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Opening GATEs to public sector job aspirants: Testbook Co-founder

Vikram Chaudhary
Testbook Co-founder, GATE mock test series, Testbook.com, Railways, SSC, SBI PO entrance, online government job exams, edtech sector

In January 2014, IIT graduates Ashutosh Kumar and Narendra Agrawal started a website that offered GATE mock test series to job aspirants. Since then, Testbook.com has emerged as a one-stop online destination for public-sector job aspirants. "We wanted to build a platform for students aspiring for government jobs by helping them prepare for exams such as Railways, SSC and SBI PO entrance," says Kumar, co-founder of Testbook. In an interview with FE's Vikram Chaudhary, he adds Testbook is an outcome of his passion for teaching and Agrawal's dream to use web-based products to create something unique. Excerpts:

What is the business model of Testbook?

It's a one-stop online destination for all public-sector job aspirants. We run on a subscription-based revenue model that has helped us recently cross the annual recurring revenue (ARR) of Rs 30 crore.

When did you see the opportunity to tap the online government job exams?

During 2012-13, I and Agrawal were working on another edtech start-up in the K12 sector-related to mentoring services for students preparing for engineering entrance exams. However, there were multiple challenges. One: The need for a learning and assessment platform along with relevant content. Two: Graduate students preparing for competitive exams had a stronger propensity for usage as well as transaction on an edtech platform when compared to K12 students.

By 2013, we started thinking around other opportunities in edtech, and realised government job preparation was the right opportunity, both in terms of market size and time-exams for government jobs had just started shifting from offline to online. There were more than 100 exams happening at the national level every year, and 3-4 million students appearing for them.

Back then, there were no tech players in this space; we tapped into a virgin market-over 85% of this was unorganised.

The edtech sector is very competitive...

Yes, even after two years, we observed that despite moving all major exams to the online platform, students from smaller towns did not show much interest-they weren't comfortable using online platforms for payments. So we decided to blend the best of offline and online worlds. We also found that over 80% of government job aspirants could not afford a personal computer, so we set up Testbook learning centres in these places. Our tests require internet connection only during the start and towards the end of a course.

Why is online coaching for government exams important?

According to a Google and KPMG report, the Indian edtech segment is estimated to grow to $1.96 billion by 2021. While this segment is highly fragmented with more than 3,500 edtech firms, much of the funding is going into ventures that focus on school curriculum enhancement, tuitions and professional training. There are very few players in the public sector entrance exam coaching segment. Testbook has a big role to play in bridging this gap, and it can only be done through online-offline blending of solutions.

Can edtech get an eBay-like aggregator, or an Amazon-like behemoth?

Big names in the industry are partnering with or buying out smaller ventures to build stronger existences. While this may spell problems for smaller start-ups, such aggregation can help consolidate and defragment the edtech ecosystem.

Some of the trends disrupting this space include:

Vernacular content: Information has to be made available in regional languages.

Concise learning: It's the era of fast-paced lifestyle and people neither have the time nor the attention span to engage in elaborate, time-consuming content.

Personalised content: Edtech players are hiring big names and industry influencers as educators to attract students. While this may be expensive, it provides a competitive edge. Also, AI and ML will pave the way for personalised content and learning through analytics and user info.