These engineering students took a break from college to build an edtech startup for upskilling young graduates
Degrees in hand, but are India’s graduates job-ready? Not really, according to a Niti Aayog report released last December. The report said that a huge 53 percent of students who pass out from higher educational institutions every year are “not employable”.
Keen to tackle this problem, Ayush Bansal, 22, and Shubham Sharda, 23, founded Foxmula, an edtech startup that aims to upskill fresh graduates with industry-oriented skills, global certifications, and exposure via industrial internships.
Interestingly, the founding duo decided this cause was important enough to take a break from studies - they started up after completing the third year of their Information Technology engineering course at M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology.
Speaking about the “unemployability problem”, Shubham Sharda, Co-founder of Foxmula, says, “The current education system does not support or encourage a sense of belonging for students. They feel completely out of place, and that culture transcends into workplaces after they graduate.”
He adds that this stagnancy leads to unemployability, because employees are not skilled enough to match up with the goals of the organisations they work for. The duo noticed this while operating their previous startup, Inversion Consultancy, where they worked with several freelancers. Founded in early 2018, Inversion is a service provider that helped micro, small, and medium enterprises with their IT, PR, and HR needs.
“We identified that growth only follows survival, and basic survival is what these youth were struggling with. When they joined tech corporations as basic developers, they would inevitably struggle with the skills they needed but never got to learn."
In 2018, Shubham and Ayush decided to launch their Bengaluru-based startup, which offers courses in TensorFlow-based deep learning, advanced web development, Python-based machine learning, cloud, cybersecurity, game development, data science, and analytics using R programming language.
Focusing strictly on upskilling fresh graduates, Foxmula claims to have more than 10,000 customers and 3,000 active monthly users, all without having a marketing head.
Shubham says, “This user base and acceptance has come about mostly through word-of-mouth publicity and referrals, along with social media promotions.”
What does it offer?
The industry-oriented and self-paced internship modules last for 45 days after a one-month training period. The candidates are certified by reputed organisations like Microsoft, SAP, AWS, IBM, and MSMEs after the completion and submission of the project.
The pricing for these programmes ranges from Rs 4,000 to Rs 10,000, depending on the course material covered. The edtech startup, bootstrapped with an initial investment of Rs 50,000, claims to have clocked more than Rs 1 crore in revenue, in under one year.
Shubham says the courses are taught by globally certified professionals from various tech corporations, including Microsoft, Plant Genome Science Ltd, Tetra Pack, and Peerlyst.
The team had to face some obstacles because they only offered their services online. To amplify their offline presence, they reached out to users physically with FACEs (Foxmula Authorised Centre of Excellence). These FACEs are spread across different locations in the country, especially where a hybrid learning model for e-learning is required. As of now, the centres are located in Jaipur, Hyderabad, Mohali, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Udaipur, Indore, Bhopal, Kota, Ranchi, Patna, Lucknow, and Ahmedabad.
Understanding the users
Being students themselves, Ayush and Shubham put their understanding of the youth’s pulse to right use. They started initial user acquisition through college ambassadorship programmes; these primary student-customers became alumni only to further extend the loyalty and referrals.
“The first selling point that strikes me is how our users relate to the product and align their goals and objectives with what Foxmula offers. We try our best to build a sense of belonging and trust in our educational approach, which is the need of the hour,” Shubham says.
He credits the extended steps being taken by governments and organisations to enhance the reach of internet to the most remote areas of the country, and believes that is the way to facilitate access to e-learning.
Planning for the future
The edtech space in India was worth $247 million in 2016 and is all set to hit the $2 billion mark in 2021, according to a KPMG report. Players like UpGrad, BYJU’s, and Unacademy may be leading, but the founders of Foxmula are confident of finding a niche.
The duo also wants to raise funds this year to open Foxmula student chapters across educational institutes, launch app-based software suites for colleges, and open more than 500 offline centres.
Being a profitable company – the founders claim a profit margin of 55 percent - they are currently “on the lookout for investors who will align with their vision”.
“We are based out of Bengaluru, with a presence pan-India. By the end of the year, if everything goes as planned or better, we want to launch Foxmula in Europe and the Middle East,” Shubham says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)