India has one of the largest number of young people in it’s current population. These are people who are looking to learn and lead the country into a brighter and hopefully digital future. One of the core requirements for that to happen is easy access to quality and niche education. The booming startup scene in India has brought many young entrepreneurs to the fore, there are a few of them who are focusing on the education sector. One of them is Vamsi Krishna, CEO and Co-Founder, Vedantu Innovations Pvt Ltd. We caught up with him and had a chat.
- What exactly is Vedantu? How does it work?
Vedantu is a LIVE Online tutoring platform which aims to personalize and democratize learning with primary focus on grades 6th to 12th in CBSE & ICSE curriculum. Vedantu addresses the basic problem of generalization and one-size-fits-all prevalent in the education sector today.
In 1-to-1 tutoring environment offered by Vedantu, a student comes and browses through a list of teachers based on ratings/reviews, chooses a teacher, communicates with him/her (chat/talk), and learns live online with him/her. Students also have an option to prepare for competitive exams such as NTSE, PSA, IIT JEE Mains, IIT JEE Foundation or simply get their doubts cleared anytime, anywhere. Vedantu’s WAVE technology (Whiteboard Audio Video Environment) makes online learning fun and hassle free and enables teaching sessions even at a low bandwidth.
Vedantu was conceptualized to bring Personalization back into education. We imagine a world where a student will be at the centre of learning again. Where a teacher will teach according to the need, pace and level of a student. Where learning graduates from 1-to-Many to 1-to-1.
It is a venture which I started with three other IIT friends – Saurabh Saxena, Pulkit Jain and Anand Prakash. We all share deep passion for imparting quality education to students, which continues from our earlier venture Lakshya Institute where we together taught more than 10,000 students.
- What differentiates Vedantu from all other online tutoring companies? Is there a similar website doing a similar work in India or globally?
Vedantu is one of the pioneers in Live Online Tutoring space in India and one of the firsts to introduce a marketplace model for teachers. Several factors set Vedantu apart from other online platforms. With our cutting edge WAVE [Whiteboard Audio Video Environment] technology developed in-house, we have successfully emulated personalized learning experience between a teacher and a student, who are in-fact miles away from each other. Our platform has successfully integrated ‘click to call’ feature which functions at low speeds. Our elite group of teachers is a network of passionate individuals who have cracked the toughest examinations and have studied at premier learning Institutions like IITs, NITs, IISc, and BITS etc. Vedantu is probably the only platform that uses data analytics and algorithms to connect the most relevant teachers with students for optimised learning. Our Academic Research and Innovation Team is keenly focused on creating and curating most relevant content for the learners. Last but not the least, our technology allows session monitoring and calculates the student-teacher engagement level for each session. Undoubtedly, the engagement index and instant feedback from students after each session helps teachers in analysing and improving upon their instruction quality and better tailor their teaching methods to students’ needs.
- What kind of potential do you see in the online tutoring/learning market? How has your growth been since inception?
There are over 250 million kids in K12 segment in India out of which about 80 million are studying in private schools and likely go for some or the other kind of supplementary tuitions. According to reports, the online education market size is expected to touch USD 40 billion by 2017 suggesting significant growth potential in this industry in India. Having completely reimagined how learning takes place between a student and a teacher Vedantu has witnessed impressive growth since its inception.
In just about one year, we have more than 200 highly qualified and trained teachers on-board and more than 26,000 registered students who have already completed over 38,000 learning hours. The phenomenon of personalized online tutoring is not limited to metros alone. Students from more than 200 cities and towns use our platform. Flexibility of learning anytime anywhere coupled with increasing broadband and mobile penetration will drive adoption faster and deeper.
- Who were your investors and how did you manage to get them on board? Any plans of second round of funding in 2016?
When we launched Vedantu, several marquee investors were in touch with us. We were able to raise Series A funding of USD 5 million within just 6 months of our launch (May 7th 2014), which is probably the fastest for any startup in the Indian Ed-Tech space. We are backed by leading investors such as Accel Partners and Tiger Global Management and that adds to our credibility.
We are currently being approached by eminent names from the investor community for the next round although we have not yet taken a call. As and when the decision is made, we will keep the media updated.
- Why a Startup after IIT and why not a job in the US?
This was a question we were asked even by our parents when we had initially told them about our plans. Being from middle class families our parents were completely against the idea of a startup (in 2006 launching a startup was not cool yet).
But in just about five months of our jobs after IIT, we decided we needed to do something on our own and something that will cause disruption for good. We wanted to use our potential to the fullest and create a positive impact. Education seemed to be the right sector given it offered an opportunity to touch lives of thousands of students. Hence, we started out our first venture called Lakshya in 2006, just 6 months after graduating from IITs. Lakshya was into training students for competitive exams and we started as teachers. Among four of us, we have taught and interacted with more than 10,000 students. All the first-hand experience that we gained at Lakshya, set the foundation for Vedantu.
We felt that over the years classroom teaching has taken a precedence and teaching is done in ‘one size fits all’ manner. We also observed that education in today’s world is drifting towards generalization. We believe it may not be effective for everyone and teaching should be tailored to students’ requirements. Thus we conceptualized Vedantu to bring personalization back into education.
Both these ventures have offered us an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the education sector. It is very gratifying and that’s what we had set out to do.
- The Vision of your company for next two years?
Our Vision is closely aligned with Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Digital India’ campaign. As the government pushes for broadband and mobile penetration, we want to reach children from the remotest parts of India and offer them LIVE Online tutoring anytime anywhere.
We are working steadfastly to bring Vedantu’s experience on mobile phones and tablets via our app so that maximum number of students can benefit from easy access to quality teachers and superior content that Vedantu offers.
We remain committed to achieving our vision of making learning more personalized and democratized. We really believe that education system has a direct impact in the way humans evolve and if we can make it better, it can bring in an evolutionary change.
- What is the outlook for Vedantu for 2016 – what new technologies & uptake trends do you see happening in India?
Overall Ed-Tech as a category – MOOCs, E-tutoring/Online learning platforms – is growing by the day and Vedantu shares a very positive outlook for 2016. We believe Vedantu will be able to establish Live Online Teaching-Learning as an effective mode of Personalized Learning among Indian users in 2016.
With our efforts in bringing LIVE Online Learning on mobile devices, we expect a big surge in uptake not only from tier-1 but from tier-2 cities as well. We plan to continue our efforts in creating effective online Testing and Assessment tools, which will help Vedantu to provide a more holistic learning experience to students. On the other side, we are also building technology tools for teachers to make teaching easy, efficient and effective.
- Any new offerings from Vedantu?
As mentioned earlier, we are focused on bringing Vedantu’s experience on mobile phones and tablets. Our app will further transform 1-to-1 Live Teaching/Learning by taking Vedantu to millions of more children in every nook and corner of the country.
- What kind of technology trends do you foresee in 2016 in the online education space?
Online Education space is shaping up rapidly in India. Following trends might emerge in the Ed-tech space in year 2016:
- Greater reach of education: Rapid penetration of mobile devices and internet connection could be the gateway to unlimited knowledge and learning. Teachers from cities could be delivering Live Lectures to students in remote villages and guiding them. Technology could reduce contact hours between a student and teacher without compromising on the learning outcomes resulting in better teacher utilization.
- Adaptive Personalized Learning: Technology development (Machine Learning and Big Data) will make content more adaptive and personalized to a student’s learning requirement. Both self-learning adaptive content and content which aids teacher personalize teaching for students in classroom environment will witness higher uptake.
- Gamification and learning apps for children: There has been continual technology development for last few years towards making learning more engaging and fun. 2016 will see more effective learning apps which gamify learning for students, especially in K12.
- Blended Learning: Technology will aid and assist the teacher but will not replace the teacher. Blended learning will greatly improve learning outcomes and teacher efficiency.
- Flexible and Industry Oriented Curriculum through Online Learning: The flexibility of on-line education can radically change our education system and make it more dynamic and industry oriented. Platforms like MOOCs for self-paced learning and platforms for Live Lectures will see higher uptake among students and acceptance in industry.
We wish the young and energetic team at Vedantu all the very best in their quest to make education and learning interesting, easy and scalable. This is something that our country and the young people in it need now. We will be watching them very closely and with a lot of interest.