These 4 women are setting new benchmarks with their vision on edtech

These women entrepreneurs are leveraging online platforms to upskill employees and students to make them industry ready, all in their own unique style.
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The online education industry in India has gone from strength to strength, with ample tailwinds from pandemic induced lockdowns. One of the many ways people have been keeping themselves busy during this difficult time is by taking to online education platforms, using this time judiciously to keep themselves upskilled and up to date. These women entrepreneurs’ edtech platforms were launched long before the coronavirus pandemic, but have come in very handy during these unprecedented times.

StudyFree by Dasha Kroshkina

As a child, Dasha Kroshkina’s favourite possession was a large world map. Hailing from a small town in Russia, she would look at it with awe and would wonder when she would get to travel the world.

Dasha was a smart student and was always on the lookout for scholarships and grants to study abroad. She has degrees from three international universities to her credit.

Speaking to HerStory, San Francisco-based Dasha says, “I realised there are so many students who are capable but feel it is impossible to study abroad due to lack of resources, information, and a support system.”

This inspired her to start StudyFree in September 2018. The company ensures access to international opportunities for people with talent without them having to worry about financing.

Explaining how the startup works, Dasha says, once a student logs into the platform, and selects the level of education they are looking to pursue, they are required to share information regarding academic performance, co-curricular activities, voluntary and social work, among others.

These details help the startup to calculate the likelihood of securing a scholarship and the time it would take for preparation. Once the student has made the payment, they guide them through admission, their stay in the foreign country, and internship and job opportunities after completing their studies.

Dasha explains the D2C platform’s source of revenue is the fee collected from the students. They don’t charge schools and universities as she believes this will fail to bring the best value for the students.

So far, they have helped more than 35,000 students globally, out of which, nearly 30 percent of the students are from India. Dasha claims 98.2 percent of her clients have received either full or partial scholarships.

Now in the growth stage, StudyFree received $500,000 in equity investment as the winner of Seedstars World in April 2020. They have also raised $600,000 in a pre-seed round led by Dutch venture Acrobator VC in August.

The founder was also part of the 2020 cohort of Techstars NY.

Harappa Education by Shreyasi Singh

For over a decade, Shreyasi Singh has worked with media agencies across the spectrum like broadcast and print media, and even went on to become a published author.

Her journalistic career also includes being the editor of Inc, the iconic American magazine on entrepreneurship. During her period with Inc, Shreyasi realised her passion for entrepreneurship and tech-enabled businesses, which led her to walk on the path of entrepreneurship.

Shreyasi says Inc gave her, what she calls, a “PhD in entrepreneurship.”

“It was very interesting to meet so many entrepreneurs, hear their stories and things they have fought for. All the amazing ideas, culture, and productivity that I was seeing made me think that If I were a CEO, I would do this. I think that immersion into entrepreneurship was the beginning of my own journey,” she recalls.

While serving as the Director of Careers at Vedica for two years, Shreyasi realised that higher education is her calling.

Along with her brother, Shreyasi started doing extensive research on online education and understanding the edtech industry. The idea was to create a curriculum and not just become a marketplace.

“We felt that the crisis in India in education, and certainly in higher education, is around the curriculum. It is not updated enough, not practical enough, not contemporary enough, and it does not respond to the changing industries. The second big decision we took was that we would not do technical and domain skills as there are already many players who are doing very good work in giving people these skills,” she adds.

Harappa Education was incorporated in March 2018 as a company, and started launching its courses from May 2019. So far, one lakh learners have enrolled on the platform.

Shreyasi, who is also the author of the book Wealth Wallahs, believes the edtech platform’s faculty is its biggest USP. It has 60 team members from all spheres, delivering rich and contextualised content, tailored to 21st century leaders.

Harappa works on a B2B model with campuses and corporates. In the campus space, it works with IIT Gandhinagar, Punjab Engineering College, and Lovely Professional University.

Corporate clientele include leading brands across IT services, FMCG, and financial services.

Glossaread by Sonam Choudhary

In May 2012, Sonam Choudhary was leading a team as Manager of International Business for Tata Motors in Johannesburg, South Africa. A year into the job, she realised climbing the corporate ladder helped her little in furthering her life’s mission: to create societal impact in three key areas of healthcare, education, and infrastructure.

This IIM Ahmedabad alumna joined Glossaread around 2017. The startup creates and curates complete study material as per semester-wise syllabus of various universities, with college-going students in Tier II and Tier III cities in mind. The startup has moved from “sachet-based content consuming model to a more comprehensive solution” in the higher education space.

Sonam says the startup prioritises affordability and accessibility as it operates on a subscription-based model. The study material for one semester is priced between Rs 249 and Rs 499, depending on the course.

The material includes notes, presentations, lectures, and reference videos, MCQs, and question banks with answers for engineering, BCom, and BA courses.

Currently featured in 17 universities, the startup hopes to cater to 2.5 million students from over 150 universities globally.

Imarticus Learning by Sonya Hooja

Imarticus Learning have an annual average growth rate of 40 percent. The startup’s specific skilling solutions in fields including finance, technology, analytics, and management have led them to enter into partnership with over 480 countries.

The startup had a humble beginning in 2012, a time when online learning was yet to pick pace.

An MBA graduate from INSEAD, France, Sonya has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Information Technology from Rutgers University in the US.

Before hopping onto the entrepreneur train, Sonya was working with Accenture Singapore in strategy development.

Explaining the beginning of the startup, Sonya explains, “We took fresh graduates, trained them in very specific skill sets, and then took complete responsibility for their placements.”

The startup has partnered with corporate giants including KPMG, IBM, Deutsche Bank, and Citibank in co-creating courses and placement opportunities. The courses are priced somewhere between INR 70,000 and INR 1.7 lakh per course.

The platform has a placement record of 65 to 85 percent led by its 15-member placement team.

“We don't try to teach them the entire gamut of the domain, but upskill them on specific skillsets and go into significant depth so that there is value for both learners as well as the corporates,” Sonya shares. 

Bootstrapped with an initial round of investment of Rs 5 crore from friends and family, the startup has raised its Series A funding of $2 million from CBA capital in 2018.

The startup has been profitable since inception, and is now looking for strategic investors who can contribute to the company’s vision and growth.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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