStu acts like a ready-to-use, off-the-shelf web application.
A teacherpreneur simply marks their free time, and students can see teacher’s availability and schedule sessions accordingly. Their session management system maintains a log of all past sessions, present-days sessions and future sessions for preparation. Also coming up are discount coupon and referral management systems.
Students can search for a teacher‑ whose qualifications and experiences are listed elaborately ‑ in any subject, starting from school level subjects, college level subjects, foreign languages, test preparation, to various professions.
“Thus, a class 10 student from Ahmedabad can connect with a class 10topper from Delhi, and a student from Chennai, preparing for IITJEE, can learn from a trainer at IIT Kota. A 12th grade student aspiring to take the SATs, can seek counselling from a student studying in Oxford/Harvard/MIT, etc. A young automobile engineer can seek mentorship from an experienced one from Germany, or a student from an economics course in Delhi can connect with an economist on Wall Street. A stay-at-home mom can learn Spanish from a Spanish National,” muses Subham.
TutStu operates under a FREE-MIUM business model. The platform is free for the teachers, till they have one student. From the second student onwards, they pay monthly subscription fees, which is determined by the number of students they teach.They will also earn from featured listings, where teacherpreneurswho want to appear on top of search results will have to pay a premium – the amount of which is determined by teacher's rating. A 5-star teacherpreneur would pay $5 to list on the top of Search Result, but, a 1-star teacherpreneur would pay $20 to list on the top of Search Result.
TutStu was founded on January 26, 2016. Within four months of its launch, Kolkata-based TutStu has acquired over 400active and registered users from India, USA, Canada, UK, Philippines, Israel, Argentina, France, Indonesia, Poland, Brazil, Kenya, Australia, Italy, Thailand, and Hong-Kong.
Others in the space include InstaEdu, now acquired by Chegg, which hires only college students as tutors and are restricted to formal school-level subjects. Another startup, Skooli also belongs to the space, but has the final say on the rates. Vedantu operates on commission per session from teachers, and caters to Indian users only.TutorUniverse, now acquired by GotIt and Wyzant Online, have a similar model, but are meant for American audiences and crowdsource teachers for school subjects.
TutStu aims to differentiate by having aglobal reach, with no restrictions on subjects taught and learnt, and operating on fixed subscriptions, rather than commission.
Initially, their plan is to get into the developed (25 percent) and developing (75 percent) countries. “We are also deciding between ccTLDs (like .com.au or co.uk), sub-domaining (like aus.tutstu.com) or sub-directory (like tutstu.com/aus) for better Geo-Targeting. We are open to strategic partnerships in every country, as we understand the role and importance of local media and influencers.”
Bootstrapped so far, Subham is planning to raise a round of funding to multiply their marketing activity, expand their team, and have a technical infrastructure upgrade.