It is a common sight to see graduates huddled outside their classrooms for an upcoming placement test. Rashmi Nandan witnessed this scene during his campus placement visits for his previous startup REFER ME. This made him realise the struggle students face during exams and the need for quality mentorship or guidance.
“So we built an app that could help students connect with mentors whenever they needed,” says 27-year old Rashmi Nandan. This gave birth to the platform Zap Prep. It is a mentor marketplace, where students can select a mentor’s profile of their choice and get in touch with them.
Setting the operations
With this idea in mind, Rashmi roped in his friend Nikita Sharma, an MBA from IIM Indore as a co-founder. The duo realised that with more than a million schools and over 18,000 higher education institutions in the country, there was a need to bring deeper technology integration.
Apart from Nikita and Rashmi, Zap Prep is an eight-member team. With Rashmi’s earlier startup, the Zap Prep team already has access to over 1,000 higher educational institutions across Tier I, II and III cities.
Operating on both B2B and B2C model, the team ties up with colleges and training institutes for bulk deals and students are invited to the platform to select mentors of their choice.
“Currently, students of Dr Ambedkar Institude of Technology, Bengaluru, and Course Cube, a Bengaluru-based training institute based, are successfully using the product for their placement preparation,” says Rashmi.
The B2C plan starts at Rs 100 per user per month, for minimum one hour sessions in a month. The B2B plan is at Rs 30 per user per month. The plan is only for students of the institute or college Zap Prep has tied up with.
Workings of product
The platform allows students to post their doubts anytime and connect to a mentor on chat. The mentor will then guide the student by providing a step-by-step solution for the given problem. Students can also take appointment from mentors. Nikita adds:
“Mentor applications are evaluated before we allocate them on the app for any particular exam. A mentor can always interact with a pool of students enrolled with them.”
Growing categories of study
Currently, the team has categories that consist of aptitude, verbal, logical reasoning, HR interview preparation and admission interview preparation. These categories are further divided into five sub-categories like placement test for a MNC, bank P.O/SSC, CAT, GMAT and GRE.
The idea of Zap Prep, according to Rashmi, is to provide high-quality mentors at a low cost. The selection of mentors entirely depends on their performance in respective exams in a particular subject.
Launched in April 2016, Zap Prep claims to offer more than 250 mentors from different parts of the world. The task however wasn’t easy. The team found that the PlayStore are filled with apps, their usage is limited, especially in the space of education.
This, Rashmi says, is because more than 90 percent of our education system is pen and paper based. He adds that while metro city students are familiar with app and technology usages, Tier II and III cities are yet to adapt to this behaviour.
Explaining the problem, Rashmi says, the major task is to help students remove the fear of using an app to study and bringing them to utilise this app efficiently.
The world of edtech
According to Bloomberg, India is at the centre of this revolution in learning, with an e-learning market that is projected to grow at 18 percent CAGR, which is twice the global average. India also has the one of the highest growth trajectories in self-paced e-learning at 55 percent.
The Indian online education sector is expected to touch $40 billion by 2017. A report by IBEF suggests that India is targeting to create 500 million skilled workers by 2022. The FDI flow in the sector has been close to $1071.15 million between April 2000 and January 2015.
Last year, several edtech platforms saw a rise in funding. Fidelity, SAIF and Helion pumped $10 million into online test preparation platform Toppr, while Accel and Tiger Global invested $5 million in online tutoring platform Vedantu.
Mayfield, along with Kalaari Capital and Helion Venture Partners, invested $15 million in online certification courses platform Simplilearn, while Matrix pumped an undisclosed sum into Purple Squirrel.
There also is the online learning platform, Unacademy that raised a $500,000 seed round of funding led by Blume Ventures. Google India Head Rajan Anandan, CommonFloor Co-founder Sumit Jain, Taxi4Sure Co-founder Aprameya Radhakrishna, former Flipkart senior executive Sujeet Kumar and redBus Co-founder Phanindra Sama are some of the angel investors who participated in this round.
The funds will be deployed towards product development and scaling for thousands of educators.
Speaking of the differentiator, Rashmi says that Zap Prep’s main focus is ensuring that students get a choice of mentors across categories whenever they feel like it. Nikita adds:
We will start our next category for other exam preparation as well. We are planning to introduce assessment on mobile for every exam. We are also planning to extend our services to students in the USA and China after setting Indian operations.