This woman entrepreneur aims to shine the spotlight on the ‘education’ part of edtech
India’s edtech market is brimming with young startups longing to have an impact on long established pedagogies. Reforms like the New Education Policy (NEP 2020) and the pandemic have left a lasting impact on the education space.
So much so that it received $2.1 billion in investment in 2020, exceeding the total amount of investment in the sector in the past decade, according to a research report by Anand Rathi Advisors Limited (ARAL).
Devvaki Aggarwal, a sales and marketing professional, believes, “People always know what to communicate, but they don’t know how to communicate it,” a problem she now hopes to address through her edtech startup instrucko.
After a decade of working in the education sector in the US, in July 2020, she founded the UK-based skilling platform for children between the ages of three and 15.
Although Devvaki had been thinking of starting up since 2018, the entrepreneur says she took her time to be mentally prepared as building a startup is a long term commitment. Meanwhile, she continued to engage in education-related conferences across India, the US, and the UK.
The instrucko journey
Based in the UK with offices in Mumbai and Delhi, instrucko offers language and skill-based courses like English, French, Spanish, Hindi as well as public speaking and creative writing.
She says, “When we say edtech, people make it more about technology and less about education, but our focus is on developing quality content to impart the necessary skills. Once students are hooked on the platform and enjoy the content, we test how things are working and really start investing in the tech.”
The startup claims to do this by establishing an ideal student-teacher ratio which currently, in India, stands at one teacher for every 26 students.
Devvaki believes one teacher having to look after many students makes it difficult to measure their progress, which leads to implementing a system that ranks students based on their academic performance; and so, skills like communication do not develop.
instrucko has a network of 180 teachers from around the world, all certified by the University of Cambridge as well as the startup’s training programme. Devvaki says most amount of time and effort has gone into training teachers to ensure they value critical thinking, creativity and communication skills in all their classes.
Operating on two models, it first caters to parents who sign up their children directly on the platform through 1:1 sessions or group learning classes with a student teacher ratio of 1:4.
It has also partnered with several private schools like MS Dhoni Global School where instrucko’s teachers conduct the class with about 10 to 15 children per session, and track their progress as well.
The startup claims to have reached more than 10,000 students through the platform, 90 percent of them from India, and the remaining 10 percent of its learners coming in from the Middle East, the UK, and other parts of the world.
In December, instrucko raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from a consortium of global investors including private equity and HNIs. It is now in talks of raising pre-Series A round from a few strategic partners.
Devvaki notes that many companies in India's education space are riding on unrealistic promises which confuses the market and especially, parents’ expectations.
"The biggest challenge has been fighting misrepresentations where companies promise their students will go on to become a TEDx speaker and other such tall claims,” she says.
“Even parents of three-year-olds are concerned with wanting their child to become such a speaker. The focus is for us to impart skills so they develop critical thinking and emotional intelligence.”
She emphasises there needs to be better messaging and awareness among parents as well. Besides this, Devvaki sees little to no competition in terms of content delivery in the market.
Starting amidst the pandemic has been a key challenge but the entrepreneur conducts virtual meetings with team members every week to update on the startup’s progress. She says growth in revenue and students registration is a big motivation but declined to share the revenue numbers and initial investment.