Three years ago, serial entrepreneur Akshat Srivastava got an opportunity to work with the Ministry of Human Resource Development. While working with the Ministry, he realised how deplorable the education system of the country was.
It made Akshat, who always wanted to work in the educational field, more determined; he decided to open an edtech platform with the aim of bringing the best content, curriculum and certification to an underserved market.
In December 2015, he launched Millionlights. The platform is offering 43 courses in the fields of science, languages, design, programming, physics, and professional development, among others. The courses are created by organisations, companies and even universities, with content from course creators like Saylor, Microsoft, Adobe, Pearson and Ajeenkya DY Patil University, to name a few. Millionlights enables peer-to-peer interaction, faculty teaching and discussions, all based on localised content. The technology used by the company facilitates live lectures, offline viewing, TV programmes and faculty interactions.
“We want to offer the best authored and locally curated content with industry recognised certifications to students. We are a content neutral, technology agnostic (being available via website, app and TV), and free platform, which provides access to any person who wants to learn. We charge for certification courses only,” says Akshat (41).In nine months, the platform has been able to register around 220,000 students.
The founder, however, is not very happy with the number and talks about the challenge that comes in the form of reaching scale.
To achieve this scale, investment amounting to around $1 million has so far been pumped into the company. Recently, it launched a TV channel, focused on higher education and skill development in partnership with DEN Manoranjan Satellite in Pune.
With the collaboration between the Millionlights TV channel and DEN Manoranjan cable, around 200,000 active cable households will be covered in this phase.
“We aim to focus on the skill upgrading space. We have powerful platforms such as Microsoft Virtual Academy content that is localised, courses that help in skill development, education career guidance and education-related news. The company is currently generating upwards of 100 hours of new content every month,” says Akshat.
For the website and the app, getting certifications for courses will entail payment. The company also aims to raise revenue through targeting a subscription model for their TV channel.
Akshat, however, adds that he is not concentrating on revenue right now. His aim is to reach scale and to widen access to the platform for as many students as possible.
The Millionlights Programme aims to be an all-encompassing force that will cater to the needs of a massive, underserved and often neglected market segment, and provide open access to education and real-world skills to at least 50 million learners in the next five years.
According to the platform, just certification will not create a knowledge economy. An entire system has to be evolved where certification is the end result of learning outcomes. The programme proposes to add significant value to the process through teaching methodologies and industry-led partnerships.
“We believe that for India to be relevant on a global scale, there is a need for millions of trained and skilled individuals. Education is the only way to get rid of poverty and move a large, underserved segment of the population out of their current cycle of unemployment, and make them productive members of society,” says Akshat.
Market and competition
In India’s online education market, which is predicted to grow to $40 billion by 2017 from the present $20 billion, there are multiple players in the edtech space, some of them well funded.
According to Docebo, the inflow of venture capital in the e-learning space has been $6 billion globally in the past five years. A TechNavio report states that the Indian online education market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.5 percent during the period of 2014-19.
Further, Byju’s raised funds of $75 million in February. Earlier this year, education content company S Chand & Co Pvt Ltd also invested an undisclosed sum in online test prep platform Testbook.