Why this Vedantu co-founder decided to start another edtech firm - Uable

After six years of being a co-founder at Vedantu, Saurabh Saxena has ventured out again to start Uable - a life skills development platform for children between six to 16 years.
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The edtech sector isn’t new for Saurabh Saxena; as one of the founders of Vedantu, Saurabh has seen it all. And yet, when he was looking to launch a startup the third time around, he couldn’t think of any space other than education. 

Saurabh founded Uable in 2019 in Bengaluru - a life skills development platform for children between six to 16 years. 

Along with Vamsi Krishna, Pulkit Jain, and Anand Prakash, Saurabh had initially started Lakshya Institute in Patiala and Chandigarh to help students in Tier II and III cities get admission to top tier universities. 

When the institute started scaling, the four friends started expanding the idea into building a pure play tech platform and Vedantu was born around 2011. 

Saurabh Saxena

Why edtech again? 

However in a few years, Saurabh felt there still was a gap in the market that wasn’t being addressed.

“While I worked on building Lakshya and Vedantu, I realised that both the conventional education system and edtech for K12 largely relied on a teacher-driven curriculum which was governed by marks and tests, and children were not solving real-world problems. There was not much inquiry, exploration or room to think creatively,” says Saurabh.

He came across a NASA study that pointed out that the creative potential of children drops from 90 percent to 12 percent by the time they reach the age of 14. “I saw the need to redefine learning, especially at an early age, to build a learning environment where there is scope for creative thinking, collaboration and learning through play for children,” says Saurabh. 

He says he realised that all coaching institutions, tuition centres, and after school learning centres are either supplementing school or training students for exams, and not necessarily designed to suit a child's unique strengths, unique skills, and passion.

“In 2014, I became a father. A simple question that I asked when we were discussing formal schooling for our daughter in 2017 was, what kind of learning journey or system would I want her to be a part of? There was no institution that focussed exclusively on nurturing play and creativity from a young age, that would equip my daughter with the life skills she needed to build early on to thrive in an uncertain future,” says Saurabh. 

As his vision of building an innovative curriculum outside of school education grew stronger, he formally stepped down as Vedantu’s cofounder in 2018. He says with Uable the aim was to design scalable active learning models that are focussed on developing life-skills for the children of today. 

What does it do?

The startup has built a mobile and web app where children can play and act in roles drawn from real world professions. “For instance, take our game designer role; this requires children to be creative, use critical thinking, and most importantly collaborate with their team members to build an actual computer program as well as multiple analog card and board games, with a facilitator who teaches them basic coding and game mechanics.”

“Our programs are designed in a way that children get to play and at the same time, learn, and collaborate with their peers and also learn the basic principles of STEM,” says Saurabh. The sessions are live, synchronous Zoom meetings with six students and a facilitator. 

“For more than a year, I worked on creating 21st century skills frameworks, developed assessments and designed play-based learning experiences, researched and collaborated with experts from all over the world to create a system upon which my newly found venture, Uable is built on,” says Saurabh.

The platform is focussed on nurturing creative intelligence and developing future-ready skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and social emotional development in children.

Saurabh explains that the interdisciplinary programs combine experiential, play and peer-based learning packaged within exciting real-world role-play based contexts of becoming an entrepreneur, Youtuber, game designer, astronomer, coder and many more. 

The sessions 

Currently in the beta stages, in the next six months, the platform should be ready with their own live learning platform as well. 

"We host hour-long workshops for free. These serve as a preview and this helps parents decide whether they can be a paid user and commit their kid’s time for about three months. Each of the three-month courses cost Rs 6,000,” says Saurabh.  

Pricing depends on the kind of package the parents choose. Uable now has two kinds of programs: One is ‘Uable Explore Series’ which is a short program of four to six sessions each where the children can explore various domains and choose what interests them more. The other is called ‘Uable Genius’ programs that are curated, interdisciplinary, three-month long learning journeys- two sessions a week and 24 sessions in total. 

There are six to eight main roles that children can focus on. Through these projects, which are very hands on and experiential, children develop all the necessary skills and these learning experiences happen in a very social environment. 

“There are just four to six peers and one facilitator. So we don't call them classes, they are Uable playgrounds and Uable peer groups. So, six children with one facilitator go through the entire experience together by a lot of discussions, problem solving, collaboration, communication, etc. This is how the product works,” says Saurabh. 

“Our peer-based learning model of four to six children in one session enables us to operate at very healthy gross margins of over 50 percent while providing a very cost effective model for the parents, with Rs 250-300 per session. In addition to this, with over 60 percent retention rate (which is expected to settle at 80% over time), we are looking at a fairly robust LTV to CAC ratio of 5-6x within the 1st year of a child’s journey with Uable itself,” says Saurabh. 

The market and future 

The K-12 segment is fast growing in India. Apart from unicorns and giants like BYJU'S, the K-12 segment is growing with players like - Lido Learning, Tinker Coders, and more recently Kyt, which is a part of Surge’s fourth cohort. 

Uable has raised a pre-seed round in December and a seed round in July 2020. In the next one year, the startup will focus on product development. 

Saurabh explains they want to move far beyond being only a live learning environment and become a social learning ecosystem for learning between the ages of 6 - 16 yrs, where they can connect, challenge, socialise, showcase and of course learn together. 

“We also have plans of testing our product overseas in countries like the US and Singapore. So, we will be trying out a few pilots very soon, we already have conducted one fairly successful pilot in Singapore. Our product is not typically for a mass audience at the moment, it will take some time, but the global market and the Indian urban market is primed for a model like ours,” says Saurabh. 

Edited by Anju Narayanan