Democratizing Education With Personalized Online Tutoring
The Education sector in India is poised at a crucial stage in its growth. The country has more than 1.4 million schools with over 227 million students enrolled and more than 36,000 higher education institutes. The Internet has further transformed the online education sector with an increased number of educational institutes, corporate houses as well as training centers imparting knowledge through online courses and programs. Despite the momentum, there is still a lot of potential for further development in the education system.
One such ed-tech startup in India, Vedantu is bringing innovation in this area, by taking quality education to the next level, including the remotest corners of the country. Founded in October 2014 by a group of IIT alumnus and friends, Vamsi Krishna, Saurabh Saxena, Pulkit Jain and Anand Prakash, the Bangalore based ed-tech startup offers live online tutoring sessions to students in subjects such as maths and science along with preparation courses for exams such as NTSE, PSA, IMO, JEE Mains, to name a few. The company also raised USD 5 million in a Series A round of funding within just six months of their public launch, from Accel Partners and Tiger Global Management and is gearing up for more.
In an exclusive interaction with CXOToday, Vamsi Krishna, CEO and Co-founder, Vedantu discusses the market for live online tutoring to students and how, in India, the concept is personalizing and democratizing learning with the use of technology.
CXOToday: What was the idea behind Vedantu? How did it come about?
Vamsi Krishna: The core idea behind Vedantu is to make a significant and positive impact in the education sector. From our own experiences as students, we realized that there was a need for a transformational change in the education segment in India. It all started with friendship among us, four friends - Anand, Pulkit, Saurabh and I - who have been school friends and college mates. After graduating from IIT, we started a journey in education as teachers through our first venture – Lakshya, a test-prep company in 2006 which was later sold off to a listed company. We wanted to do something meaningful together in the education space because we shared a passion for it. All the work done in the early years germinated into a bigger idea and our second venture together – Vedantu.
Online tutoring, a big segment in parallel education, is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15 percent, from $11 billion in 2014 to $16 billion in 2017. But we noticed this is largely unorganized with several small-scale setups that is run by individuals or groups for a localized catchment of students. This is the space we wanted to explore. Having worked in the offline space, we realized the limitations of a brick and mortar model and this propelled us to make quality learning accessible anytime-anywhere with absolutely no boundaries. Vedantu is aimed at trying to solve the problems arising from offline model in a more holistic way.
CXOToday: How has the growth journey been so far?
Vamsi Krishna: It has been an exciting journey for Vedantu so far. We have witnessed a tremendous growth in the last couple of years. In fact, in the last one year, we have grown almost four times. Vedantu has grown tremendously in the past one year with more than 350 teachers and 11,000 students on its platform. The company’s target is to touch around 100,000 students by 2020. The geographical spread has also increased with students enrolling in from more than 380 cities. A significant portion of this comes from students outside India who take regular sessions with Vedantu, all of which is purely from word of mouth publicity. On an average we conduct 700 LIVE sessions per day.
All this has been possible because of the technology. Vedantu is a technology company at the core. The revolutionary in-house WAVE technology (Whiteboard, Audio and Video Environment) makes learning online fun and hassle-free and enables very low bandwidth LIVE teaching sessions. We are using data analytics and algorithms to optimize learning experience by connecting a student with the most relevant teacher possible. We are pushing aggressively to bring Vedantu’s experience on mobile device for deeper penetration so that students beyond metros have access to quality teachers as their urban peers.
CXOToday: What are the overall trends in the Indian edtech space? Does the academia understands the importance of e-learning?
Vamsi Krishna: In our country there is a huge disparity between quality of education accessible in metros & tier I cities and smaller cities & towns. Quality and availability of teachers in remote parts of the country is a chronic challenge. Online education presents a real opportunity to create a level-playing field for our students from the remotest parts of the country. As far as adoption of technology is concerned, Indians are known to leapfrog the curve. Once quality education becomes accessible, its adoption will really take off.
Schools, universities and students are also adapting to the technological developments and shifting towards e-learning. Schools can engage with Vedantu on a long-term basis or for a specific requirement such as exam preparatory courses or competitive exams. Though slowly but the trend is picking up and we hope that in the near future online education/e-learning will be equally important as daily school curriculum.
CXOToday: What are the key challenges this sector is facing? How do you address them?
Vamsi Krishna: One of the key challenges this sector is facing is to educate the parents and students about the benefits of LIVE online learning in India. Based on our experience in the education sector, we realized it is mostly due to the lack of awareness of the concept among parents, students and teachers. We took up this responsibility and today we can say that we have done a fair job in convincing and communicating the USPs to them.
The other challenge we face is the infrastructure barrier. There are certain cities in India which face lack of infrastructure and unpredictable bandwidth conditions, restricting a student’s access to a quality teacher. We are trying to fill this gap through our in-house WAVE (Whiteboard, Audio and Video Environment) technology which is extremely intelligent and adaptive and optimized to work even at low internet bandwidth and provide glitch free teaching and learning experience. It allows boundary less teaching leaning experience to take place.
CXOToday: What are your plans for the future? What is your next stepping stone?
Vamsi Krishna: According to a recent report by Google, KPMG, online education in India will see approximately 8x growth in the next five years. This will have a significant impact on the edtech market. So we will continue to provide our services to more and more students and schools and encourage them to adopt online learning. We plan to continue our efforts in creating various tools which will enable teachers to test and assess the performance of students periodically. On the other side, we are also building technology tools for teachers to make teaching easy, efficient and effective. We expect a surge in the adoption of Vedantu as a preferred platform to teach online - not just among already established teachers, but also among people from various professions who look forward to share knowledge.
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