This startup blends brick and mortar coaching with edtech to facilitate education to students in small towns
While edtech has found prominence in India due to the pandemic, the importance of brick and mortar centres haven’t completely diminished, and mark an important step when it comes to scaling the education business.
That's what the founders of YSchool found out in 2020 after running their education startup Edusquare, which offers learning via brick and mortar training centres, for six years. Deepak Goyal, Tejpreet Singh, and Sivia Goyal set up YSchool as an alternative model of learning which combines edtech with physical coaching centres.
The startup enables students in high school to prepare for entrance examinations like IIT-JEE and NEET by using their phone, as well as makes provisions for them to attend in-person classes as and when required.
According to the Department of Higher Education and the National Testing Agency, more than one million people are vying for engineering and medical seats in top colleges after writing the IIT-JEE and NEET exams.
"Our company is making expertise accessible and affordable to all. The existing offline solutions are focused mainly on results from a few top students,withthose who don’t make the cut are left to fend for themselves," Deepak tells YourStory.
"Also, many deserving meritorious students cannot travel or relocate to far-off locations with major players and where they can avail expert faculties. So, they miss the bus for IIT-JEE or NEET selection owing to limited or no resources at their disposal," he adds.
Building the team
Edusquare’s journey started in 2009 when Deepak, an IIT-Delhi computer science graduate, quit his engineering job in Switzerland and got back to his roots. He was keen on bringing a change to Ludhiana’s education landscape, which had lacked organised coaching services for IIT-JEE and other entrance exams.
While looking for a person to onboard his vision for the new venture, he connected with Tejpreet, his best friend and an alumnus of the Management Development Institute, Gurugram. Not only did Deepak persuade Tejpreet to quit his MNC job, but he also convinced his sister, Sivia, to put in her papers and join them in building the startup.
Together, they started Aryabhatta Tutorials, a training centre for high school graduates looking to crack competitive exams for undergraduate courses.
Taking offline teaching a step further, Edusquare was founded in 2014 with the aim of becoming the market leader in coaching services in Ludhiana. Parag Arora, an IIT-Delhi graduate and a serial entrepreneur, joined the founding team in the same year.
In 2018, the founders were joined by Anand Arora, an IIT-Roorkee graduate with experience at PepsiCo, and Piyush Chhabra, a graduate from the University of Rochester and an edtech entrepreneur.
By then, all the founders agreed that they have to blend their brick and mortar business with online learning, and launched YSchool in March 2020, which is a test prep startup for JEE and NEET exams.
Headquartered in Gurugram, Yschool operates a blended model that clubs the benefits of both offline and online classes by overcoming the shortcomings of both models.
"The online-only solutions like BYJU’S and Vedantu lack a basic discipline needed for teenage students, who require a lot of monitoring and hand-holding. Also, the high costs of edtech courses become almost impossible for students to gain value from them," explains Deepak
"We blend technology with discipline and mentorship through our app-based learning and offline classrooms by empowering the local educators with a plug-and-play model of live classes and video lectures. This ensures a two-way interaction and the process of daily monitoring completely solves the above-mentioned issues," he adds.
Today, Yschool has 12 centres across north India, including Ludhiana and Ferozepur.
The business model
Currently, the startup conducts live classes along with video lectures to impart the curriculum. This is backed by an AI-based mentorship app.
It competes with offline players like FIITJEE, Aakash (which was recently acquired by BYJU’S), and ALLEN — all of whom provide classroom-centric coaching to students. These models are primarily successful in big coaching hubs which invite lakhs of students every year.
It also competes with online players like Vedantu and Unacademy, which provide one-on-one coaching through online teaching, with a focus on providing supplementary content to the students enrolled in the existing offline classes. Though both are B2C, they cater to a limited audience and are not accessible to all.
"Our business model is bi-fold. The revenue from offline centres (self-owned) or franchises through our plug-and-play offline coaching institutes ranging from FFI’s (full-fledged institutes) to SBO’s (small business owners). The other source of the revenue is through the app, which already has 100,000 plus downloads on Google Play Store," says Deepak.
The founders have self-funded the startup with the earnings of their other venture – Edusquare — and do not want to disclose the numbers as yet.
YSchool’s current revenue is Rs 1 crore, and the team is expected to close at this number by March 31, 2021.
There are currently more than 85 test prep startups in India, with Vedantu and BYJU’S leading the pack. A study by KPMG and Google values the edtech industry to be a $1.96 billion opportunity. According to the IVCA-Praxis Global study, the sector received $2.2 billion in funding in 2020.
Founders of YSchool (L-R) Anand Arora, Tejpreet Singh, Sivia Goyal, Deepak Goyal, and Piyush Chabbra
Overcoming challenges and the road ahead
"Pre-COVID-19, building an acceptance for the online mode of learning and breaking the traditional barriers was a major challenge. Another difficulty is also to re-invent this category, as the market is crowded with multiple models and the student response has not been that positive for the earlier products. So, to win back the trust with our unique offerings will require significant consumer education,” Deepak says.
“Now, with the vaccines starting to roll out and things gradually getting back to normal, we are receiving huge demand from areas where we have the presence and branding. So, we believe that this model is going to be in great demand and we would need capital fast to expand in newer geographies," he adds.
The startup's tech is built on a combination of technology platforms including Python, Flask, Angular JS, HTML5, CSS, JS, Flutter, and AWS for cloud computing.
Over the next 18 months, the startup plans to raise their first funding round and scale up from the existing 12 centres to more than 25 centres across the country. The startup is also aiming for a million downloads.
YSchool is also working on improving the public education system by forging partnerships with state governments. It has inked tie-ups with the states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, where free education is being imparted by the government to meritorious students in Una, Ambota, and Mandi districts through the YSchool platform.
The started up is involved in initiatives like ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ and Madhya Pradesh’s Medhavi Chhatra Yojna. Students living in remote areas are now being trained and coached through YSchool's blended model of learning, with the startup providing expertise, extensive testing, analysis, and doubt solving facilities at the students' doorstep.