This Jaipur-based edtech platform aims to be a catalyst for affordable coaching
In India, careers in civil services and defence services are still hugely popular. This is evident from the millions of people who continue to appear for the nationalised examinations in the hope of being selected. In fact, the high level of competition attached to these examinations has spawned an entire industry around it. Coaching institutions for the purpose of training students to appear in centralised examinations, are as respected as their traditional educational counterparts. However, in 2020, even these age-old institutions had to diversify in order to survive.
One such prominent player that has risen to the top in the recent past is, founded by Akhand Swaroop Pandit from Jaipur. It began as a YouTube channel in 2017 but its immense popularity in a short span of time led to it becoming an on-ground coaching centre in 2019 in three different cities – Jaipur, Lucknow, and Pune. They also offer online coaching for students throughout the country.
“Through this platform, we hope to fulfil our mission of reaching each and every corner of the country to provide high quality but affordable education to everyone across the board. We feel everyone deserves an equal chance at these competitive exams and we can help them do that,” says Akhand in a chat with YS Weekender.
Akhand with the students of Catalyst
Akhand, an engineer who also has a legal degree, has eleven years of experience in the field, and has been on the Faculty of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). He was All India Rank 144 in the Engineering Services Examination (ESE), Rank 48 in the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission, Rank 1 in the Uttar Pradesh Housing and Development Board, Rank 5 in the Airports Authority of India Deputy Manager exam, and Rank 3 in the National Eligibility Test (NET).
Speaking about the USP of his brand, Akhand says, “I believe the following points give us an edge over similar platforms - all our faculty members have qualified the exams themselves and each one of them has at least eight years of teaching experience. Our fee is very affordably priced – in fact, we charge only 1/10th of the fee charged by other platforms. Further, having done exceptionally well, our students have always recommend our services forward. The results we produce every year are evident, and this is the reason for our complete customer base being organic with zero customer acquisition cost involved.”
He goes on to say that Catalyst helps students achieve personalised goals by keeping a constant track of the regular progress of students through tests, online counselling, and other methods. They also have a special wing for the psychological assessment of students so they can be guided to follow the path or goal which is right for them.
Courses and more
At Catalyst, there are over 250 courses on offer. These include training for entrance examinations in the fields of Engineering, UPSC, Intelligence Bureau, Career Counselling, Life Coaching, and a number of others. This large gamut of courses is divided into two broad categories – coaching for competitive exams and skill development courses.
“Currently, our most popular courses are UPSC CSE / IES, SSC, GATE and Defence courses. Also, under the category of skill development, our Stock Market and Financial Planning courses are very popular. I believe the reason for their popularity is the high quality of content we provide with an affordable fee structure,” explains Akhand.
Catalyst currently boasts over three lakh regular students on their platform, with a monthly viewership of 60 million on their YouTube channel, which has a subscriber base of 1.8 million. Akhand highlights that their services are most popular with the age group between 16-30 for competitive exam courses and 16-60 for skill development courses.
Their courses are priced between INR 5000 to INR 30,000 with a validity of one year to three years. Courses can be accessed through their website or the app by directly signing up and selecting the course of choice.
When asked about competition, Akhand looks to YouTube as an example and names BYJUs IAS and Unacademy UPSC as direct competitors.
Challenges and growth
“The only challenge we faced in our first year was to establish Catalyst as the most trusted institute for competitive exam preparation and skill development organically. You see, in the edtech sector, people are completely swayed by marketing and how much money you put in to making your brand look appealing. But in our case, we have a plan for the long run and have always aimed to establish ourselves with a strong organic foundation. And we have been successful in doing that after just four years of launching,” smiles Akhand.
According to data published on infiniumglobalresearch.com, the market size of coaching classes in India is expected to reach $500 million by 2022. The coaching classes market is primarily driven by an increase in the number of students pursuing higher education and professional courses. Hence, players like Catalyst are due to grow further.
Catalyst was begun with an initial investment of around Rs 20,000. It has a core team of around 40 people, and tover 100 freelancers in various roles.
All set for further growth, Catalyst is now looking to expand its repertoire of courses. Akhand shares, “We are planning to explore competitive exams like CAT, IIT JEE, NEET, and CA in the coming year.”