[The Turning Point] Why this banker decided to launch test prep startup ixamBee
Growing up in a village near Nainital in Uttarakhand, Chandraprakash Joshi wanted to crack a government job. He managed to, but recalls how the lack of guidance almost derailed his plans.
This sowed a seed in his mind, and later led him to launch Delhi-based edtech startup ixamBee to help the millions of students in India, who want to crack competitive exams but miss out on appropriate guidance.
Started in April 2017 with Arunima Sinha and Sandeep Singh, ixamBee offers technology-based learning solutions and helps unskilled graduates and undergraduates prepare for competitive exams for jobs in central government, banks, state governments, railways, LIC, RBI, NABARD, SEBI and others.
The edtech startup uses text, audio, and video formats to create unlimited and free mock test attempts for more than 50 competitive exams. In four years, the platform has crossed the two million-user mark.
In March 2021, ixamBee raised an undisclosed amount of funds from Mumbai Angels Network, Narendra Shyamsukha from JITO Angel Network, existing investor Keyur Joshi (Co-founder, MakeMyTrip) and a few noted ISB alumni. Last week ixamBee announced the acquisition of TargetRBI, an online learning place started in 2012 by Susheel Ragade.
The urban-rural divide
Chandraprakash, now in his early 40s, worked closely in rural India during all his bank jobs, from agriculture officer at Oriental Bank of Commerce to the Reserve Bank of India and his last job at YES Bank. He felt that that nothing had changed in numerous years.
“Career guidance and access to good quality education material for competitive exams was still a big-town thing, and students in villages and small towns found coaching centres expensive and inaccessible,” says Co-Founder and CEO Chandraprakash Joshi.
In 2015, during a visit to villages in Odisha as Vice President and Regional Financial Inclusion Leader at YES Bank, Chandraprakash saw that people in villages were using microfinance loans to order branded products online, which were then delivered by India Post. “I was amazed to see that they had access to brands online but did not have access to quality education despite the fact that they were willing to pay,” he says.
He felt that there was a huge gap in the test prep segment, and this could translate into huge business opportunities as more than two-thirds of the 300 million students in India live outside big cities.
This is when the idea of ixamBee hit Chandraprakash. He quickly started discussing this with his network, and met his now Co-founder Arunima Sinha, an ex-banker who was running Stratagem, a coaching institute in Dehradun for competitive exams since 2010 after quitting her job with SIDBI. Arunima was looking to expand her coaching school, so they decided to work together and launch ixamBee.
Soon after, they met Sandeep Singh, a techie, through common friends and roped him as Co-Founder and CTO. By that time, Chandraprakash had also quit his banking job, and the trio launched ixamBee in April 2017 with a seed capital of Rs 80 lakh.
All content at ixamBee is prepared in-house and aims to match the learning patterns of students from small towns and rural areas. Chandraprakash claims ixamBee is the only platform that provides all mock tests for free in the test prep space.
It has users from metros and small towns, including Kakinada, Madurai, Ellore, Dharampuri, Shillong, Jind, Vidisha, Meerut, Haldwani, and more.
COVID-19 and growth
Chandraprakash says COVID-19 interrupted ixamBee’s operations as competitive exams were either postponed or cancelled, and students stopped their preparation.
“The company had hardly any cash left in the bank. But, we started GharSeStudyKarona, a campaign on ‘study from home’ in which lakhs of students participated and benefited. In the second quarter we managed an operational breakeven. We also recorded accelerated growth during the third and fourth quarter, multiplying the engagement and revenue month on month.”
ixamBee is now looking to make the iLX (ixamBee Learning Experience) superior for existing courses, launch 10 new courses for government job exams, and provide free mock tests for 200 competitive exams.