The Indian education system is in serious need of a massive overhaul, in order to ensure every child secures a good education, there exist healthy dialogue channels between parents and teachers, as well as harnessing the goodness of digitisation. A broken system is what 25-year-olds Akash Garg and VR Deepak saw as a problem across most educational institutes.
The duo realised that every aspect of the educational ecosystem was affected – students, teachers, and institutions at large. To address the gaps, they built Curious18, early this year a platform that focusses on being a social media kind of one-stop shop for all educational requirements and problems.
“We initially thought of making an app that worked on the concept of parent-teacher communication, which was supposed to be the Indian version of Remind101. But when we dug deeper we realised that communication was just the tip of the iceberg,” says the IBS, Pune MBA graduate Akash.
Deepak, an engineer, had previously started two startups in the education space, but they didn’t pan out as expected.
The list of problems included uneven resource distribution, high cost of availing education, wastage of time on other social media, students who possess skills but lack the right platforms to connect with people and hone those skills or even earn out of it, and a complete lack of support.
The duo decided to build Curious18 in a way that gave the educational ecosystem various models, where they could get support, learn, teach, and collaborate. People have the option of creating study groups or ‘Advanced Group’, for any particular subject or skill and distribute the code of the group with other interested people.
This helps people connect with others interested in the subject, teachers and mentors. They can exchange notes, discuss problems, share news, files, and current affair details.
Bringing in the social feed idea
Users have the choice of creating social media-like content, where they can post information on subjects and read feeds of others in the field. One can share, like, post, comment and engage with other users by searching for them from the top bar on an app or website.
Akash explains that the user can earn coins on each like, comment, post, query asked or answered, and earn 200 referral bonus coins when they recommend friends. “You can also earn by 'teach and earn program' in advance resources or you can participate in daily quiz contest to win thousands of coins.”
People even have the option of creating premium paid groups and earn close to Rs 5,000 per month. Citing an example, Akash explains that if you created group for bank exam preparation and are sharing quality content for users in the group and helping them achieve their goals, they can pay you over 500 coins per month or Rs 5 per month through their ‘wallet’.
“Any institute or student can connect with each other to learn, grow and can reap benefits of this educational social media,” says Akash. You can also ask as many questions and queries you want, and the team claims that the questions are answered within minutes from users on the network.
Building the knowledge bank
The platform has a free databank of study resources, covering a wide range of topics, and will soon come up with free video lectures of k-12. These are updated on daily basis.
Pass outs can post all notes, research papers, projects reports on the platform, which can in turn work as good resource material for other students.
The platform allows tutors to create videos on any skill, from academics to robotics to languages to yoga and music, send it to the team for approval, after which they can teach the skill online.
The revenue sharing works on 70:30 basis where tutors are charged for platform and promotion fee.
The platform also has a vault-like feature where people can choose to receive, save and store important documents like - admit cards, notes, important formulas, assignments, ID proof, resume, mark sheets, passport photo, bills, licences and insurance, easily accessible from anywhere.
Apart from these, you also have the options of participate in open quizzes and domain tests. The platform also gives you daily updates and needed information as per your needs.
Breaking through the challenges
Currently bootstrapped, biggest challenge the team faced was making the technology in-house and building curious18 as a social media platform. “Also monetising a social media platform has its challenges and we had to make several prototypes and worked on improvising the technology. Also, the idea of creating a scalable group system that accommodates over 1,000 people in a group without lag in delivery needed to be elastic and fast,” adds Akash.
Curious18 gets its revenue through an ad network they have created. As the user base increases they intend to start serving local and direct campaign ads for the education sector.
“Other than this we take a 20-percent commission in advance resources/community resources, which people will create through our network and earn. In the long run we will provide skill-based courses and test series that will generate direct revenues once user base increases,” adds Akash.
The team claims to have collected a revenue of Rs 2.5 lakh from the student discount card project that they launched in February this year.
“We have launched our latest Android application on Play Store, which is serving near 5,000 users on our network,” says Akash, adding that they have a collection of over 14,000 files on their network, and aim to reach over a lakh by this December. They also aim to provide their services in nine languages, and provide free k-12 and basic study material.
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.
India also has one of the highest growth trajectories in the self-paced e-learning sector, at 55 percent.
Last year, several edtech platforms received 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 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.