This edtech startup went from listing internships to helping tuition teachers, coaching centres go online
That edtech is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic is well documented by now. It is not only one of the top funded sectors in 2020, but the breakneck adoption of e-learning is expected to outlast the pandemic.
Experts believe that blended learning formats that have emerged organically are going to define the future of education in India, which has been plagued by information scarcity and lack of access to quality learning resources.
Delhi-based startup Precisely set out to solve this problem of access in 2018.
Founded by Saurabh Patel, Desh Deepak Dwivedi, Kirti Krishan, Hitesh Gautam, and Pankaj Baranwal, it began as an opportunity aggregation and discovery platform that connected Indian students with global mentors, experts, fellowships, internships, conferences, and networking events.
Students had to create their profiles on the Precisely app, choose areas of interest, seek guidance or mentorship, and apply to an opportunity.
Co-founder and Director Kirti Krishan tells YourStory,
“We had an educational venture in mind since 2017 while doing some pro bono work with NGOs. We got a chance to present our models at foreign conferences and seminars. That is when we realised that higher education opportunities were limited, and there was no such platform for students to discover them. They would depend on their own contacts to understand the application criteria or would end up spending huge amounts of money on career counselling.”
Precisely set out to fix this awareness and exposure problem with its platform.
Before and after COVID-19
In about two years, it created a library of over 3,000 opportunities across 35 countries, and forged partnerships with more than 300 global organisations, including the United Nations.
Students could seek guidance from the likes of Obama Foundation Fellows, entrepreneurs, and alumni of these partner organisations for a nominal fee.
Until January 2020, Precisely was just an “opportunity platform” racking up one lakh downloads across devices and attaining over 10,000 paid users. “We performed very well in Tier I markets,” says the co-founder.
He adds, “Our product was more big city-focused. We had 60 percent Indian users, while the rest came from the US, Canada, APAC, and Africa. Our users were undergrad students looking for opportunities to add to their CVs.”
But the pandemic changed that.
As the coronavirus gripped the world and countries locked international borders, the demands of the learning market changed dramatically.
Students were no longer applying for fellowships abroad. Education was severely disrupted. To adapt to this, Precisely went through a feature expansion.
The biggest requirement in education post COVID-19 were platforms that could enable the seamless transfer of learning from offline to online.
This need was even more pressing in Tier II and Tier III towns, where learning infrastructure, access, and connectivity were already a challenge. Precisely stepped in to cater to this market and close the gaps in virtual education with a new offering — Learnage.
Expanding to learning management
Learnage is a learning management system (LMS) that helps coaching centres, tuition teachers, and even schools in small towns go online in a hassle-free manner. The product is available within the Precisely app.
Like most LMS, Learnage offers features like live classes, video lectures, assignment submissions, scheduling, test prep content and more. Teachers can also record courses and upload them as a playlist for a certain fee. Most importantly, the platform has also enabled support for 21 Indian languages.
“Our founding team is from Patna, Ayodhya and other small towns. We wanted to help people in these markets that don't understand the language of foreign internships. Tuition teachers here cannot access Zoom and Google Hangouts. We launched Learnage for them."
"Over 7.1 crore students take tuitions in India. It is a big market in Tier II and III cities. We want to build a full network for tuition teachers. Even though we have added a few schools on Learnage, tuitions are our main focus,” he added.
Over 65,000 students have joined Learnage since its launch in February.
The average time spent per user on Learnage is 16 to 20 minutes, which is 4-5X of what users would spend on opportunity listings earlier.
The platform has also signed up over 4,000 small and mid-sized coaching centres across India. Of this, 3,000 are “active centres”, the founder reveals.
“Almost 68 percent of our users are from Tier II towns. Jaipur, Indore, Surat, Patna, Lucknow, and Kanpur have been the top markets so far. And if the demand pops up, the language switch will be super easy. We’re looking to partner with some schools and also add more test prep material as we go along.”
Business model and growth plans
The startup has a two-pronged business model.
One, it charges a small “platform fee” from students, while being free for individual tuition teachers. It is a cut from the tuition fees they pay.
Two, Precisely is offering its backend and tech as a whitelabel solution to coaching centres and schools. They are charged a recurring monthly/yearly fee (SaaS model) based on the number of students using the platform.
Teachers and instructors can also make their course playlists accessible to a larger student pool for a fee. The platform takes a cut of that too.
“We’re charging only 35-40 percent of what other players charge. Plus, we’re 30 percent cheaper than Zoom. That helped us grow faster and drive product adoption. Our annual growth rate has increased by 55 percent.”
Learnage looks to have at least half a million active users at the end of December 2020, and double that to one million by June 2021. “It is an ambitious target but we are pivoting to a learning platform now. We’re also looking to raise a Series A round soon,” the co-founder states.
Until now, the startup has been backed by a bunch of accelerators and organisations, including eSpark Viridian Accelerator, The DO School (of Germany), Design Innovation Centre of the University of Delhi, Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, Internet Governance Forum of USA, SNU Venture Challenge among others.
Interestingly, even after expanding to learning management, Precisely plans to retain opportunity listings on its app. That will be an incremental feature for students from Tier II and III cities. “We want to help students know about all that is happening in the world. But the next one year’s focus will be on learning,” Kirti says.
Precisely’s peers in the LMS space includes Edumarshal, Fedena, mPowerO, Entab, Google Classroom, TalentLMS, and others. But its focus on small towns and private coaching centres gives it a competitive edge.
Globally, the LMS market is expected to double from $13.4 billion in 2020 to $25.7 billion by 2025, riding on the dramatic shifts in education brought about by the pandemic.
Edtech startups like Precisely are only getting started.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai