Parents of children attending private schools in big cities are familiar with school communication apps. These give them all information related to their child - from any fees due to weekly timetables, test and exam schedules (and their results), circulars, homework, and even attendance. Gone are the days when you could bunk a class or find an excuse for not giving your homework on time.
Some apps even notify parents when a student is absent to make sure they weren’t bunking, or if a student hasn’t submitted a homework assignment on time.
Gurugram-based IQGrain, however, wants its school app to provide all of these features but also be more about learning and helping students and their schools perform better. It plans to do this by providing content to supplement daily lessons in school.
“We want to touch the lives of each student in India to improve performance of teachers and students by enabling them to have easy access to quality educational content and tools offered by reputed institutes/faculty from across the country,” says Prince Jain, one of the three co-founders of Fireant Networks, which built the IQGrain app.
The other two are Chandresh Jain and Amit Aggarwal, while a fourth – an IIT Bombay alumni with 12 years’ experience in the education industry – is joining them in a month. All four have worked in technology across several startups before coming together to become entrepreneurs.
Need for quality content
The idea for IQGrain stemmed from what the trio themselves observed in Kota. The city is famous (or infamous, on how you look at it) for the thousands of coaching centres that help students after Class 12 to prepare for the toughest college entrance exams in India to enter the IITs, AIIMS, BITS, and the NITs. Many students often start as early as Class 7, spending long hours in coaching centres instead of their regular schools in pursuit of the elusive seat at an IIT.
Sadly, Kota is also the place where many students succumb to the unrealistic pressure put on them and take their own lives.
“We have closely seen how the education ecosystem in Kota worked and it made us wonder if there was a better way,” explains Chandresh, adding that they decided to use their technology background to improve this ecosystem.
The result was Fireant Networks, and a product called IQGrain. Prince describes it as “a 360-degree platform-as-a-service product focussing on ways to help all stakeholders in the educational ecosystem – students, parents, teachers, and schools/colleges”.
Addressing pain points
“Communication is just one of the channels to achieve our goal. Other apps focus on communication-as-a-service to schools. We are addressing the pain points of various stakeholders through various offerings,” Prince adds.
In addition to student-related information to parents, IQGrain also seeks to give students access to the best of education content to supplement what is learned in school. It also contains an events update stream that covers events that students might want to participate in from all over India.
At present, the company is finalising agreements with other providers of educational content to make their resources and modules available on IQGrain. However, it declined to provide names as the process is still underway.
Teachers too will find resources related to teaching and evaluation methods, which, the founders say will help them take an analytical approach to their students’ learning and performance.
Parents will have a direct access to their child’s performance and school attendance to help them better monitor and guide them.
Working towards a social cause too
Through IQGrain, the school management will be able to automate many manual tasks that will help them use their staff to better help students. In fact, many schools that Fireant works with are quite small (50 students or less, sometimes just 20) and located in remote areas, which means their staff is not tech-savvy. And so, the startup helps them out initially to get everything set up at the backend, uploading documents, etc.
As a business, it proves to be an added cost, but the founders believe that IQGrain has a social purpose to serve.
“We provide our subscription for almost zero fees to such schools and charge them a very nominal one-time fee for the initial setup. We have earlier offered our platform for free of cost to many schools and will be offering our platform for free of cost to various other small schools who can’t afford our solution,” explains Chandresh.
The founders also say that they plan to offer this solution to various state governments to help them in monitoring government schools, and improve the quality of education and monitor their performance.
Adds Amit, "Technology will be backbone of our platform, where artificial intelligence and other advance concepts will be used to achieve better performance of Teachers and Students. We are also working on how we can make our platform more user friendly so it can be easily used by not so tech savvy users."
In terms of revenue, the founders want to offer IQGrain through a freemium model. Some of the content will be offered for free, while more in-depth resources will be available for a fee.
Then there’s the IQG Assist service, which is meant to help unemployed youth with job opportunities. Fireant plans to provide them training and then deploy them at schools and colleges to help with the institutions’ data-related work.
According to report released jointly by Google and KPMG in 2017, the edtech market in India will be worth $2 billion by 2021, boosted by an increase in the base of paying subscribers.
For the past 15-18 months, the founders have expanded IQ Grain’s user base to 150+ schools – all provided free of cost, with a team of just a dozen people on board. In the past couple of months, they have begun converting these into paid engagements.
In terms of making money, there is a long road ahead, but for now, as Prince says,
“ We measure our success/growth by number of students, teachers, parents and institutes using our platform. We want to impact the lives of two lakh students, 5,000 teachers and 500 educational institutes by the end of the current financial year.”