How this Delhi-based edtech startup is helping students from Bharat land government jobs
An enormous number of students appear for competitive exams in India every year with a media report pegging the figure at 70 million. A large number majority of these come from villages and small towns, and have one aim: cracking a government job. Delhi-based edtech startup ixamBee aims to help them do just that.
Started in April 2017, ixamBee is an edtech platform that creates learning material specially designed for students living in rural and semi-urban areas of the country. It uses text, audio, and video formats to create unlimited and free mock test attempts for about 55 competitive exams.
“No platform is offering free mock tests currently,” says Chandraprakash Joshi, CEO and Co-founder of ixamBee, who quit his banking career of 15 years to start an online education platform.
As per a KPMG Google report published in 2017, the online education market will be worth $1.96 billion by 2021. But Chandraprakash thinks that number will rise.
“Considering the revenue of existing players like BYJU’S, Toppr, upGrad, Unacademy, Vedantu, etc., the market seems to be growing much larger. The test prep market for government jobs seems to be close to $3 billion in India, with over 50 million aspirants,” he says.
The beginning of ixamBee
Chandraprakash Joshi, 41, hails from a village near Nainital in Uttarakhand. He completed his schooling and worked closely with rural India during all his bank jobs, from agriculture officer at Oriental Bank of Commerce and moving on to the Reserve Bank of India and his last job at YES Bank.
He realised that while career guidance and access to good quality education material for competitive exams is adequately available in big towns, students in villages and small towns find it difficult and expensive to access such coaching centres. These students believe that good quality education material to clear these exams can only be provided by expensive coaching centres in big cities, says Chandraprakash, who wants to break this myth with ixamBee.
The CEO says the idea of online education came to him during his frequent travel to villages in Odisha in 2015 during his stint as Vice President and Regional Financial Inclusion Leader at YES Bank. He was then required to travel to small towns and villages in north and eastern regions of India for Self-Help Group (SHG) meetings.
“In one such meeting, I learned that people in villages were using microfinance loans to order branded products online, which were then delivered by India Post. I was amazed to see that they had access to brands online, but did not have access to quality education despite the fact that they were willing to pay,” Chandraprakash says.
Tapping the opportunity
He felt that this gap translates into a huge business opportunity as more than two-thirds of the 300 million students in India live outside big cities.
“Having done my schooling from a rural area and given competitive exams, I could empathise with the plight of rural students who did not have access to quality education and career guidance,” he says.
It was natural for him to follow his calling, and create a platform for these students. Chandraprakash discussed his business idea with few friends. The discussions led to a meeting with his now Co-founder Arunima Sinha, an ex-banker who was running Stratagem, a coaching institute in Dehradun for competitive exams since 2010 after quitting her job with SIDBI.
Arunima was looking to expand her coaching school, so both decided to work together and launch ixamBee. Initially, they started scouting for a CTO. “My search ended with Sandeep Singh, our tech co-founder, whom I met through my friends in Gurugram,” he says.
Sandeep, an entrepreneur himself, had started Babyhugz.com, an ecommerce platform for baby products. However, he was looking to embark on his next entrepreneurial journey as his startup didn't work out.
“We realised that we three bring complementary skills - Arunima is a passionate teacher, Sandeep a tech wiz, and I offer business development and senior leadership work experience. We met in September 2016 and incorporated ixamBee in December 2016. The website was launched in April 2017 with a seed capital of Rs 80 lakh,” Chandraprakash says.
Focus on quality content
The content at ixamBee is prepared in-house and aims to match the learning patterns of students from small towns and rural areas. “We are currently creating material in a mix of Hindi and English because the exams we offer are in these two languages only,” the co-founder says.
Chandraprakash reveals that when he started ixamBee, most existing players, such as OnlineTyari, Testbook, Oliveboard, GradeUp, MockBank, and others, were offering only practice and mock tests.
“We started ixamBee to provide complete learning solutions to students. We focus on learning as against only tests. We are the only platform in the test prep market that does not sell any mock tests but gets subscribers for complete learning solutions,” he says.
At present, ixamBee has learning courses for more than 10 exams and mock tests for more than 50 exams. “We provide crisp and quality content that matches specific requirements of the exams. Our learning solutions are video-based lessons, and include live classes for doubt clarification. A large number of practice questions help improve the learning outcome and measure the progress,” Chandraprakash adds.
Sharing the success story of a student, Chandraprakash says Niharika, a commerce graduate living in Elluru district of Andhra Pradesh, wanted to become a bank officer. Internet research led her to ixamBee, and she registered for the free mock tests.
A review of her scores led her to realise that there were significant gaps in her score and the selection cut-off. She decided to focus on the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection Probationary Officers Exam (IBPS PO), and aimed for higher-level exams like RBI, SEBI, and NABARD later.
After 10 months of preparation with ixamBee, she was selected as an assistant manager in SBI. Now, she is working with SBI and preparing for jobs in RBI and SEBI.
Growing their user base
Chandraprakash did not disclose exact revenue figures but said the ticket size ranges from Rs 5,000 to Rs 23,000 per course. He claims that the site has about 1,500 paid users, a number that is increasing every month.
“In the last year, our website traffic has grown more than 10X and revenue has grown more than 4X,” he says.
The startup boasts of 800,000 registered users, who have attempted more than 300 million practice questions at ixamBee. About 0.5 million users visit its website on a monthly basis.
“We register five million page views every month, and our videos on YouTube have crossed two million views already,” Chandraprakash says.
“Most of our users come from small towns, including Kakinada, Madurai, Ellore, Dharampuri, Shillong, Jind, Vidisha, Meerut, and Haldwani etc. They do not have access to coaching institutes. A significant percentage of paid users are working professionals and college-going students who cannot attend coaching classes,” he says.
The way ahead
The edtech company is estimating a break-even in the next four to six months. It plans to keep investing the profits into the business to launch more courses, a mobile app, and add more languages on the platform.
The company is aiming to reach five million students and annual revenue of over Rs 10 crore by 2021.
IxamBee has received angel funding of Rs 2 crore so far from investors such as Keyur Joshi, co-founder of MakeMyTrip; and other senior executives from ITC, Myntra, Milaha, YES Bank, Indigo and, others. “We are now looking for funding of $1.5 million to meet their growth target,” Chandraprakash says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)