Started by IIT Bombay and BITS Pilani alumni, this edtech startup is using AI to simplify parent-teacher collaboration
As the edtech space gains steam during the lockdown, a number of players operating in the space have attracted investor attention and raised big-ticket investments.
While most of these players are busy bringing classes online, Pune-basedis offering a B2B SaaS-based collaborative learning management system (C-LMS) to help students, teachers, parents, and institutes.
Founded by Akash Singhal, Akshaya Singhal, Devashish Saxena, and Gauri Dehnkar in 2018, Illumnus is an edtech startup, which aims to bring the entire school online. It enables better teacher-student collaboration and offers features such as video lectures, submission of assignments, attendance tracking, etc.
Apart from its student-teacher suite, the startup helps school administrations and parents in real-time monitoring and performance tracking of the children.
“It is a platform to integrate the most important pillars of the education system, which aims to make the network more compliant with the millennial generation,” says Akash.
According to sources, the startup has signed up with over 30 universities and schools so far.
The early days
IIT Bombay graduate Akash Singhal is a serial technology entrepreneur, with over seven years of experience in the startup ecosystem. He previously co-founded healthcare startup Medd, which was acquired by 1mg/HealthKart+. His expertise also made him help several organisations in developing scalable tech architectures and growing the business to reach profitability.
Akshaya, on the other hand, is a BITS Pilani alumnus. He was an ink illustrator and graphics/UX consultant, and had worked with over 40 clients (mostly overseas) before starting up. The core problem that he was able to solve for Illumnus was making technology usable for various age groups. Being a professional in product designing and user experience, he joined in as a co-founder in 2018.
After the tech development phase, Illumnus needed a business person to formalise the business expansion, and the founders roped in Devashish Saxena, who joined in as Chief of Business Strategies and as co-founder in 2019. Devashish is a serial entrepreneur and had run two startups - Poogli (acquired) and MediCloud365, before he joined Illumnus. He is a graduate of UIT-RGPV in Bhopal. Gauri passed out of University of Pune in 2018 and joined in as co-founder this year.
How it works?
Akash says, there are several students in a class, and not every student has the same level of understanding and learning capacity. With an unbalanced teacher-student ratio, it becomes almost impossible for teachers to provide individual attention to every child.
“Our goal is to provide a personalised teaching and learning experience for students and teachers by using AI/ML,” says Akash.
The startup claims the SaaS-based learning management system is easy to set up. Once a school or institute signs up on the platform, they get separate login credentials for admins, teachers, students, and parents.
Each one of them can have their integrated access to the platform. Teachers can access the subjects/classes they are teaching, and students can access the subjects (as a class group). Additionally, teachers and students can share and discuss notes, study materials, assignments, and quizzes.
The platform even helps in managing day-to-day attendance, and to make knowledge dissemination centralised, simplified, and collaborative at the same time. The startup also offers chat-based collaborative learning management system, which enables smooth flow of information.
According to the founders, since Illumnus brings parents, teachers, students, and administration on a single platform, everyone is actively involved in the whole learning process. Further, the AI/ML-powered recommendations and relevant statistics make the decision-making process fast and easy for administrators.
As the tech infrastructure plays a significant role in user experience, it uses AWS servers and security systems.
Akash says: “We secure data with globally accepted data security and encryption standards so that even in the worst possible breach, users’ personal data is secured and unaffected.”
The startup works on a B2B SaaS model and licence-based subscription model, and charges per student/per licence (pricing by request only). All the technology (students-teacher app, parents app, administration app), hosting, deployments, regular updates, and support are included and complimentary.
The startup also has some integrated premium features like live video lectures, which are charged separately according to the usage of the services.
The founders have made a personal investment of around Rs 30 lakh in the startup. In May this year, Illumnus also raised $100,000 in seed round from angel Investors from Dubai.
Talking about differentiation, Akash says: “We cater to B2B SaaS-based edtech market. Though the sector has existed for long, the market adaptability has been very less. In the B2C market in India, many companies are on the right track. Byju’s is one of the prime players amongst them. But, looking at the current conditions, it has become a crowded market with no directives of a synchronised learning system in place, and that is what makes us different. Our core ideologies are different in terms of imparting knowledge and skills.”
Illumnus currently competes with 360AI, MagicBox, and Valamis.
The first client
According to Akash, they developed the product for over two plus years, wherein they had to start from scratch multiple times until they finally got the product right.
“We had to work over 12 pilot projects. Then we started chasing our first client - all we were aiming for was a big client with big infrastructure and student count that would have enabled us to test and start our system. We were running out of our saving funds, and the company needed a big paying client to survive the next quarter,” says Akash.
And last year, they took a leap of faith and went to Dubai and reached out to prospective clients. In the last few days of the trip, they got their first big international client - Arab Unity Dubai (3,500 students).
“You don’t really get valued right if not funded without the working product and right set of clients and users. We solved the problem by investing on our own with the help of friends and family. Perseverance plays the biggest role. To survive, you need frugal innovation,” says Akash.
The market and plans ahead
A report by RedSeer and Omidyar Network India reveals there is an increase in edtech users - both paid and free unique users - in the K12 and post K-12 segment, with the user base doubling from 45 million to 90 million from 2019 to 2020. According to the report, online education offerings across Classes 1 to 12 are projected to increase 6.3 times by 2022, to create a $ 1.7 billion market. The post-K12 market is set to grow 3.7 times to touch $1.8 billion, the report said.
The startup aims to increase its presence to at least five countries by 2023, and will be targeting Tier I and Tier-II cities for the next 18 months. It is also in talks with state governments and the Ministry of Education for rolling out the LMS for government educational institutions. The startup, however, did not want to disclose its revenues.