WATCH: How this CA prep startup built a 75pc success rate for one of the toughest competitive exams
In a video interview with YourStory, Founder Sriram Somayajula dispels the misconceptions surrounding CA exams and tells us about the success story of his CA prep startup, IndigoLearn.Sutrishna Ghosh
When you think of accounting, finance, management, and economics, the first words that most likely come to mind are theoretical, boring, conceptual, and complex. But Hyderabad-based edtech startup IndigoLearn aims to change all that.
Founded in early 2017, it combines animation with advanced teaching tactics on a digital platform that is accessible to everyone aspiring to crack what’s considered one of the toughest competitive examinations: chartered accountancy.
Watch IndigoLearn Co-founder Sriram Somayajula in conversation with YourStory here:
“IndigoLearn was born out of our experience of interacting with fresh chartered accountants and young graduates. There has always been a gap in reality versus expectations, and we wanted to impart some conceptual knowledge to these CA aspirants,” says Sriram Somayajula, who co-founded the CA prep startup with Sathya Raghu, Suraj Lakhotia, Sarat Velumuri, and the visual effects team from Thunder Studios.
Launched with an initial investment of Rs 45 lakh, the bootstrapped startup went on to raise Rs 85 lakh as part of a seed investment round in April 2018. In January 2019, IndigoLearn raised an additional seed round, garnering Rs 94 lakh in investment.
However, chartered accountancy is not a niche field, and there are quite a few players catering to CA aspirants. Some of them, in fact, are fairly old, having been in the field for decades.
“What we do – and we do it very uniquely and very differently – is that we fuse a lot of animation and fun together. We actually work a lot on pedagogy, and the way we teach students to make the whole learning experience very interesting,” Sriram explains.
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Storify, gamify, and then deep dive – the learning process
The pedagogy sets IndigoLearn apart as instead of going the theoretical way, Sriram says they storify the learning process.
“Compared to a traditional coaching class or a school, where the concept or bookish definition is taught first, we approach teaching the other way round. Usually, someone will explain the definition and then giving various example; we flip this. We take a real-life story and explain the concept in that real-life story and then go deeper into the concept, theories, and related aspects to simplify the whole thing,” he adds.
The reason behind this approach is that when a student begins with a lot of text and concepts, they find it difficult to relate the learning with real-life, practical implementations.
“So our approach is storify, then get into the concept, then gamify, and finally deep dive into how a particular subject or concept is useful for you,” Sriram explains.
Currently, IndigoLearn’s offering includes an entire gamut of courses for CA Foundation, the first stage of the chartered accountancy examinations. While they have courses for CA intermediate (or CA inter, the second level of the examination) and CA final too, Sriram says they will soon be adding more course material for these on the platform.
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The digital convenience: ‘anytime and anywhere’
Apart from the fact that IndigoLearn, as an e-learning service provider, facilitates the convenience of digital learning - anytime and anywhere – the platform also does away with a lot a tedious processes that are usually involved.
“All our courses are delivered online and students can watch them anytime, anywhere on their mobile, laptop, tablet, or any other device,” Sriram explains. All that students need to do is subscribe to “our course online using a debit/credit card or a digital wallet” and they can start accessing it the next instant. This means, there is no need to travel somewhere, get physically registered, or even attend classes early in the morning. “All that is passé,” he adds.
In any kind of learning, visual representation is the easiest way to remember things. IndigoLearn is using this idea to explain a concept by visualising it on the screen so that students can actually “remember better, understand better, and then perform better during the exams”.
Not-so-traditional methods = phenomenal success rate
With smartphone penetration and affordable data plans, digital disruption is making its presence felt across all domains, whether it is edtech, banking, or something as traditional as a CA prep startup.
IndigoLearn’s approach is no different. Using relevant tech tools and data analytics, the team is trying to provide CA aspirants with feedback and valuable insights on the topics that they do and don’t understand well, their strong points, and suggestions on where to focus their attention.
At the moment, Sriram says, IndigoLearn has some 20,000-odd registered users from across the country. While these registered users have the option of trialing a few free courses on the platform, they need to subscribe with a certain fee to unlock other courses.
“Some of our courses start as low as Rs 99,” Sriram says. “Students need not purchase the entire course; they can choose three-four elements that are very important to them and buy those.”
Including the founders, animation team members, and content team members, IndigoLearn is currently a 20-member-strong team, partnering with 11 external faculty members.
“We are doubling our paying students and revenue every season (every half year) and we are planning to accelerate on that growth in the upcoming seasons (based on new product launches and increasing awareness),” adds Sriram.
Digital convenience, feasible pricing, interactive teaching methods – while all these factors appear to have worked in the favour of this CA prep startup, the fact remains that there are a host of other online platforms and umpteen brick-and-mortar coaching centres vying for a share of the market. Even on the digital side, there are a couple of challenges like reduction in attention span and the problem with making a conceptual subject engaging and interactive.
Sriram and his team, however, seem to be navigating these problems without many roadblocks. “We started out two years ago. Compared to the success rate of students who write the eventual exam, which is broadly between 20 and 30 percent, depending on the level and the year, our success rate is 75 percent,” Sriram notes, with a hint of pride.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)