IIT-Bombay alumni wants students to 'Selfstudy', promises fee refund on completion of course
Across India, parents send children to coaching classes that promise to provide the right study materials and training to crack entrance examinations. But despite paying hefty fees, not all students are able to crack entrance exams at IITs or medical colleges.
Persainjit Singh and Prakash Gupta, two IIT Bombay graduates, decided to make things easier for students – and parents – after a worried parent approached them. “My child goes to a very famous school and a well-reputed coaching class, but still fails to get good marks. Can you do something?” the parent asked.
Not long after, in December 2017, the duo started Selfstudy, a self-study learning platform that takes the concept-based learning approach and combines it with personalised feedback to help students raise their grades and crack entrance tests.
The artificial intelligence (AI)-based application uses bite-sized content to make learning easier for those keen to take the NEET and JEE exams. But that’s not all! Students who complete the course and solve a test involving all topics studied can get the entire coaching fee refunded.
This year, up to 1,000 kids have completed the course; all of them got their fees – Rs 24,000 per year - back.
From coaching to self-learning
Persainjit and Prakash, both 34 years old, started a coaching institute in 2013 in Kota to make learning affordable for students. Despite running it successfully for several years, the high cost of teachers and infrastructures didn't allow them to lower the fee for students.
Hoping to help students realise their dreams without burning a hole in their parents’ pocket, the duo started Gurugram-based online learning platform Selfstudy.
Registered as Examble Elearning, Selfstudy helps students understand concepts through “explanatory animated videos, infographic flash charts, comprehensive question bank with detailed solutions, and intuitive test series with personalised feedback”.
“Selfstudy bridges the gap between learning and mastering concepts,” Persainjit says. Once the learning is over, Selfstudy provides practice questions with solutions and adaptive assessments. "Students can adjust the difficulty setting as per their level to best use their practice time,” he adds.
How does the platform work?
Selfstudy provides material for students of Classes 8 to 12 in chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, social science, mental ability, and more. Students needs to download the app, sign up, and start perusing the content. The platform works on a freemium subscription model. It is free to use for the first seven days, after which access is limited. Subscription fee for plus-two is Rs 24,000.
The AI-based application monitors every in-app click of the student and the content that s/he views for a month. After this, the AI tries to identify where the knowledge gap lies and provides more topics or chapters where the student needs to work harder.
“The kind of questions a student gets wrong helps the AI to figure out the subjects/chapters a student is facing problems with. This guides them to focus and practice these sections more,” Persainjit says.
No room for doubts
The team began by spending hours understanding the requirements of the product. "We had to build something different from what was already available in the market," Persainjit says.
The founding duo says there has been one big challenge along the way: “Setting up a team comprising self-motivated individuals willing to go the extra mile to help students in visualising a difficult concept.”
At present, Selfstudy has a 15-member content team, mainly IITians and NEET teachers, who also cater to doubt solving. They have 10 graphic designers who help transform concepts into info graphics and animated videos.
Five IIT graduates comprise the product team, handling coding and product development while the sales and marketing team has 10 executives.
From Kota to countrywide
As of now, 25 institutes, including Pathfinder (Calcutta), ABC Classes (Gorakhpur), Mentors Eduserv (Patna), IIT Physics Centre (Kota), and Origence Educare (Varanasi) use the online platform.
“The three states that we are yet to explore include Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala,” Persainjit says.
According to a KPMG study, Online Education in India: 2021, the Indian online education market is set to grow to $1.96 billion and 9.6 million users by 2021. While there are players like Byju's, Khan Academy, ConceptOwl, Notesgen, AlmaMapper, and TopperLearning providing services to students across the country, Persainjit says the video content sets Selfstudy apart.
“Our videos are not classroom or teacher-driven. They are animated. Also, they are detailed and descriptive unlike other players that offer concise and short videos."
The numbers game
Since inception, Selfstudy has raised a cumulative Rs 1 crore from angel investors along with the founders' investment. Selfstudy has so far recorded revenue of Rs 50 lakh and the number of active users stands at 25,000. The startup’s B2C sales have grown at a rate of 200 percent in the last quarter.
“We have been operationally breaking even for the past three months, with both revenues and expenses pegged at around Rs 12 lakh per month,” Persainjit says.
The startup's customer acquisition cost (CAC) ratio is 4.5x.
Team Selfstudy plan to raise seed funding of $2 million to build sales and marketing expertise with teams in 10 major cities in the next 12 months.
“We are also working to help home tuition teachers to use our content and technology for teaching.This will roll out by April,” Persainjit says.