iAugmentor - just another edutech startup or more?Tausif Alam
More than 80 percent of engineers in India are unemployable, according to Aspiring Minds, an employability credentialing firm. The study further showed that over 70 percent of students lacked soft and cognitive skills, and around 58 percent lacked analytical and quantitative skills.
An astonishingly 97 percent of students cannot speak English, which is required for bagging an IT job. And about 40 percent of engineering students cannot comprehend English text. Which moots the question, how do they understand their curriculum, which is in English.
Two friends Arindam Sen and Pratik Marwah observed the existing gap between the poor education system and high demand for skilled employees.
Worried about the magnitude of the problem, the duo decided to meet people from the management of various engineering colleges and take stock of the situation. They found that the institutions were already running personality development programmes, but showed little progress on the employability graph of graduated students.
They brainstormed to spot the gaps. The problem, as they saw it, was that students were not getting personal inputs, rather the entire class was being given general tips on personality development. They also found the solution. They decided to bridge this gap via technology.
In February 2016, Arindam and Pratik with three other co-founders ‑ Sarvangya Mishra, Ankit Ruia and Sameer Sikka ‑ launched iAugmentor, a technology-enabled assessment and learning platform for personalised, adaptive and experiential learning.
“The idea behind this platform is to provide a personalised mentor to individuals to augment their skill sets,” says Pratik, 28, COO and Co-founder of iAugmentor.
He adds that this platform brings together technology, human intervention and a whole gamut of learning activities under one roof with the intention of making learning more effective, intimate and accountable.
It enables learners to upload their videos, on which it gives personalised inputs that are specific to that individual learner.
As such, things are never discussed in college curriculums and individual inputs are never given on how to deal with different situations.
Through graphics, haptic feedback, video, animation, movies, theatre, quizzes, games, simulations and instantaneous feedback, the platform creates immersive learning that interacts with the learners’ real world and context. It says that via various mediums it enhances the ability of learners.
How iAugmentor pursued business
The platform has so far invested Rs 20 lakh. Its major investment went into developing specific content for various learning mediums such as videos, animations, stories and cartoons to make it more engaging for the user.
The other area where it made investment was in development and deployment of technology like facial analysis and audio analysis to give almost real time inputs to learners.
These features have been implemented in the field of education for the first time in India.
The platform follows a B2B model and has collaborated with around five colleges, where it has registered around 3,500 students. The registration charge for each student is Rs 1,000.
iAugmentor recently received seed funding from individuals across India and Egypt.
“As our business model is the revenue-driven B2B model, we are more focussed towards generating revenues to build a sustainable business,” says Pratik.
Its target audience is students in tier II and III colleges across India and other developing countries like Egypt.
Eyeing the opportunity
The global market for training expenditures in 2013 was about $306.9 billion. Of the world market, India represents seven percent, which is pegged at $21.5 billion.
Colleges are spending around Rs 25‑30 lakh per annum to train their students, yet the employability levels haven’t increased. There are more than 3,000 colleges in India.
Pratik says that in the Indian market, though 60 percent of the money is spent on training junior level executives and students, there is no accountability in the entire training and development industry, especially in colleges in tier II and III cities.
Targeting the gap, it aims to crack at least one percent of this market in three years.
Over the next 6-12 months, the founders will work on implementing new and myriad learning mediums like games, animations, cartoons and expert videos that will engage learners and at the same time be personalised, depending on the learning proclivities of each and every individual learner.
“We will also focus on fine-tuning the analytics and inputs given by the system to ensure more accurate and personalised mentoring for each and every learner on the platform,” says Pratik.
It’s a challenging job
According to Pratik, as the attention span of the learner is very less, the platform needs to keep innovating and develop varied ways of engaging the learner through a plethora of personalised learning mediums.
Since the product relies heavily on technologies like AR/VR/audio and video analysis/big data analysis/AI, the platform needs to be updated on a daily basis, considering developments in these technologies/domains.
Startups rush to offer training
Along with the host of freelance trainers and trainers within colleges, many startups are offering similar services in this segment.
Pune-based Edbeans offers various modules to motivate students to learn and think fast. Practice tests, aptitude tests, group discussion and personal interview provide virtual placement assistance for students. It also provides customised action plans for individual students, which assist them in finding better employment opportunities.
Besides, Kochi-based Protocol Consultants and many others are offering services in this segment.
With almost 15 lakh students graduating every year, of which only 20 percent are employable, it is the need of the hour for students to enhance their employability skills in addition to their technical skills.