Founded amid the pandemic, this edtech startup enables kids to develop life skills

LessonLeap focuses on teaching kids between KG and the sixth grades to hone their skills at public speaking, writing, and command over the language through fun live classes.
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When Mumbai-based Anusha Mahalingam saw that her two daughters found it difficult to access any extra-curricular activities due to COVID-19-led lockdowns, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Anusha called up her best friend and batchmate from Harvard Business School, Deepti Sahi, to discuss an idea. 

“We realised where we got to in life was not just because of academic studies but majorly through other skills that we picked up over the years through extracurricular activities. Kids across the globe should be exposed to extra-curricular activities for them to be good functioning adults,” says Anusha, Co-founder and COO at LessonLeap, who is a trained Bharatnatyam dancer.

“Our focus is to help them (kids) develop skills, which usually does not happen solely through the school curriculum,” she adds.

After months of discussions, the duo founded LessonLeap in October 2020, with an undisclosed pre-seed funding round from Berlin-based Point Nine Capital and four angel investors. The edtech platform, with half its team working out of The Netherlands and the other half out of Mumbai, uses fun activities to provide training to school kids — in classes ranging from kindergarten to the sixth grade — in public speaking, honing language command skills, and writing. 

Anusha called up her best friend and batchmate from Harvard Business School, Deepti Sahi, to discuss an idea that went on to become LessonLeap

Focusing on extra-curricular activities

“When you take up things like theatre and public speaking, your communication skills develop differently in your adult life. We also have activities that inculcate persuasive writing. How do you convince a teacher or someone in your family to change their point of view? A lot of kids have interest in fiction writing as well,” says Deepti Sahi, Co-founder and CEO at LessonLeap, who is based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, with six other team members.   

Currently, more than 20 teachers teach LessonLeap’s courses live. The courses are divided based on age groups. Kids studying in kindergarten and the first grade have access to Early Art Explorer and Learn with Rhymes, among four other courses on the website. Second and third graders get to learn Drama and Improv, Basics of Fiction, and Remarkable Girls, among five other courses. And 4th, 5th and 6th graders can choose from eight courses. 

The startup is currently hosting fun reading, writing, and speaking sessions under their summer camps programme. The courses, which include storytelling using objects, anime manga drawing, and developing socio-emotional learning, are conducted online  

Business model

Course price points range between Rs 500 and Rs 1,200 per session. The founders say the slightly premium pricing is kept because the courses are curated and developed regularly. The sessions are conducted live, which helps keep kids engrossed with their teacher, unlike pre-recorded videos that can be shot in one go and reused many times.  

The sessions happen between one and four times a week, and last between 45 and 90 minutes. There are three to eight children in one batch. “Since the courses are happening online we want the batch to stay small and focus on peer learning,” explains Anusha. 

Since October 2020, more than 3,000 students have enrolled on LessonLeap’s courses. Anusha and Deepti claim that their class retention rate is over 70 percent and the number of repeat students is “very high”.

Challenges and the future

Over the coming months, LessonLeap wants to penetrate deeper into the Indian market, as well as expand to Singapore, the UAE, and London. The plan is to stay focused on metro cities, for now, as their current product suits more to people living in cities, says Anusha.

The platform is also coming up with a new programme to improve conversational English in European countries, including France and Germany, where English is not the primary spoken language. 

“We are very ambitious and want to make a global brand with LessonLeap but we are trying to take things slow, one day at a time,” Anusha adds. 

Deepti and Anusha have previously worked in leadership roles at different startups. While Deepti was CEO at Amsterdam-based office-booking platform Deskbookers, Anusha was Senior Vice President in category management at kids-clothing platform Hopscotch

“Both of us know the workings of a new firm and how to run it but one of the biggest challenges was to go deep into our network and find relevant folks who can help us with a few things. Another challenge was to start everything from scratch and also work with a lean team. Also, figuring out the paperwork to start working in India and Amsterdam was a task since our team is incorporated in the US,” Anusha adds.   

The team is also making constant updates to their own platform to make the processes smoother, as well as figuring out the edtech market as it grows. 

India’s growing edtech industry 

The edtech sector saw a huge boom in 2020 as stay-at-home consumers went online to not only shop but also to study. BYJU’S, which is the most valued edtech venture, raised $460 million in Series F round at a valuation of upwards of $13 billion. Another competitor in the exam prep space, Vedantu, raised $100 million in July 2020 as demand for online teaching platforms grew. 

Such investments in the edtech sector are only bound to grow as many students have shifted to online learning due to the pandemic, as well as the promise of growth in the space. 

Online education is projected to increase 6.3 times to create a $1.7 billion market,  between Class I and XII, according to venture capital firm Omidyar Network India and research firm Red Seer’s joint report. The post-K-12 market is expected to grow 3.7 times to create a $1.8 billion market. 
Edited by Kanishk Singh