This Entrepreneur Cracked the Edtech Code By Focusing On Learning Outcomes
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Shobhit Bhatnagar was experimenting with ideas in the education sector when he came upon a realization. “We realized that the edtech space largely comprised of the same offline content just being uploaded online, which was not engaging, interactive or effective for aspirants preparing online,” he says.
By focusing on learning outcomes, he realized they could contribute a lot to the sector.
“And this realization was our eureka moment,” says 32-year-old Shobhit. Along with Vibhu Bhushan and Sanjeev Kumar, he started Gradeup in 2015, which now helps more than 18 million aspirants prepare for examinations such as JEE and UPSC, among others.
The company, in a little over four years, has garnered a monthly active user base of 3 million. In November, the company received $7 million in a Series A round from Times Internet.
Not All Bright
But the journey hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine for Shobhit. In 2013, he forayed into the same space with his other partners and worked with publishers and large institutes to mobilize their content to deliver it in an online, mobile-friendly manner for students preparing for competitive exams.
He says, “While it focused on utilizing content in the online space, it was clearly not enough. The learning process lacked the right level of engagement and was, thus, ineffective in improving learning outcomes.”
According to Shobhit, that was a low point in his entrepreneurial journey.
“Our low point at that time was that we made a business model that couldn’t scale. Also we were quite dependent on our external partners; for whom it was too early to change and evolve,” he says.
But the failure taught him a lesson which then became a high point for him. “We also realized that students prepare better when they prepare together. Hence, we decided that moving forward we will have a community-based model where verified peer-to-peer learning and validation mechanisms build trust and reliability towards the content and the platform.”
For the Noida-based company, 2019 was a significant year. The company launched Gradeup Classroom, foraying into the large class live online learning segment. The live classes already have over 30,000 students enrolled.
Gradeup has big expansion plans for 2020. The company plans to expand its presence in the K12 segment by introducing live foundation classes for 11th and 12th standard students preparing for JEE and NEET.
“Our focus for the coming year will be on student's success as a tool to measure achievements and effectiveness, thereby stressing more on learning outcomes,” says Shobhit.
The company has plans to embed game elements like coins and leaderboard in its community learning vertical, which it claims will help increase healthy competitiveness and keep the students motivated throughout. For the teachers, it plans to introduce new features that will enable teachers to run a complete class with simple voice commands.
Responding to whether they plan to get more investment, Shobhit says they are looking to raise funds in the coming months. With plans to expand faculty and subject matter experts, along with manifesting their presence in Tier II and III cities, the next round will be utilized in scaling and improving tech capabilities.
Is the company on the path to breaking even? “We as an organisation have always been highly focused on our unit economics and making sure that we are profitable at that level. While scaling, we have been thoughtful of what our costs are and how they will evolve as we grow. Our growth strategy has been marketing light and driven by our student community,” says Shobhit.
He adds that they are operationally profitable on all their live courses.
“Although it is not our objective yet, we will be profitable in the next 18 months,” he says.
The paid user base for Gradeup currently stands at over 2,50,000. By the end of this year, Shobhit says the goal is to take that number to a million.