Even though demonetisation required most businesses to go cold turkey on cash, eventually, enterprises agreed that various avenues in their operations had the scope for becoming seamless and transparent through digitisation.
And for the aspiring aggregator camp in the startup crowd, this posed myriad opportunities. One such group of individuals, who had been engaging with educational institutions through their existing projects, saw that this industry was one of the most traditional, and by extension, slowest on the uptake of digital. Through incredible conviction, and equally blinding speed, they thus decided to help them make the transition.
Manisha Thakur is a 30-year-old MBA in marketing and a certified techie from BITS Mesra. Manisha started her career as a marketing executive at an IT firm and even dabbled with digital marketing in order to see through a fascination she harboured for it before she moved to Edelweiss Financial Services, where she worked until OnFees took shape.
Thirty-one-year-old Viral Dedhiya, an electronics engineer from Shah & Anchor Mumbai who helmed the reservation system for MSRTC and various other projects for Thane police, ATS Mumbai, co-founded Library India, a book renting service, developed the web app for the Clean Up Mumbai campaign, started another company, NumberMask Digital, in the VAS space, and even clocked a short stint at startup Just Buy Live as CTO before starting OnFees.
Thirty-two-year-old Mayur Jain, on the other hand, is a Mumbai-based CA. Mayur worked with PwC for almost six years and embarked upon various other projects to satiate his desire of handcrafting a business before OnFees happened.
Leaving no man behind in the digital revolution
The trio, at a point when they were most hungry in their careers, observed a gap in fee collection by educational institutes. “Most institutes collected their fees in cash, and last November’s demonetisation suddenly made cash collection a big challenge. Almost every university announced their intention to go digital and ordered all affiliated colleges to go cashless. We are just trying to provide a hassle-free process for fee collection. There was a need like never before for an online fee platform,” says Mayur.
Another hitch in the fee payment process was seen from the perspective of a parent who has multiple children going to multiple learning centres like schools, colleges, and classes, for which there were multiple fees to be paid, amounting to a significant sum of money.
OnFees provides a unique education loan facility for such cases, where parents will be able to get a loan for the collective amount payable to multiple institutes. “The traditional process of education loans was tedious, not catering to such cases,” Manisha states.
OnFees.com facilitates online fee payments for students. They have onboarded multiple educational institutes and learning centres in order to facilitate fee collection for them and payment for their students. The platform also allows students to apply for admission to these institutions. “This is like a marketplace aggregation model, where we are trying to solve multiple problems for various stakeholders,” says Manisha.
Institutes could take the digital route for collecting fees in less than two days. “They could also collect cash/ DD from the backend and still have a daily consolidated report without any manual hassle,” explains Viral.
The platform is very easy to implement with flexible ends that allow quick integration irrespective of existing processes (Digital-ERP/Tally or Manual) and has a robust MIS with impressive reporting for various user levels.
OnFees’ primary users are parents making fee payments for their kids.
“Before students, our first audience is educators and education leaders. These are principals, directors, and trustees of education institutes of various kinds and sizes. We also connect with coaching class owners,” reveals Viral.
With 10 years of experience dealing with education institutes, they asked the right questions of their existing clients, in order to pinpoint their pain points. The same institute owners came onboard right from the start, owing to a decade-strong business relationship. “After that, direct sales and referrals are turning out to be the most effective strategy so far,” she says.
Within two months of going live, they have onboarded 35 institutes, including big names like Sandesh College, Nirmala Niketan, Guru Nanak Khalsa College, and YMT College, and have over 70,000 registered students for fee payment.
This idea being a spawn of the demonetisation exercise, their biggest challenge was to be ready with the product in time. Manisha recounts,
“As the demonetisation incident triggered our thought, and shaping up the idea took us some more time, we had little time to ready ourselves for the 2017-18 academic session. We could not afford to be slow, and hence, the challenge was to not only build the technology platform, but also to have the entire marketing and salesforce up and running at the earliest.”
What lies ahead
The Mumbai-based 16-member team is currently focusing on the Mumbai market itself, and are looking to tap the 63 lakh-strong student network and the over 5,000-strong web of institutes. Onfees isn’t alone in its endeavour to digitise the education field; there are also many alternative payment options like Airpay and Instafeez. They are also indirectly competing with wallets and established banks.
“The uniqueness of OnFees is the simple and precise solution to the most critical pain areas that education institutes are facing. The way it integrates with all kinds of existing processes in institutes–be it offline or online, manual or automated systems–with different capacity, OnFees allows instant digitisation of institutes. Unlike other alternatives, OnFees can easily become an exclusive or an alternate fee payment option with the features most relevant to them. The unique education loan option makes it even more attractive to both sets of audiences that we cater to,” says Mayur.
They recently raised Rs 2.5 crore in growth capital from some HNIs to capture market share in Mumbai, at a Rs 10-crore valuation. Looking beyond Mumbai, the trio will take on other major cities by August this year.