This entrepreneur believes ‘ekSlate’ is enough for students from Bharat to embark on a learning journey
For Arjeeta C Singhvi, education was always an important part of her dream. She always believed it to be a great leveller. She was three years old when she lost her father and was raised by her mother in Jodhpur.
A curious person, Arjeeta would ask a lot of questions. While growing up, she struggled with limited learning methods and conventional choices.
“It was in 2017 while I was leading the Jodhpur chapter of a youth organisation, our team started ekSlate — where we helped underprivileged kids learn with the help of our communities,” the engineering graduate tells HerStory.
She realised that only one slate is enough to embark on the journey of learning. She decided to take up mentorship and other elements of learning to a larger level. It was then she thought of expanding and further building ekSlate.
“I moved to Mumbai shortly after and was working for one of the leading edtech companies on mentorship programmes for learners. When the pandemic hit, I visited my hometown Jodhpur, where I met a lot of teachers who had either lost their jobs (including my mother) or were struggling with the online transition,” she says.
Adding, “While I also interacted with a lot of students who had the same challenges I had six years ago, all those things were a big trigger, and I knew I had to do something about it. Next thing I know, I’ve quit my job, moved to Jodhpur, and was forming a team to work on ekSlate.”
Today, ekSlate is supported by Her&Now — a programme implemented by GIZ on behalf of BMZ, Germany — and in partnership with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of India, which focuses on empowering women entrepreneurs.
Jodhpur-based e-learning platform ekSlate’s core product is mentorship, where the team provides tutoring via its marketplace — ekSlate Academy.
The platform focuses on personalising learning experiences with the help of communities, such as tutors, mentors, and counsellors.
For Arjeeta and her team, one of the biggest challenges was making the startup’s product relevant and affordable while ensuring proper quality and customer experience.
Another challenge was competing with the edtech giants, like Unacademy and BYJU’s, and establishing a loyal customer base.
“As a woman entrepreneur, my biggest lesson was managing stakeholders. There were instances where vendors or partners would address the men in the room while talking numbers, etc., but with time, it has got better,” Arjeeta shares.
ekSlate’s core team comprises four people. Once Arjeeta had the idea in place, she roped in her former colleague Mohit S as a co-founder.
Besides ekSlate, Mohit continues to work for a US-based edtech startup to get a holistic view of how the industry functions. He handles sales and marketing for ekSlate, actively working to develop the startup’s mentorship programme.
Founded in 2020, ekSlate, so far, has only run pilot projects and prototypes. It earns its revenue from tutoring programmes, which help covers its team’s salaries and product development costs.
“We are still building our product and will be launching our first line of programmes soon. We also launched two outreach/lead generation campaigns — first, Chupparustam — a virtual event for students of Class 6-12, and second — Learning Ambassador — a job-readiness workshop for college students from Tier-II and III cities,” Arjeeta explains.
Market and differentiation
RedSeer predicts the online K-12 education sector will grow 6.3 percent, creating a $1.7 billion market by 2022. According to Statista, the global e-learning market was pegged at $101 billion in 2019. It is expected to grow exponentially to reach over $370 billion by 2026.
All of eKSlate’s programmes revolve around self-paced learning, which helps the learner achieve desired career outcome. These programmes are module-based, where some are pre-recorded, and others are live sessions with industry experts.
“From the pilots we’ve run, we’ve received very good feedback, where learners want to pay for our programmes and continue learning with us. The retention has been quite high. We also have a very strong focus on our communities and the kind of experts we’re onboarding,” says Arjeeta.
Revenue and future
ekSlate’s capsule courses start from Rs 599 per programme. It also operates a subscription model. The startup also earns a part of its revenue from the expert’s earnings for mentoring and tutoring. The experts charge a per hour fee, which differs from person to person.
“We are also developing various capsule courses, which are all output-based, and aim at developing a particular skill for the learner. Operationally, it’s all about matchmaking — matching the learner with the right mentor or expert based on their needs,” she explains.
She adds, “At present, we are operating on the web. A few months down the line, we also hope to launch our application. We do have an app for tutoring, but based on the feedback received from learners, we need major improvement.”
The team started with an initial investment of Rs 1 lakh. So far, its average burn rate post-hiring is Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per month. The team is looking to expand further in Tier-II and III cities, where startups like Homeguruji, Pocket Classroom, and Graderz are already present.
“To women entrepreneurs, I’d simply say, there’s no failing as an entrepreneur; only learning. Believe in yourself and your idea, and deliver your best every day; the rest will fall in place,” says Arjeeta.
Edited by Suman Singh