Delhi-based AcadView offers engineering students courses in front-end, back-end, and full-stack development while allowing engineering professionals to teach online and earn extra money.
The end of 2014 saw many NRIs return from Silicon Valley to join startups or establish their own ventures. The purpose was to replicate successful business models in India by drawing on the experience gained in the Valley.
Among them was Himanshu Batra, who had a Master's in management systems from the University of Illinois at Chicago and spent almost a decade at Google (California) in roles ranging from project manager to program manager.
On a road trip to Lake Tahoe towards the end of 2014, Himanshu and one of his Google colleagues got talking about how, despite living in the digital age, students still have so much running around to do when it comes to getting their marksheets from educational institutions. Although then just a casual conversation, it was enough to convince Himanshu to move back to India in 2015 and turn the idea into reality.
In November 2015, he launched AcadView to digitalise marksheets. Uploading a simple Excel sheet creates a blank template for universities. With the press of a button, marksheets are generated and sent to students’ phones.
When owing to long sales cycles, things went south with government institutions, AcadView decided to go the private way. In 10 months, by offering its services on a freemium model, the startup had convinced over 10 percent of the private universities in North India to opt for the digitalisation of marksheets.
In January 2016, Himanshu met Varun Jain, who joined AcadView as a co-founder and now takes care of the technology and product. Varun, who previously ran a content startup called Quizot, has also managed product for the Frankly.me Android app.
Pivoting the model…
Channelling the co-founders’ energy and experience, AcadView did well until last September, when the Government of India announced the DigiLocker as a part of the Digital India campaign.
DigiLocker is an initiative towards paperless governance, digitalising the issuance and verification of documents and certificates. Indian citizens are provided with a cloud storage space linked with the Aadhaar (UIDAI) number once they sign up for a DigiLocker account. Organisations that are registered with DigiLocker can provide electronic copies and certificates like driving licence, voter ID, and school certificates directly into citizens’ lockers.
“With the launch of DigiLocker, we were thrown out of the business. Though we had access to these students and institutions, we started pondering on solving the next problem in the education sector. We then pivoted the AcadView model into offering courses on front-end and back-end technologies. Though we worked with a few universities free of cost, they helped us get access to students for our paid courses,” says Himanshu.
AcadView now connects freshers with expert mentors from organisations across India who teach the front-end, back-end, and full-stack development courses offered by the company. The charges for the three courses—all of which are two months long—are Rs 5,499, Rs 5,499, and Rs 8,399 respectively. Once students finish the projects, automated résumés are generated.
The task of onboarding mentors was preceded by a campaign which revealed that working professionals want to earn extra money. AcadView allows them to do that by taking classes after office hours.
The AcadView team conducts sales pitches in front of students where they get to know their level of interest in technologies. They then aggregate and customise the content.
The path towards self-sustainability
Initially completely bootstrapped by Himanshu, soon after launching, AcadView raised an undisclosed amount of seed capital from Ola Co-founder Ankit Bhati and a Silicon Valley-based investor.
Before pivoting the model, the team conducted a survey on 100 tech students from 10 institutions in Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi, the result of which brought Himanshu closer to his dream of solving the problems of the education sector. He said students did not seem happy with the pattern of teaching and courses offered by other edtech players in the market.
Currently, students from 20 institutions avail AcadView’s courses. When asked about extending the courses to other regions, Himanshu said that of the 750 universities and 35,000 colleges in the country, 50 percent of the institutions are in North India, which poses a huge opportunity. There is, therefore, no need to consider branching out to other parts of the country right now.
AcadView has four advisors from Google, Facebook, and Amazon and 20 teachers from various organisations. The platform’s feedback option allows them to review the notes given to students, thereby monitoring the quality of the classes.
Present only in Delhi, AcadView has eight employees. From 20, the number of students has gone up to 1,000. Classes are conducted online in batches of 30 and teachers get paid Rs 20,000 per month. Students who do their projects exceptionally well get the opportunity to help juniors and earn Rs 3,000 as interns.
According to a report by Aspiring Minds, in an ecosystem with a huge IT industry as a backdrop and aspirations in data science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, over 95 percent engineers in India have been found unemployable for software development jobs. Addressing this market are prominent names like Simplilearn, Udacity, Vedantu as well as the likes of Tweak Skills and Mettl.
Next year, AcadView plans to opt for a franchise model and increase the number of institutions from 20 to 50 and introduce courses at higher prices.