In an exclusive interview with Ashutosh Asthana, Assistant Editor, Thinking Aloud, Shobhit Bhatnagar, Co-founder & CEO of GradeUp, speaks about the challenges that the EdTech sector is facing in India.
TA: How did you get the idea to start GradeUp?
SB: We started working on GradeUp as an idea in 2015. We found that education is supposed to be a social activity, it is an activity that does not limit between students and the teacher but also between students and their peer groups. Whatever that we saw online was focused on one-sided delivery of content. So, we wanted to start the other way round where we said that we will start by creating a community around for the students who are preparing for an exam or are in the same class and working towards a common goal and where they can help each other. Based on that community we can build services that are more targeted to the students and any service that gets built out obviously has that social element and a very critical piece of it. That's how the basic idea of GradeUp come up.
TA: Talk about some of the technical changes that are coming up in the EdTech sector, AI, AR or VR.
SB: I think AR/VR is something that will probably happen first in entertainment side and then come to EdTech. The big thing that is happening today all across when it comes to tech companies and content focused companies is the growth across vernacular mediums, not just Hindi or English but other languages of the country. The consumption of videos with increasing bandwidth and decrease in the cost of data are the two trends that are happening across any content business, and in EdTech as well. From the technology perspective, there is a lot of scope when it comes to all of this consumption, the data that it generates and then using that to personalize that experience for the students. Based on this, we can capture the next 500 million users in the EdTech sector.
TA: Talk about your product and how has your organization mastered that in the field of EdTech?
SB: From a product perspective, our view is that what kind of value we are adding to the students and when we talk about adding value, we are focused on whatever doubt, challenges that the student is facing, do they have a place to ask and get responses on that as quickly as possible. So, the core idea of the community was to focus on helping students and that was always a product area for us. Our goal is that for all 200 million students in India, GradeUp is one application which they have on their phone and is something that they would get to, whenever they have any issues or they are facing any doubts or any questions in their education. They can take the photo of their problem, put it up on GradeUp and somebody will answer it. The community consists of 99 percent students and some teachers as well. There are people who have already cleared a particular exam so they stay active on GradeUp to help other students and answer their queries related to that field.
TA: Raising fund is an important issue for every sector. So, for EdTech sector also is it a challenge and what are the other challenges of EdTech sector?
SB: Raising fund is a challenge for any startup in any sector but more than that, it's about scalable business model and being able to figure out what is your method to building and scaling the business that you have. If you hit that or if you started to show the proof of that happening, raising funds will not be a great challenge then. In EdTech, one challenge has been that, there are a lot of players but monetisation has not been easy because of multiple reasons, one reason is that for a large population, the user and the person who is paying are different, multiple parties are involved, the users, parents, students, teachers, coaching, college, so the algorithm is different, getting that is really difficult. If somebody is able to get that, then funding will not be difficult. India has one of the largest education markets in the world, everywhere you can see the importance of upscaling and education is available to people.
TA: How do you see the future of EdTech industry in India?
SB: Going back to the initial trends, more reach getting built out with languages, a variety of content that students need, more increase on social and video as elements, more personalization with data, create students learning journey, which is very different from each other, then we can create a content fit for the students.