This Startup Helps To Crack Government Job Exams
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If you have grown up in an average Indian household, chances are that your parents for once must have asked you to take any public sector examination, quipping “who knows you might crack it”.
In India, every year around 70 million aspirants take public sector examinations for a meagre number of jobs available. The central government employment is estimated to constitute only around 14 per cent employment in the country. For one government post, lakhs try their luck. To help these aspirants prepare for such cut-throat competitive examinations, a Mumbai-based startup Testbook was found in 2014 by Ashutosh Kumar, Manoj Munna, Praveen Agrawal and Narendra Agrawal.
In an interaction with Entrepreneur India, co-founder of Testbook Kumar shares his journey from being an IIT graduate to becoming an entrepreneur and how his startup is turning dreams into realities for scores of aspirants.
From IIT-Bombay To Entrepreneur
Kumar, who hails from a small town Madhubani in Bihar, was able to get a seat in IIT-Bombay. However, knowing the month-long and rigorous preparation he underwent, he wanted to guide IIT aspirants. During his graduation years, he taught multiple IIT aspirants on how to crack the entrance exam. The passion for teaching turned into an entrepreneurial opportunity for Kumar, when after securing a job from campus, he along with his roommate Narendra (co-founder) refused the offers and built a new platform to mentor IIT aspirants. The platform had several IIT students who were verbally mentoring these aspirants.
However, within a quick time, Kumar realized that they were not able to make any difference. This is when the idea to create a content layer where strong recommendation will be provided after a student interacts with the content.
Kumar said with this technology, he along with his team would be able to pinpoint difficulties that a student is facing. Kumar along with his team who were catering to the K-12 category moved to the graduate student category. According to Kumar, the reason behind the move was influenced by the government's decision to shift exams online. Another factor that the team observed was the complete absence of a tech-enabled player in the space.
The startup currently has 11 million registered users and more than 500,000 active paid subscribers. Testbook in the last three years—because of its student-driven and outcome focused approach—witnessed a stupendous growth rate. It has also helped in securing 37,000 selections across different government jobs in the past three years.
Where Does Testbook Excel?
Thriving on technology rich content, Testbook at the moment helps students prepare for 150 government exams. Of this, 80 per cent are central government jobs whereas the rest are for state government jobs. The startup boasts to even prepare students for the non-technical side of an exam.
Giving an example, Kumar said, “For railways, there will be vacancies for technical related posts and non-technical related posts. We prepare students for both types of exams.”
The firm prepares students for reasoning, current affairs, general awareness and English, depending on exam type.
The startup offers two models of subscription. First is the annual subscription, where a student needs to pay INR 700 for an annual subscription. In this model, the student will have access to mock test papers for 150 government job exams. This subscription will also provide students with 200 recorded course lectures along with a live-doubt solving feature.
“A student can switch between various courses in this subscription,” he added.
The second mode which is much more premium offers live coaching of a particular exam for three-four months. Apart from this, a personal coach will be assigned to an aspirant, who will keep a track on his/her progress. The subscription costs INR 5,000-7,000 for one examination.
Currently, Testbook has 140 members in the content team, of which 25 are teachers who have prior experience in online teaching and 40 are subject matter experts.
Emphasising on technology, Kumar said Testbook provides offline download video features to avoid interruption by slow internet. To help students from small towns, the startup has provided offline mock tests, where the Internet is just required to start and submit the test.
“With our products we have tried to empower students coming from small towns,” he said.
The startup has till date solved around 3.3 billion questions.COVID-19 Impact
Unlike other ed-tech platforms, Testbook depends on the student’s purchasing power and government exam notifications. In the initial month of lockdown when edtech startups in the K-12 segment enjoyed massive student enrollment, Testbook saw a dip of 30 per cent in terms of revenue as the government had cancelled all examination dates. However, Kumar said they were quickly able to return back to pre-COVID levels in the last three months. According to Kumar, the government has started coming up with exam dates which have made students spend more time on the platform. The startup is now witnessing a 80 per cent growth in terms of revenue and a 200 per cent rise in terms of students enrollment.
The ed-tech platform saw a significant rise in the number of engagement hours from 10-12 hours a month to an average of 30 hours. “We achieved these numbers because of our coach-driven live coaching model, where we are monitoring and motivating aspirants,” Kumar said.
The startup in the initial days of lockdown also kicked off a campaign where they provided free coaching for ten days. During this time, the startup witnessed a staggering enrollment of 700,000 aspirants.
The startup has raised $8.3 million in Series B round from Matrix Partners, Iron Pillars, AngelList India and Better Capital earlier this year.
On being asked about the future plans, Kumar said, “We want to get aggressive and focus only on the government exam.” The startup in the next one-and-a-half years plans to increase its courses from 150 exams to 350 exams. The startup even during the lockdown has hired faculty teachers to expand their courses. The startup is also trying to cover more state government exams. Currently it has covered Hindi speaking states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and will soon enter other states.