The art of survival — this edutech platform teaches how to run business without funding
The introduction of technology was the need of the hour in the Indian education system. It has helped students gain education and reduced the challenges they were facing before.
Earlier, the education which was possible through limited books caused many constraints for students. And if you happen to be a student from some small place, the problem magnifies for you many times — as there’s no way to get availed those reference books for preparations.
Back in 2006, Basant Pandey was serving as a teacher in Central School at Port Blair. During his stay in Andaman, he observed that CBSE schools in the state would always lack study materials for students. The text books or sample question paper booklets would take 15-20 days to reach the state as ships would run only twice a month between main land and Island.
Basant discussed the idea with his brother Vinod Pandey, a final engineering student then, and decided to address the issue. They observed that as one of the top tourist places in India, Andaman had good internet connectivity.
They collected notes and sample papers and created a website on a free hosting server and uploaded all the papers there to help students in Andaman Islands. Within six months, they started receiving more than 500 users per day, who were not only from Andaman and but from other cities as well.
As the traffic grew, they purchased a bigger hosting solution as well as an appealing domain name. In 2007, myCBSEguide.com was launched. It is an online platform that serves free study material to CBSE students in the form of syllabus, sample question papers, board exam papers, online tests, quick revision notes, important questions, news and updates. All the materials available on the website is free for student and teachers.
In 2009, the brothers formed Elpis Technology Solutions to accommodate other platforms — onlineteachers.co.in and elpiscart.com. The former helps teachers to interact with each other, prepare for teacher exams and find teaching jobs. This platform is dedicated to the teacher community. elpiscart.com provides downloadable ebooks in PDF format and Multiple Choice Questions in quiz format at a very nominal price.
Today, the website claims to have more than six million page views per month and it goes up to 25 million per month during the exam days. myCBSEguide’s android app has more than two lakh downloads.
“In the beginning, we started the platform to help students and there was almost zero operating cost for us as we were on a free hosting server. As soon as the traffic started growing, we implemented Google AdSense and it was more than enough to meet the initial expenses. To keep it low cost, we used open source CMS and shared/VPS hosting. At the initial stage, most of the content was being generated by our friends and colleagues serving as teachers in KV and CBSE schools,” says Basant, Founder and CEO, myCBSEguide.
He adds that around 80 percent of revenue comes from Google AdSense and direct advertisements. The rest is from product sales such as ebooks and test software for CBSE students. Even today, he is managing the salary expenses of 15 full-time employees and 45 freelance content experts without raising a penny from investors.
But now, Basant believes that the market is growing rapidly and competition is becoming aggressive. New players are funded by big investors. They are leaving no stone unturned to capture the market. They have created do or die situation in the market. “For bootstrapped companies like us, it is the time to grow rapidly or crushed behind. We haven't pitched to any investor yet. But, planning to do so in next six to eight months to grow aggressively.”
The platform is planning to move towards subscription-based model.
Basant, however, says that he understands the risk of switching from free to subscription-based model. He plans to add new products and services to complement this free stuff and monetise it by subscription — such as online tests are free, but analytics to these tests are to be subscribed.
On Elpiscart, it is working towards adding new products and different ways to increase sales. Besides, it has some new features in pipeline which will be launched within three to four months to expand its reach among students and teachers.
According to the platform, it is also planning to introduce new personalisation and gamification features to increase user engagement.
According to EY-FICCI report on the education sector in India, the current K-12 school system in India is one of the largest in the world with more than 1.4 million schools and over 250 million students enrolled.
The online education market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.50 percent by 2019. There are multiple players in the K-12 space, some of them being well funded.
Edukart and Meritnation are the two big platforms in this category.
Started in 2007, Meritnation.com claims to have 90 lakh students from CBSE, ICSE and other leading boards across India and the Gulf on its online platform. It has also raised close to Rs 96.5 crore across
Survival of all
Experts believe that the K-12 category is big enough to accommodate many players at the same time.
Various players are finding their niche to survive in the business.
Some are offering freemium model, while others have adopted paid subscription. From test preparation to videos and online coaching to test papers, platforms are covering an entire sector.