With 1M+ users, this edtech startup by IIT alumni is aiming to improve the student-teacher ratio across India
A government report recently revealed that India trails behind several countries, including Brazil and China, in terms of student-teacher ratio in higher education. Among the eight countries compared, India’s student-teacher ratio was lowest at 24:1 against Sweden’s 12:1, Britain’s 16:1, Russia’s 10:1, and Canada’s 9:1.
At a time when internet-enabled devices per person is much more than the student-teacher ratio in India, two IIT Delhi alumni decided to address this gap, and came up with a unique open-school communication and social learning platform.
(LtoR) Ritesh Singh and Akshat Goel, Co-Founders of Eckovation
Ritesh Singh (29) and Akshat Goel (28) started Eckovation in 2015 to address the large gap of providing quality education by connecting teachers, parents, and students to interact freely through mobile phones.
“We cater to three major segments - school curriculum, test preparation, and professional learning segment,” says Ritesh.
How it works
The Delhi-based startup is addressing two major problems - the lack of quality teachers in the education sector, and the lack of personalisation in the education space.
According to the founders, Eckovation offers a complete learning cycle for students. “We offer video lessons to help them learn the subject. With quizzes, they can check their learning, and based on their performance, their learning curve is mapped through a tool which personalises the learning experience and gives them learning recommendation accordingly. The tool also provides students the circle of peers to discuss their doubts with, and also has experts participate on a real-time basis,” explains Akshat.
Giving an example of CAT, Akshat says, the best educators who secured highest percentiles themselves have prepared a learning programme on Eckovation.
“Topic-wise video lessons, topic tests, and mock tests are provided to students. As a learner comes on the platform, it takes the baseline and starts building the learning curve of students and gives them the predictive percentile they will likely secure in CAT. Based on this learning curve, the tool gives lessons and tells if the learner can do this, or if they can improve their percentile through x number,” he explains.
Similarly, the tool provides predictive percentage to students and recommends lessons to be completed based on their performance.
Ritesh adds that for best quality educators, Eckovation has tied-up with colleges like IIT Delhi and other IITs and IIMs. For the Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA) programme, Eckovation has partnered with the MHRD as well.
“To train IAS officers on Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Eckovation has collaborated with Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA). Here, Eckovation is teaching concepts like machine learning (ML), Blockchain, Data Science, Big Data, etc., to IAS officers and how they can use this in administration for bigger impact,” says Ritesh.
Raised in Chhapra, a small town in Bihar, Ritesh realised the need for quality education in India. Hence, while studying mechanical engineering at IIT Delhi, he started a non-profit called SARAS to help masses gain access to quality education from Indian and global universities in the form of audios and videos.
Ritesh was joined by his batchmate and friend Akshat, who helped him in developing technology for the same. While both wanted to pursue this for longer, the project miserably failed in rural areas due to multiple challenges.
“The implementation of this programme partially received good response in the Delhi region, but failed drastically in remote locations of the country,” says Ritesh.
The duo decided to pause the programme and take up jobs in companies. While Ritesh worked at Bosch, Akshat worked as a machine learning engineer at Japanese gaming major DeNA. However, their research for the next big edtech idea continued. Very soon, both itched to start their entrepreneurial journey, and decided to quit their jobs in 2014.
Initially, they did year-long research on ‘how technology can bring convergence in the education sector’, and visited hundreds of schools and colleges across India. They spotted two major challenges - lack of quality teachers and lack of personalisation of education.
“We realised that in order to make it huge, we need to solve a problem big enough about which people care about, but easy enough so that we can reach our target customers at speed. We also wanted to be capable enough of product and network effect to create an entry barrier for others, and versatile enough so that other people can create extensions over the platform,” says Ritesh.
The duo spent about six months developing the product, and after receiving favourable responses from initial alpha-customers, they launched Eckovation in 2015.
The business model
The company runs on both B2C and B2B models. While learners can directly subscribe to programmes in the B2C model, the startup partners with organisations, including state education departments, CSR departments, agencies, etc., in the B2B model.
Today, the startup has more than a million users, and 25,000 teachers on its platform. From two co-founders in 2015, Eckovation is a team of 150 people at present.
It is also running projects like Unnayan and Gyanodaya successfully in states like Bihar and Jharkhand. Here, students from government-run schools are taught through online and offline methods with the help of Smart TVs in the classrooms.
“The great impact came through Unnayan. The passing percentage improved from 38 percent to 71 percent, and the attendance improved from 15 percent to 53 percent. The project also received the Prime Minister’s Excellence Award from PM Narendra Modi in 2018, CAPAM International Innovation Award, and various other recognitions,” boasts Ritesh.
“Similar results were observed in Gyanodaya Godda programme, which was implemented in Godda with the support of the Adani Foundation. Godda jumped from 23rd position to 12th position in terms of passing percentage,” says Ritesh.
Market and competition
In India, a whopping 9.6 million users will be taking up online courses by 2021, estimates a joint report by KPMG and Google. The report also says the online education market itself is expected to witness a surge, growing 8x since 2016 to reach the $1.96 billion mark in the next two years.
Eckovation founders claim the global edtech market is growing at over 17 percent YoY, and the expected market valuation by 2020 is around $252 billion. The company currently competes with Byju’s, Unacademy, and Udemy amongst others.
Ritesh says, Eckovation is seeing 700 percent YoY growth, and in the current financial year, it has seen business of around $6 million, and expects to see revenue of around $10 million. The startup has also been operationally profitable since 2017, he adds.
Funding and future plans
Eckovation raised around $500,000 initially from a clutch of investors including Rohit Chadha, India Head, Bain & Company. But Ritesh says, the startup is not looking for any external funding at present as it is scooping capital from the profits.
At present, Eckovation is working with 10,000 government high schools in eight states through programmes like Unnayan. Going ahead, it wants to increase the number of schools to 50,000 by next year, and ensure the reach of quality education from the top to the bottom of the social pyramid.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)