IIT coaching platform AhaGuru uses deep research to transform the way students learn
AhaGuru, started in 2012 by Gomathi S and Dr Balaji Sampath, is on a mission to simplify the learning process and improve the quality of science and math education across India.
What do you do when your kids hate learning math and science?
According to Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 56 percent of children in Class 8 cannot do basic arithmetic. Also, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows that Class 10 students in India have math and science levels at par with Class 6 students in Singapore.
In 2012, Gomathi S and Dr. Balaji Sampath sat down and wondered if they could do something to make these subjects interesting to young school children.
“Since a lot of schools have underperforming teachers, most students end up going for coaching. But most institutes make students memorise formulas and question patterns instead of focusing on concepts and reasoning,” says Gomathi, explaining why she and Dr Balaji started Chennai-based AhaGuru Education Technology Private Limited.
“Most coaching classes thrive on making students feel like losers. Even good students lose confidence when they get into Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) or National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) coaching classes.”
Realising there was a need to change the approach to learning, AhaGuru was started to create a new breakthrough in the quality of science and math being taught across the country. AhaGuru’s research team focuses on how every topic can be made interesting and easy for students with a special focus on skill-building.
“The goal is not merely to grab attention through fancy animation, but to deepen subject mastery. AhaGuru ensures that every student feels like a winner,” says Gomathi.
Educational expertise solves the problem
Prior to starting up, Gomathi also founded Eureka Schools, a model for innovative teaching. Her ‘Science-in-a-box’ experiment kit became a huge hit as it used simple tools to demonstrate important concepts and is being used in over 1,200 schools today.
AhaGuru focuses on "conceptual learning through experiments" driven primarily by Gomathi wherein innovative teaching techniques, fun experiments, and visual demonstration are used to help students grasp and remember things better.
At AhaGuru, apart from taking classes, she manages day-to day-operations of the company.
Dr Balaji has been in the education space for nearly three decades. He founded AID INDIA in 1997, and has educated more than two million village children and trained over 4,000 teachers in science and math across 2,700 schools. He also initiated a tutoring programme with 3,000 tutors in small towns and villages to supplement school learning. At AhaGuru, apart from teaching and developing content, Balaji is in charge of technology product and strategy.
With the deep research done by their expert team and more than three decades of experience in the education sector, the founders of AhaGuru claim to have simplified the learning process.
The structure of each lesson is so finely tuned to the exact level of the student that the student “immediately gets” each concept and how to apply it.
A complete learning solution for all
Based in Chennai, AhaGuru has two products: a mentored learning programme and live virtual online classes. The former provides students with a personal mentor to track their progress and answer their doubts. The latter is a two-year programme that helps students directly learn from expert teachers.
“The ‘live virtual’ classes are so popular that many students who used to attend physical classes have dropped them and shifted to this mode,” says Gomathi. AhaGuru also provides a free app that offers free videos and questions every day.
She adds that only metros have access to coaching centres with some decent faculty, making it difficult for families in small towns to access quality coaching. By making the entire learning and coaching system digital, AhaGuru is enabling families to stay together and not compromise on children’s education.
“By ensuring that a complete and best learning solution is accessible to students from their homes, AhaGuru is tearing down the traditional urban-rural divide in entrance exams like IIT-JEE and NEET.”
Keerthana Kasi, a student of AhaGuru, was able to score All India Rank 12 in NEET, All India Rank 31 in AIIMS, and All India Rank 5 in JIPMER, thanks to the coaching provided at AhaGuru.
“The AhaGuru online videos are very useful to understand concepts that you may not grasp in your regular class. The concepts are explained in a unique way where everything seems so simple,” she says.
Another student, Srinivas Adireddi, says the online courses for math and science provided by AhaGuru are like no other. “The teachers and their brilliant and simple way of teaching concepts of advanced levels broadened my understanding and developed me to face the future.”
Srinivas was able to clear the entrance exam to a reputed institution in Visakhapatnam, with a high rank.
Doubling business using WhatsApp
Over time, the founders realised that most of their customers were using WhatsApp, so they decided to do most of their content marketing through the app. AhaGuru uses both the WhatsApp business version 2.19.34 and the WhatsApp user version 2.19.17.
With the group feature, communicating with students, tracking their progress, and instantly clearing doubts is much easier. Most importantly, they use WhatsApp for instant doubt-solving.
“We have formed several batches of students with mentors. Every day, our students get hundreds of doubts addressed this way,” Gomathi says.
She adds that the biggest challenge they face in the online learning business is the completion rate by students. There are various studies which estimate the average completion for a 10-hour MOOC course is as low as 15 percent.
But with the help of WhatsApp, AhaGuru is able to ensure that more than 70 percent of students complete 200+ hours of online learning in a year.
Since using the app, the company's business has doubled each year and it has received positive reviews. Within three years, revenue grew from Rs 70 lakh to Rs 6 crore.
The road ahead
Today, AhaGuru has a strong team size of 80 people. The founders look forward to using WhatsApp Business to create campaigns to reach more potential customers. They also plan to integrate WhatsApp into their website, to send timely reminders to students.
“Without WhatsApp, it would have been very difficult for us to help our customers - our students,” Gomathi says .
It’s no simple task teaching math and science, but with AhaGuru’s carefully designed courses and a little help from WhatsApp, students are finding these subjects easier and are succeeding in their exams.