Despite the economic slowdown, one sector that has truly emerged victorious in the current pandemic situation is the edtech sector. In fact, a recent report published by RedSeer and Omidyar Network revealed edtech users - on the K12 and the post K-12 segment - have doubled from 45 million to 90 million, since 2019.
However, it is important to note that even in the education sector, only the players operating online have benefitted during the pandemic.
One of the edtech players affected by the pandemic is Jaipur-based Forsk Coding School. Founded in 2015 by Sylvester Fernandes and Yogendra Singh, it is a bootcamp startup that equips graduates with industry-level skill sets. The startup focusses on teaching in a ‘project-based learning approach’.
However, according to the founders, the startup's flagship programme, ‘Summer School 2020’, was completely affected due to the pandemic.
Earlier, Forsk offered bootcamps for a duration of 45 days to six months, in both offline and online models. The startup usually partnered with universities or tied up with educational groups in Rajasthan to conduct the bootcamps.
Its flagship bootcamp programme -- Summer School, which focusses on classroom teaching, generated Rs 40 lakh revenue last year. However, this year, the programme did not see the light of the day, and the startup witnessed a 60 percent revenue loss in three months.
This led the startup to pivot its model and completely shift to an instructor-led online model since April 2020. But this was not the only roadblock in Forsk’s journey.
Earlier, Forsk charged between Rs 10,000 and Rs 40,000 for the bootcamp, depending on the course enrolment support required by the candidates.
However, “During the lockdown, people were conservative for long-duration, high-fee courses. This made us rethink our instructor-led online offerings and we started offering free short-time courses,” Yogendra tells YourStory.
Pivoting the model
Forsk, is now offering seven-day long programmes in Python, Machine Learning, Deep learning, Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Data Analytics, Web Development, and Java, at free of cost.
“Anyone can register, join, and audit these courses without paying any fee,” Yogendra says.
The startup charges only when candidates need career services like certificates, personal mentoring, internships, jobs, or project mentoring. “Either during the programme or post the programme completion, candidates may opt and pay for career services,” Yogendra explains. The startup charges between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 for certifications. For mentoring and internships, Forsk is charging between Rs 5,000 and Rs 30,000.
Ever since the bootcamp course has been shifted online, Forsk, which saw users mostly from Rajasthan earlier, is now seeing users from across the country. The startup now caters to attendees right from Jammu and Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat to Meghalaya.
In the last three months, it claims to have recorded 1.5 lakh registrations for its various projects, with 5,000 learners completing the programmes, and its YouTube channel subscription has increased by 200 percent. According to Yogendra, the startup has generated Rs 10 lakh revenue between April to June.
Forsk’s entire team is now working from home, and the team expects to continue this until December, 2020. “The business is evolving every day, and accepting this is very critical for any business,” he adds.
Trends during pandemic
Yogendra, through his personal experience, says that ever since the beginning of the pandemic, candidates are not inclined towards long-duration courses unlike pre-COVID times.
“Week-long courses and small ticket-size charges for career services seem to be the trend,” he says.
While most of the demand has been from engineering undergraduates from CSE, IT, ECE, EE, and Mechanical major, Forsk has also been receiving enquiries from candidates that are faculties from academia and school children, who are willing to learn basic coding analytics, Python, and Data Science.
A report by KPMG and Google had pegged the edtech market to touch $1.96 billion by 2021, and the numbers are expected to rise as more students come online to study due to the pandemic. Several bootcamp startups, including the likes of Lambda School, Masai School, Pesto, and BridgeLabs, have been trying to make their mark in the sector.
Boostrapped since inception, Forsk is currently in talks with agencies and investors to raise a funding round.
“We will be using the funds raised for further developing the tech platform, adding new courses, increasing the team size, and for geographical expansion,” Yogendra says.
Until now, the startup partnered with companies such as Jumio, Vaibhav Global, VoipXP, IDeepner, and Alphonic, to hire its students. It mostly depended on a staffing model for this. Graduates working with these partners remained on Forsk’s rolls for the first six-months, and then raised an invoice to the partner companies.
However, going ahead, the startup plans to opt for an income share agreement model. “Under the income-sharing model, Forsk will not charge for career services, however, revenue will be secured once the candidate gets a job,” he adds.
Additionally, the bootcamp startup plans to increase the number of instructor-led courses in domains other than Data Science, and geographically expand to the USA, Europe, and Australia. Forsk also plans on adding more byte size courses and increase its focus on Tier II and Tier III cities.
It is also in the process of launching project-only courses. “Under this, we will not only teach but also share the project specs with learnings, helping them build the solutions and make them learn real-life project development life-cycle by following the industry-best practices,” Yogendra says.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)
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