How this 32-year-old entrepreneur is disrupting India’s $1.96 B online education market with his digital classroom
Thirty-two-year-old Chirag Arya hails from a family that has been in the teaching sector for many decades now. His mother, Anita Arya, taught Mathematics at Mumbai’s leading international schools - the Cathedral, John Connon School, and Campion School - for more than two decades.
To say that learning and academia has been a part of his very DNA while growing up isn’t really a stretch. A graduate from Georgia Tech, USA, the Mumbai native has seen the Indian education system closely, witnessing it evolve over the years to produce skilled professionals. And yet, he points out, there is an underserved, ripe for disruption gap in this sector.
“While the current students’ environment is completely different from the environment that I grew up in, the learning methods are still the same,” he says. His thoughts are echoed by the Annual Status of Education Report, which suggests that “the structural flaws in our educational system have only deepened in the past 10 years”.
While India has managed to bring more and more children to school, the report points out that the challenge is to educate them, a hurdle which seems to be directly related to the glaring shortage of qualified teachers.
To bridge this gap between teacher-led and student-centered learning, Chirag co-founded PaperVideo – touted to be India’s first digital classroom for supplementary learning – in December 2017 along with his mother Anita and sister Sneha Arya. A product of two years of painstaking research, discussions, and workshops, the edtech platform went live in September 2019.
Transforming teaching with technology
PaperVideo’s programme offers practice questions, homework, tests, and illustrative videos that explain questions that students might have incorrectly attempted.
Chirag explains that just like in classrooms, live, teacher-led online classes are conducted here. The unique course curriculum, based on a structured and time-tested learning method, provides a holistic digital classroom experience to the students through teaching presentations, digital books, video lectures, 10,000+ homework and tests questions, strategy-based video explanations for each question, over 3,000 flashcards, reminders, and to-do lists, he adds.
But its biggest USP, perhaps, is that the programmes are congruent with textbook syllabus. The supplementary learning platform, at the moment, has a Mathematics curriculum for Grades 8 to 12, congruent with CBSE, ICSE, and all State Educations Boards of India.
At the heart of all the programmes, the idea remains the same: marrying traditional methods with tech tools. As Chirag explains,
“The term ‘PaperVideo’ signifies what we are trying to do – we are trying to leverage technology to enhance learning while retaining the tried and tested learning methods like classrooms and books (digital books).”
Actionable insight with ‘Skill Engine’
PaperVideo is a product of extensive research and a first-hand understanding of everything that’s wrong with the education sector in India. The brains behind the platform – Chirag, Anita, and Sneha Arya – have years of experience and a well-connected network in this field.
It is through their experience and resources in this field that they learnt how lack of quality teachers and curriculum have been the primary reason behind India consistently ranking low in all global education indexes. To score higher on the global metrics would mean supplementing K12 curriculum with online resources.
According to a KPMG-Google report, there are five categories of education with potential for significant online adoption. Of these five categories, as it turns out, the online primary and secondary supplementary education is foreseen as the dominant category with a 39 percent market share by 2021.
Around 280 million students are going to be enrolled in schools by 2021. This not only sets the stage for a burgeoning edtech ecosystem in the country but also necessitates it for the various players to set themselves apart from the competition. But one way PaperVideo – which competes with the likes of BYJU’S, Vedantu, and Toppr – is securing its spot among the leading edtech players in the country is with the use of machine learning.
“PaperVideo's ‘Skill Engine’ understands and tracks every student’s progress throughout their journey. Every online class, homework or test map the student’s strengths and weaknesses and provides personalised learning paths, online classes, and tests for each student,” says the founder.
The five-year goal
Currently catering to Grade 8-12 with a Maths curriculum, the plan going forward is to add more subjects taught in the Indian K-12 school system. Courses for competitive exams like the IIT JEE, CAT, GRE and professional development courses such as digital marketing, machine learning, etc. will also be included in the scope of programmes developed by PaperVideo.
With the expansion of course curriculum, says Chirag, some of the content and courses will also be monetised.
“Majority of the features like our books, concept videos, etc., will be free but premium features like adaptive learning and live classes will be charged. The price will be between Rs 2,000 - Rs 5,000 depending on the courses,” he adds.
The market for online education, after all, is a promising one in India, poised to grow 8x over the next five years to reach $1.96 billion by 2021. While there might be enough room for all, there’s a certain advantage in store for the early birds. All one needs to do is to have a clear roadmap, an aspect that the founding team of PaperVideo seems to have got in order.
The aim, as the founder says, is to assimilate all the feedback they have received so far and channel it towards starting paid courses from April 1 onwards, following which, all eyes will be on driving the revenue.
“We will be generating revenue from FY21 onwards,” quips Chirag adding, “we have set aggressive but achievable targets.”
(Edited by Megha Reddy)