Coronavirus has led to an increase in demand for this woman entrepreneur’s edtech solutions
The spread of coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown across the world has affected every aspect of human life.
Even though schools and educational institutions are shut, many of them are conducting online classes through video conferencing, giving online assessments and worksheets. However, in the past week many schools that were conducting classes through Zoom decided to stop using the platform due to privacy concerns.
This turned out to be a boon for Mallika Valluru and her edtech startup - Radius Edutech. Its edtech products are seeing an increase in demand and use as virtual classrooms are becoming the norm.
In particular, its video conferencing tool Octa has seen a surge in users. In just one week, the number of active users increased from 4,000 to 24,000 claims Mallika.
The current situation, she says,
“is keeping me very busy because we are into live classrooms and we have requests from schools to turn their classrooms into virtual classes, to train their teachers to use Octa and onboarding students, which has led to a surge in new users.”
Coronavirus: Opportunities and challenges
A software engineer turned entrepreneur, Mallika and her co-founder Siddharth Malempati started the company in 2018. The Hyderabad-based startup provides digital infrastructure to schools to help make learning interactive and practical. It offers products like interactive touchboards, projectors, televisions, learning management system (LMS), total WiFi-connectivity for schools and a video conferencing tool.
Apart from these, it also offers a STEM-based class - a weekly lab class by its teachers in schools. Its curriculum has been designed by Mallika to help students learn and understand scientific concepts through experiments and hands-on work.
Though these classes may have stopped due to the lockdown the company’s video conferencing tool Octa is helping schools and students continue learning. Octa is integrated with startup's LMS tool and helps students not only take live classes, but also record and save the sessions for later.
The startup has provided its learning solutions to 14 schools in Hyderabad and are now in talks with potential customers as demand increases.
Owing to the demand, Radius has stepped up its skilling and training facilities for teachers. It has set up a dedicated team to help teachers with technical queries in conducting classes. Mallika says that many teachers, especially language teachers who had not used digital technologies before had to be trained through demos and workshops, to help them conduct these classes. Radius staff is also hand-holding the teachers by being present at every step so that both teachers and students can efficiently use Octa.
Privacy is another matter of concern, when most of the education during this time is being done through online platforms. “There is no need for parents and teachers to worry as Octa is a completely encrypted and secure solution,” says Mallika.
Pivoting opportunities through Octa
The current scenario has provided the startup an opportunity to expand Octa beyond the schooling ecosystem. Radius Edutech is a WE HUB incubated startup since September 2019. WE HUB, Government of Telangana’s incubation hub for women entrepreneurs was the first organisation to use Octa apart from schools. As the coronavirus outbreak led to stay-at-home orders, WE HUB began to use Octa to conduct pitch sessions for startups. The state-led incubator also suggested additional features to attract the corporate sector and introduced them to new clients.
This led Mallika to spin the tool to different verticals, including corporate entities, mass virtual events, healthcare, and other incubators. She says that apart from schools, some engineering colleges and intermediate colleges - offering Grade XI and Grade XII have also approached them for the tool.
She says, “Due to COVID-19, there has been a large scale increase in customers. Earlier, it was just schools that wanted digital products. But with video conferencing becoming a common form of communication, everyone wants video conference-enabled digital boards and facilities. There has been a transformation in these digital products from being additional features in schools to essential features in learning.” She believes this drastic shift has happened as a direct result of the lockdown.
With increased opportunities and new avenues, Mallika is planning to expand Radius’ edtech products to corporates, colleges and universities for distance learning, online degree courses and skill development training. The bootstrapped startup is also in the process of expanding pan-India and to at least 16 countries across the globe.
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan