[Tech50] This IIT Kharagpur alumni-led startup wants children to pick up soft skills early

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KidEx, a YourStory’s 2021 Tech50 startup, is a data-driven digital platform that offers children’s classes and conducts competitions around extracurricular, co-curricular, and life-skill activities.
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It’s common knowledge that most college graduates aren’t really skilled or ready for real-world employment, the pandemic only drove home this point further.

The skill set which recruiters are looking for in the majority of entry level jobs are not technical skills but soft skills such as communication, creativity, imagination, social skills, critical thinking, EQ (emotional quotient), ability to use technology, understanding SOPs (standard operating procedures) etc.

None of these are really taught as part of any course curriculum in school or college but are a function of experiential learning exposure amongst children during their schooling years (3 years to 15 years). However, certain colleges and universities are slowly realising the need and importance of this and have some optional subjects in the area.

To bridge the gap that exists IIT Kharagpur batchmates and friends Amritanshu Kumar, Gaurav Sengar, and Kapish Saraf founded edtech startup KidEx in March 2020 in Gurugram. It is is among YourStory's Tech50 2021 list of most promising early stage startups

KidEx is a data-driven digital platform that offers children’s classes and conducts competitions around extracurricular, co-curricular, and life-skill activities to enable their holistic development.

Plugging a gap

“Experiential learning is delivered to children through extracurricular, co-curricular and life-skill activities. India has over 300 million children in this age bracket (9 years-15 years). And over 90 percent of schools in the country are singularly focused on academic development of the child and lack an Experiential Learning ecosystem,” says Kapish. 

He explains most schools struggle to find topic specialist teachers at an affordable rate for such programmes and do not find the right return on investment for setting up such an ecosystem. Therefore, these schools need a long-term partner who can solve this for them to prepare the children with real life skills. 

“With the advent of National Education Policy 2020, this is not a matter of choice but mandatory for each of the schools,” adds Kapish. The team adds over 1,000 schools and 50,000 children have joined the platform till now. The startup claims to be growing at 200 percent year-on-year.

KidEx is solving the problem through a suite of experiential learning products. “Our service offering includes self-learning, live-classes, peer-to-peer learning and assessment-as-a-service which allows schools, parents and children to pick solutions which are affordable and convenient for them. 

“KidEx has created a virtual ecosystem in which zero capex is required by any school or parents to enable experiential learning for their children. The company’s offering is 100 percent digital and data driven. The company launched a unique “National All Rounder Championship” concept under guidance from a government think tank which has been embraced by 1,475 schools till date,” says Kapish. 

Challenges 

The key challenges in setting up and scaling up has been to reach the customer and get their undivided attention, according to the startup. As a result of the pandemic, customers have been bombarded by edtech companies' marketing and sales efforts and it has resulted in cognitive overload for parents juggling multiple things amidst pandemic, it adds. 

“In such times, to catch their undivided attention to help them appreciate the uniqueness of the product has been a challenging task. At multiple stages, we have chosen to solve problems deeply at a very early stage as customer experience is most important in edtech. It obviously has implications on speed of growth. Thanks to the work done so far by the entire team, we continue to grow 200 percent year on year,” says Kapish. 

The company’s product is currently live on Google Play Store only and will be released on Apple’s App Store by June 2022. The three offerings of the company are all live in the product under the brand names ‘Champions’, ‘Classes’ and ‘Circles’.

The product 

Parents can come and register on the app to book any of the products. The company’s flagship product Champions or National All Rounder Championship shows a listing of age-appropriate activities for children along with curated videos for self-learning. 

The child can upload their submission on the portal as per their convenience and the submission is shared with multiple topic experts who provide their feedback and grades for the submission. The grades and feedback are shared back with the parents and every achievement results in unlocking different trophies/medals on the app.

The assessment-as-a-service tech stack which powers the product is a “state-of-art tech stack” which uses an Uber-like-order allocation system linked to a crowdsourced-feedback collection system that has an automated quality monitoring algorithm.

“The biggest Eureka moment was in June 2020 when our flagship product ‘National All Rounder Championship’ received a great response and love from customers and was rated at a Net Promoter Score of 84 percent.”

Building a strong network 

The team started with a product aimed for parents only and then the product found interest from schools. 

“We realised that parents were open-minded to share their child’s skills with other children through a peer-to-peer learning platform with exclusive content shared by children and for children. This resulted in another digital product like Tiktok-for-Education for children,” says Kapish. 

He explains “progressive schools” have requested the team to offer a white-labelled, non-academic annual report card on a child’s holistic development which is crowdsourced and based on self-assessment, peer assessment and independent topic specialist assessments.

“Experienced folks like school principals, senior teaching staff from schools like DPS, DAV, BBPS, Shri Ram School, Lakshmipat Singhania etc. have shared their experience and helped make the services and offering more impactful and more scalable for the community at large. If good people work on critical matters with good intentions, a path always emerges,” says Kapish.

The differentiation 

The assessment-as-a-service tech stack which powers this product is linked to a crowdsourced feedback collection system that has an automated quality monitoring algorithm. 

This startup believes it can reach 50 million Indian children over the next 2 years. The tech stack has seen interest from multiple educational universities  and government departments to introduce virtual offerings of their core programmes in a quality-controlled manner, it adds. 

“Multiple ERP/LMS players in the country have signed up with us to leverage synergies and jointly offer bundled offerings to make every school a NEP-implemented smart school. We will grow to a network of 50+ ERP/LMS players in the country over next few months.”

The company’s revenue model is to charge the parents for the services. Parents can book per usage basis (starting from Rs 99) or opt for a periodic subscription for unlimited usage (starting from Rs 3,000 per quarter or Rs 10,000  per year).

Funding and future 

KidEx raised Rs 4 crore as their first round of funding earlier this year from Blume Ventures, Lead angels and a clutch of angel investors.

RedSeer predicts the online K-12 education space will grow by 6.3 percent, creating a $1.7 billion market by 2022. According to Statista, the global e-learning market was at $101 billion in 2019, and by 2026, the market is expected to grow exponentially to reach over $370 billion.

The focus on extracurricular activities is growing in India with platforms like Sequoia India Capital-backed DIY.Org (a YourStory 2021 Tech50 startup) and Matrix India Partners-backed Crejo.Fun

The startup aims to create a network of over 10,000+ schools and over 10 million children in the next one year to ensure they serve at least one million children and their parents. 

“We aim to grow a learning offering basket to ensure round the year customer engagement and retention. Tie-ups with universities, colleges and brands to subsidise  the cost of higher education for KidEx certified top talent,” says Kapish. 

Edited by Ramarko Sengupta

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