Over 230 startups from across five cities in India participated in two-day edtech entrepreneurship bootcamps – and the finalists of the pitch competition have been selected. Unitus Seed Fund, along with Sylvant and local partners like TiE, conducted the StartEdu 2016 event series in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi (see my writeups on problem definition and pitch techniques).
“In the education sector, incremental solutions are invariably met with a tepid response from educators, students and parents alike. This makes it important for education entrepreneurs to look at developing solutions that show at least a 10x improvement by fitting seamlessly into existing systems,” says Sunitha Viswanathan, Senior Investment Associate, Unitus Seed Fund.
Here are the brief profiles of the 10 finalists.
A problem that plagues India's education sector is poor comprehension, which naturally leads to poor learning outcomes, ultimately affecting career prospects. Bengaluru-based Plastic Water Labs is attempting to tackle this by introducing virtual reality (VR) as a solution. According to their internal evaluations, VR is a great solution as its multi-sensory allowing spatial thinking; since students are placed in an immersive metaverse, they learn and retain better by both observing and interacting with the subject matter.
The solution is being built for students in Classes VI-VIII to understand science and mathematics better, along with the current educational resources. The VR lessons will be delivered over Android-based smartphones and can be 'VR’ed' through Google cardboard, on a monthly subscription of Rs 350.
Plastic Water Labs is founded by Baskar Ethirajan and Sajesh Nair, who earlier co-founded Indiastage, an entertainment portal which was acquired after seven years of successful operations.
Delhi-based ToT Smart Education is making education personalised for the masses, irrespective of their socio-economic status. It is aligned with the prescribed board curriculum and is not a burden on children. ToT Smart product line includes physical textbooks and mobile app for game-based learning (Pedron) along with a performance monitor. The combined offering is positioned as blended learning for schools. The company has already served over 400 schools and over 50,000 students. The app's usage alone is totalling 85 hours per day.
Most physical coaching institutes are tech-disabled; there is a lack of platforms that can record and assess students’ weaknesses and strengths continually, which makes teaching ineffective. Bengaluru-based Entri is a plug-and-play test preparation platform on the cloud for schools, teachers and coaching institutes. They get a dashboard that acts like Google Analytics for students’ preparation and assessment.
Entri’s key features are 30,000 entrance-oriented questions, study materials and formulas; a Q&A forum allows students to clear doubts with subject-matter experts; and there are reports and continuous analysis of students' performances. Entri charges a fee of Rs 2,000 per annum per student. It has tied up with eight institutes and 100 teachers, serving over 12,000 students.
According to Sachin Ravi and Raghav Chakravarthy, co-founders of Bengaluru-based Walnut Knowledge Solutions, career choices should be enabled by awareness, dialogue and critical understanding, and not merely by trial and error. Their solution is their flagship programme, Quizshala, ‘a habit-forming companion platform that piques the curiosity of the child, thereby motivating and making the child aware. It fuses the syllabi with personal interests of children. In the past two years, Walnut Knowledge Solutions has worked with over 900 school children.
In India, one of the common problems for parents is to identify a tutor with conducive practices and continually engage with them. On the other hand, for tutors, marketing their practices in an over-crowded space, identifying and assessing remediation needs and adapting to tech-intensive solutions are major challenges. Research has shown that education accounts for nearly 12 percent of expenditure in an average Indian family and over 89 percent of parents use curriculum-based assistance for their children.
Delhi-based XPrep is solving the visibility and engagement problem within the tutor-parent network by enveloping tutors under its single umbrella banner. It enables these tutors with technology to cater their students in an enriching manner as well as communicate with parents in a transparent manner. Over 80 tutors have partnered with XPrep and are serving more than 3,500 students.
Of the 780 million illiterate adults globally, nearly 150 million are women living in India. These are women who are motivated to be a part of their child's education but, unfortunately, lack the knowledge and resources to do so. This naturally disempowers children who fall behind in school and eventually drop out.
Started by three UC Berkeley students, Dost is bridging this gap by empowering mothers to break the cycle of illiteracy. It is a simple, low-cost mobile platform that deploys voice-based curriculum via the phone, allowing mothers to be better informed and active participants in their children’s' education.
India's one-size-fits-all classroom education leaves two out of three students unmotivated or unable to cope. Bengaluru-based Gyan Lab is addressing this critical need through its adaptive, mobile-friendly learning platform for K-10 students. It gamifies and personalises learning based on what a child already knows and how they learn best. It is a B2C (to parents) platform with a monthly fee of Rs 199-349 per student.
It allows parents to assess students and the platform also suggests remedial action for learning gaps. Available in English and vernacular medium, Gyan Lab launched in April 2016 and has 250 student accounts created who have solved more than 3,000 questions.
Throughout school, it would be fair to say that most parents and students are not fully aware of their ward's true potential, leading to career mismatches. Though India has the second largest and youngest workforce in the world with a median age of 25; only 0.01 percent of the population is skilled and qualifies as 'employable'.
Chennai-based Katalyst Eduserve offers competency-based assessment complementing credit-based education, for better academic outcomes and improved quality of life. Its offerings range in price between Rs 100 – Rs 6,000 and include assessment, academic comparison, personal counselling, parent and teach interaction, career guidance and yearly engagement of a personal trainer.
An estimated five percent of students drop out of higher educational institutions due to lack of affordability. There are also countless non-profits who disburse funds to such children, often in an unorganised manner. Chennai-based Edudharma is trying to bridge this by creating an online crowdfunding platform for NGOs, corporates, individuals, and others to fund student needs in an organised manner. Within 100 days of launch, the company raised Rs 12,16,801.
India has more than 200 million school-going children, constituting one-third of the total population. Almost two-thirds of rural children are enrolled in government schools and the remaining in private schools. School enrolments have been steadily improving over the years but learning outcomes have shown marginal growth in language and mathematics.
Bengaluru-based Urros Education works on creating direct impact on learning outcomes, process and learning experience for children. It focusses on skills for children (language development up to Class V); teacher skill assessment and development; functional support for schools and preschools; and staffing.
“Some of the areas that will continue to witness growth and willingness from customers’ side to pay are skilling and competency matching, which can result in employability, assessments at the school level and technology that can aid higher exam preparations,” observes Sunitha Viswanathan of Unitus Seed Fund, who also offers three useful tips to aspiring edtech entrepreneurs.