Leveraging blockchain, TruScholar, is looking to make document issuance and verification simpler, secured and cost-effective
Academic credentials such as certificates issued by universities,academic institutes, EdTech companies and online education providers, are among the most crucial documents for students. While the norm is to issue physical copies, this is an inefficient, unsecured and expensive process. Today, the bigger challenge is that there are many ways to generate fake certificates that are impossible to trace or differentiate from the original. In the process, the credibility of both the issuing authority and the document holder suffers.
A key challenge in the education sector and why the answer lies in blockchain
“Document issuance and verification has always been a complex domain that involves various challenging and tedious authentication processes. Further, every organisation has its own authentication, verification, and issuance process. So, it is challenging to implement a standard verification procedure,” shares Mayur Zanwar, a Chartered Accountant, and Co-Founder of Truscholar, a Blockchain-powered Credential Management Platform. His startup is working to make the issuance and verification process a lot simpler, secured, trusted.
Samit Singhai, Co-Founder and an engineering alumnus from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who leads the tech function at the startup, shares, “By leveraging Blockchain, not only are we able to secure academic records and make them tamper-proof, we are also able to combat fraudulent claims by proving legitimacy of credentials. In addition, the technology makes credential issuance and verification faster and less costly.” The platform has been built to cater to the needs of educational institutes, universities, EdTech companies and recruiting agencies and companies. He explains that the TruScholar platform has been built on open course Hyperledger Indy Blockchain Platform, a public permissioned network which is also compliant with the W3C DID’s protocol - DID (Decentralised Identifiers) protocol that conforms to the interoperability standards being developed by the W3C Verifiable Claims Working Group.
The journey towards building
Mayur and Samit were batchmates, who went to pursue careers in Chartered Accountancy and Industrial Engineering and shared a relationship of a client and a consultant for 15 years. As founder directors, the duo were also instrumental in shaping Amravati Management Association, a non-profit organisation working to nurture the local entrepreneurial ecosystem in Amravati, Maharashtra, and had also been TiE Charter members of TiE Nagpur Since 2014. It was during this time that they realised the need to bring in a blockchain-based solution for digital credentials designed for the education sector.
“India holds an important place in the global education industry. The country has one of the largest networks of higher education institutions in the world. India is also the second largest market for e-Learning after the US. According to KPMG’s Study titled ‘Online Education in India: 2021’, India’s online market is set to grow to $1.96 billion and around 9.60 million users by 2021. These industry statistics, the evident challenge at hand and the emerging need for digital credentials as India continues to take the digital route across sectors was a clear pointer for a need for a solution,” shares Mayur.
Their journey towards starting TruScholar began with the founders enrolling in a six-month Blockchain Technology Management Program to understand the technology better. In October 2019, TruScholar was registered as a startup and the next few months were focused on ideation, interacting with academic institutions on-ground to understand the academic credential issuance process better and developing the platform. One of the key challenges in this phase was building a PoC and MVP. “While Blockchain is not entirely a new technology, it has evolved a lot during the recent years. This made building a good development team challenging,” shares Samit. However, TruScholar was successful in putting together a DevOps team consisting of ex-IIT graduates and also constantly interacted with global technical experts. The team also deep dived into the developments and built its own network for resources in the sector by constantly attending over 50 technical workshops, conferences, webinars. All this saw the startup accelerating its product development and launching a minimum viable product (MVP) in November 2020. “At the moment, we are moving towards the production stage, which we aim to complete by April 2021,” shares Mayur. The startup has parallely begun running outbound marketing campaigns having floated its Beta version. It also has begun conducting demos of TruScholar for prospective clients. “We are looking to release the version 1.0 of the product by the first quarter of this year. We have set a target of onboarding at least 50 institutes in the very first year of our product launch,” he adds.
A perspective on the market potential of Blockchain in India
An internal market study has pointed out that the total addressable market for TruScholar is nearly 70 million, including the number of students in universities, Edtech companies, and private organisations conducting reskilling courses. “The Edtech Market in India is growing rapidly. Further, due to COVID-19, students are more open to completing their academic studies via digital mode. All of this translates into opportunities for TruScholar,” saysMayur.
Mayur and Samit are excited about the potential and market prospect for TruScholar. They say that not only are the new-age EdTech companies driving the adoption and acceleration of digital technologies in the sector but also forward-looking educational policies. “Today, a number of educational policies in India keep pointing to the importance of digitisation. In fact, in 2019, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship proposed adoption of e-credential in the Skill Ecosystem using Blockchain. That was followed with a proposal by NITI Aayog in February 2020 for a Blockchain-based academic credential management system. Apart from this the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology also points at the promise and relevance of Blockchain Technology as a whole,” shares Samit.
The startup, which has been shortlisted among the top 30 startups of India in the T-Block Accelerator Program conducted by the Telangana Government, is vocal about the potential of Blockchain. “Today, we are seeing a lot more use cases for Blockchain in production than we did two years ago. If anything, this will only evolve faster in the next five years. While as a technology it is still nascent compared to other new-age technologies when it comes to understanding and adoption, it is a natural curve in the adoption journey. You need early adopters to drive the technology and that’s how we see ourselves,” says Samit. He says with Startup Registration Certificates issued by the Startup India via Blockchain technology is a clear indication that the technology will surely rise up the adoption curve in the time to come.