How Delhi-based startup Careerwill is democratising education with its online test prep courses
When the pandemic triggered a countrywide shutdown of educational institutions and coaching centres in India in 2020, the Edtech sector was quick to rise to the occasion and help students out with their innovative solutions. Nearly 94 percent of the world's student population was affected during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis last year, according to a UNESCO report.
A year later, as students and teachers get accustomed to online classes, there is still a section of students in India's remote towns and villages that is unable to access or afford them. In the wake of uncertainty over the resumption of physical classes, there is a need for solutions that cater to all segments of society.
At a time when the pandemic is deepening inequalities in learning, New Delhi-based startupis democratising education with its online test prep courses that are easily accessible across varied geographies, including Tier II and III cities.
These online courses help students prepare for civil services and various other government recruitment exams, and can be accessed via an Android app. They’re taught by some of the best teachers from New Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar locality — a coaching hub for competitive exams. Careerwill's test prep segment currently includes entrance exams courses for Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), SSC, NDA, Indian Railways, banking and CAT.
Small steps, big impact
Careerwill’s journey can be traced back to 2015 when Pawan Kumar and Rakesh Kumar launched the startup by investing their own earnings as the seed capital. They launched the Careerwill app in 2018 and managed to get 3 million downloads and around 120,000 paying subscribers within the next three years. In 2020-21, the startup clocked a revenue of over Rs 80 crore and launched a new segment for the K-12 segment as well.
The founders say that the success of the startup's test prep segment gave them the confidence to launch the Careerwill online school. Within just 2.5 years of launching its online courses, the startup had guided over 100,000 students to bag posts in various government entities. “The experience encouraged us to launch the online school. I also believe that Edtech offerings, especially those for school students, are still a privilege enjoyed by those coming from high-income groups,” says Pawan Kumar, Co-Founder, Careerwill. Currently, more than 80 percent of Careerwill’s users come from remote towns.
He adds that factors like lack of resources become more pronounced as the income gap widens. “In low-income groups, children are expected to pitch in with household chores and sometimes even earn to supplement the family income. Careerwill’s aim is to democratise Edtech solutions, so that every student is able to access the same quality of education irrespective of the income group he/she belongs to,” explains Pawan. He says that the startup aims to boost its revenue to 3x by FY 2022 with the Careerwill online school.
Lessons in success
Like most startups, Careerwill's journey has been fraught with challenges. "During our initial days, we struggled to keep the prices of our online test prep courses between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500. We were charging Rs 10,000 for offline access to these courses. Back then, most teachers weren't ready to work for the packages we were offering. Hence, we had a tough time bringing reputed teachers on board. We also faced a lot of server issues when we started," says Rakesh, Co-Founder, Careerwill.
“To convince the teachers, we started by onboarding faculty members one by one. We gained our teachers' trust and made them believe in our goal of democratising education. As we started more and more faculty members joined Careerwill, others automatically started trusting us,” says Rakesh.
To tackle its server issues, the startup researched a number of solutions to ensure that the courses could be offered at even low bandwidth, which is common in rural areas. "We were finally able to solve the issue through extensive testing," says Pawan.
Within the first six months of being operational, Careerwill began clocking a profit. “We registered a revenue of Rs 10 crore in our first financial year. By FY 2019-20, our annual revenue had more than doubled at Rs 35 crore,” he adds.
Talking about what stands out about their business model, the founders credit their faculty and pocket-friendly courses for helping them take education to the last mile. “For our test prep segment, we have more than 20 faculty members that have many years of experience in their respective fields. For our online school, we have more than 30 qualified teachers helping the students,” says Pawan.
Over the years, Careerwill has been able to pivot its business model because of its focus on agility and fostering innovation. When the pandemic made offline education infeasible, the startup spotted an opportunity that would help them make inroads in the K-12 segment by launching the online school.
Rakesh and Pawan believe in the mantra of serving students’ needs with a holistic curriculum. "Over the next five years, we want to reach out to most rural regions of the country with our platform. We are also looking to boost our position in the K-12 segment, while working on our app's interface so that more students can use it," says Pawan.