[App Fridays] SaaS unicorn Zoho forays into edtech with online classes discovery app
’Tis the season of online learning. The edtech sector has witnessed an inflexion point amidst COVID-19. In fact, businesses and founders are comparing it to Indian fintech’s demonetisation moment in 2016.
With close to 1.5 billion students around the world grounded due to the overnight closing of educational institutions, there’s never been a better time to start an e-learning or e-coaching business.
The latest entrant in this segment is homegrown SaaS unicorn.
The Chennai-based software giant has launched Classes, a video-based class and course discovery platform for schools, colleges, coaching institutes, and vocational trainers (of sports, fitness, yoga, art, music, dance, robotics, etc.).
Illustration: Vijeesh MR | YS Design
Unveiling the app in a virtual press meet in April, Zoho Founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu said, “The current global trade system may not continue. We are trying to improve our domestic market penetration. We are systematically increasing India exposure and want to solve local problems.”
Zoho Classes is available in Google Play Store’s ‘Early Access’ section, and has crossed 1,000 downloads. Apple users can access it through the TestFlight app (which lets iOS developers test beta versions of their apps). Users can also request access to the platform on the Zoho Classes site.
What Zoho Classes offers
The location-based app is targeted at parents to help them enrol kids in classes organised by their schools and colleges and also to discover vocational classes nearby.
Zoho has already partnered with 450 state-run schools in Maharashtra to expedite their transition to online. To help the government in its endeavour to move schools online, Zoho Classes is available for free for all public schools.
For private schools, it is free for up to 100 students. The app can live stream classes to over 10,000 students simultaneously, according to its listing.
Zoho Classes allows teachers to upload courses and learning material, share and grade assignments, mark attendance, and interact with students in real-time. Students can access both live and recorded video lectures, submit assignments, and communicate with teachers through the app.
Interestingly, even though Zoho Classes is an India-only app for now, users from anywhere in the world can ‘Pay & View’ courses created by local schools, letting them generate an additional revenue stream.
For both school fees and vocational courses, Zoho Classes supports payments through UPI, digital wallets, net banking, and credit and debit cards.
The enterprise component of Classes
Zoho Classes, in many ways, is reminiscent of G Suite for Education, Google’s enterprise grade offering for educational institutions worldwide, which facilitates the smooth and seamless running of schools online.
Classes lets schools manage curriculums, collect fees and send reminders for late payments, set up a mobile store to sell uniforms, tickets, merchandise, and other school supplies, showcase its faculty, share bios and achievements, and broadcast school updates through an in-app feed.
These feeds can also be used by students and parents for voting, sending RSVPs, and acknowledging programme invites.
Through the app, schools can also share pictures and YouTube videos of events, and raise funds from trustees, patrons, and alumni.
Zoho Classes offers a separate component to course providers, hosts, and trainers to manage businesses, generate leads, and collect payments.
Owners can ‘CLAIM’ their business by providing necessary details related to their offering. On verification by Zoho, they get access to a comprehensive CRM to enrol and manage course-takers. This is a subscription-led product, and customers are charged on a conventional SaaS model.
Parents can express interest in any business using the SMS or Call options, following which the business owner can contact them.
Verdict: Comprehensive and well-timed
Even though this is just version 1.0 of Zoho Classes, which means there will be several feature upgrades along the way, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this product is destined for success, especially at a time like this.
COVID-19 has created a desperate need for online learning platforms that can replicate offline classrooms and the periodic curriculum of schools to ensure that students don’t lose their learning momentum.
Zoho Classes does that convincingly and comprehensively.
By removing limits on courses and students, the app has already positioned itself above straight-jacketed video meeting apps like Zoom, Google Meet, and others, which are being widely used by teachers in India.
Even though video-based learning is at the core of Classes, Zoho has integrated it with compelling CRM software, thus building a well-rounded product poised to go beyond academia.
Add to that, Zoho Corporation’s deep networks across the world and its two-decade-long credibility among enterprise customers, it wouldn’t be long before the company takes Classes global.
But first, it needs to come out of beta so that more Indians can enter the 'class'.