This Former Youtube India Head Wants to Solve the English Language Problem Where Schools Fall Short
OckyPocky, started in 2017, helps kids develop proficiency in English language
“About 95 per cent graduates in India struggle to find their first jobs and subsequently promotions,” said Amitt Agrawwal in an interaction with Entrepreneur India. Ask him the reason and he’s quick to point out that it’s the candidate’s communication skills. In particular, lack of written and oral fluency in English language, which is key to finding good job opportunities and further career growth.
Studies and industry data also point to this trend. A 2015 study titled The National Spoken English Skills Engineers Report showed that a whopping 97 per cent of engineering graduates in the country cannot speak English, which is an impediment in landing jobs in corporate sales and business consulting.
That’s about high-end jobs in the corporate world. The situation is no better for other job profiles. As per the study, about 67 per cent engineers do not possess spoken or working proficiency in English language required for any job in the knowledge economy.
Indian schools are falling terribly short on imparting good quality English-medium education. In fact, most government-run schools do not offer English-medium curriculum and the ones which do are merely for showcase purposes.
“English is the holy grail where even our teachers struggle with basic grammar and fluency,” Agrawwal said.
Sensing an opportunity where schools are falling short, the former YouTube India head and IIM-Bangalore alumni founded OckyPocky in 2017 to help kids develop proficiency in English language. He is achieving his mission by catching them young. “The best time to learn a second language is early childhood,” said the founder Agrawwal.
OckyPocky is an interactive English learning app for pre-school kids. OckyPoky is an octopus that assists children in learning English using artificial intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP) and speech recognition to create a personalised experience behind the screens.
“OckyPocky brand persona is of an elder sibling or a best friend. It’s playful, talks in your mother tongue, interactive, helpful and yet protective of the kid,” said Agrawwal.
With a focus on catering to non-english speaking families, the app is available in Hindi, English, Tamil and Telugu. The company also ties-up with several kindergartens to help them use the app as an after school or lab tester tool to reinforce classroom concepts in an interactive and fun manner.
The company claims to have a user base of 3 million kids with a renewal rate of about 95 per cent for their paid services.
On being asked how the company handles the data of so many students using the app, Agrawwal said they apply stringent controls on the privacy front and use minimal data required for helping a kid. “In terms of data sciences, we are working with AI and NLP,” he added.
Just like most startups in the edtech space, OckyPocky’s growth was catapulted by Covid-19 induced lockdowns that sent students scurrying to online learning methods. So much so that during the lockdown last year in April, the company reported that their servers crashed due to increased traffic and as a result, had to downsize to increase the runway.
This also led the edtech startup to raise external funding to invest in building on the tech to meet the growing demand. In September 2020, OckyPocky had raised undisclosed seed funding led by Lead Angels Network.
Agrawwal is unperturbed by the stiff competition governing the edtech market in the country. So, when asked how the company is ensuring growth in India’s overcrowded edtech market, he said their growth is governed by their strong IP.
“Our product is driven by huge IP and thus growing at a dramatic pace during Covid-19 times. People try a lot of products, but do not stay unless they get quality. But, our self-learn app is well loved due to its unique vernacular content approach for tier 2, tier 3 and tier 4 towns and great self-learning experience created by our superior quality algorithms,” he explained.
“Similarly, the NPS (Net Promoter Score) of our live classes is over 95 per cent.”
OckyPocky claims that its customer acquisition cost is less than 10 per cent of the industry average. “Our unit economics are positive - which is allowing us to fuel the growth much faster,” he said.