How this woman entrepreneur started a YouTube channel for competitive exam aspirants and built a business worth Rs 1 Cr

From a one-woman army experimenting on YouTube to teach to building a business with a team of 27 employees, entrepreneur Asha Bineesh is a “brand” that UPSC and KPSC aspirants trust.

If you browse through one of Asha Bineesh’s videos on tips for acing public service commission tests (PSC), you will come across an interesting one where she starts off by telling her audience she is cooking an elephant yam curry and rasam.

She goes on to explain with a cooking lesson that one can remember certain aspects or nuggets of information. For example, some types of elephant yam itch because it has calcium oxalate and the tamarind for the rasam, whose colour resembles “tar”, a mnemonic for tartaric acid, an important ingredient.

Asha Bineesh, Founder, Competitive Cracker (Image credit: Asha Bineesh's Facebook account)

Students nowadays cannot heave a sigh of relief even after their 12th board exams. There are other exams to crack and goals to achieve. They are preparing for a host of entrance exams like JEE to follow their professional dreams. It is also common to shift to different cities for a few months to attend coaching classes.

It’s no wonder then, that Asha Bineesh’s videos in Malayalam is a huge hit with her audience that comprises 273K, among them a large number of competitive exam aspirants.

Also, with COVID-10 and subsequent closure of educational institutions and coaching institutes, edtech platforms allow for seamless ways to connect and learn.

Competitive Cracker, founded by Asha Bineesh, a BTech graduate in computer science, help students learn and crack various entrance exams for bank and civil services jobs through her recorded video lessons on the startup’s website as well as on YouTube.

The journey

A software engineer by profession, Asha wanted to spend more time with her one-year-old and decided to make a radical career shift. After quitting her 9-5 job, she started experimenting by making videos on general knowledge for aptitude tests and lessons to ace various entrance tests on her channel on YouTube, aptly named Competitive Cracker.

While the channel took time to gain traction, the videos soon struck a chord with young aspirants; and grew to 100,000 subscribers in 2017 and more than 200,000 subscribers in the following year.

As the channel was picking up pace, Asha set up a “physical” coaching class in her hometown, Kakkanad in Kochi, Kerala. That way, the video sharing platform had become a good testing ground as she ventured on a new career path.

It also helped that Asha had prepared and cleared numerous exams for four years after completing her bachelor’s degree and had also mentored many aspirants for many years. “Subject knowledge has been my strength when I left the software industry for good and turned to teach on YouTube. And I think teaching style on our platform has also helped us gain the traction we have,” Asha says. 

Over the years, Competitive Cracker has grown into a successful business with 27 employees including IIT graduates and expanded to an exclusive website and mobile application in 2017. The teachers, Asha says, are masters in their field of studies and have passed competitive exams with flying colours.

Currently, the platform offers courses for Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Kerala PSC, Kerala Teacher Eligibility Test (K-TET), and for cooperative bank tests, among others. Priced between Rs 500 and Rs 5,000 based on the number of sessions, it has enrolled more than 5,000 students through its website, mobile application, and physical coaching class.

Market competition and revenue

The market for coaching classes in India is expected to reach $ 500 million by 2022, driven by rise in population seeking quality higher education and parent’s reliance on such coaching institutes for a secure future for their children.

Started with an initial investment of Rs 35,000, Competitive Cracker successfully clocked Rs 1 crore in revenue for FY 2019-20, driven largely by online registrations. Less than 25 percent of the total revenue comes from the “physical” coaching centre.

“I am a YouTube teacher and people know Asha Bineesh only through YouTube,” she emphasises. However, while revenue generated from YouTube is relatively negligible, it has played a huge role in driving sales and directing students towards the website.

At the same time, easy access through digital platforms is also associated with increased competition. She admits other platforms offer byte-sized lessons for entrance exams through WhatsApp and Telegram at lower cost.

Asha says that Competitive Cracker offers access to material and classes through a separate app that would require the students to have more storage on their phone.

Impressive results of previous exams have let to more than 2,000 students joining the platform during the lockdown period. Her husband, an MBA graduate also quit his corporate job to join her in the business.

Asha says, “I am committed to my work as a teacher and as an entrepreneur; I trust my product and learn every day.”

Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan


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