When the coronavirus pandemic hit, nearly 80 percent of the student population was globally impacted. While some edtech players like BYJU’s, Unacademy, and Vedantu immediately recorded soaring numbers, not many platforms were available to help independent teachers.
Traditional classroom teachers had to turn to YouTube tutorials to adjust to the new normal. To address this pain point, IIT alumni Shubham Agarwal and Vikram Vijay started BharatClass in February, this year. The startup is based out of Satna, Madhya Pradesh and is designed to enable teachers and coaching institutes to set up a teaching app in just two clicks.
“We think that there will soon be one crore teachers in India versus BYJU’s, Vedantu, Toppr, and Unacademy, in the online learning space. We are taking a bet on the former,” Shubham tells YourStory.
Developed by Bozobaka Labs Pvt Ltd, BharatClass’s app Bharat Online is currently available for Android users. It enables teachers and coaching centres to set up online virtual institutions in 30 seconds. It also features tools such as live class management, automatic attendance and secure content sharing. BharatClass is backed by StartupIndia and NITI Aayog.
The story so far
An alumnus of IIT Roorkee, Shubham had earlier started a social project, Adister, in 2010. It provided free or low-cost notebooks, subsidised by the advertisement revenues. Once the word spread, Shubham dropped out of his campus placements in 2013 and started working on Adistar, full-time.
The brand sold up to one lakh notebooks a month but had to shut the business down in 2015. “Ad revenues started dipping and the distribution cost was climbing up,” the 30-year-old says.
Post Adistar, Shubham went on to join the Growth Management team at Toppr, and also worked as an educator at Unacademy and Product Head at BedBathMore. In January 2017, he took the entrepreneurial plunge again and founded BBoard, a full-stack application for government job examination preparation. It was then that he shifted from Mumbai to his hometown, Satna.
“I was inspired by the Zoho story and believed that an edtech platform can be built from a Tier-III city as well,” Shubham says.
However, constant criticism and facing questions on whether BBoard’s teaching methods and content were the best in the country bothered Shubham. “There are too many students in the country, learning requirements of whom cannot be catered by a single company,” he explains. “We imagined a future where instead of developing tools for our use, we empower over one crore teachers of India with teaching tools and content,” he added.
In February 2020, he pivoted BBoard to start BharatClass, building a platform for teachers.
It was at the same time that IIT-Bombay alumni, Vikram, 31, joined the founding team as the COO. Vikram considers himself a passionate educator, and has handled election campaigns for political parties such as the BJP and Shiv Sena. He is one of the persons responsible for handling Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s coronavirus data.
“We had already developed an education app for competitive exams so we knew its nuances. Since I was already running a coaching institute (BBoard), I also had some idea of the psyche and requirements of students,” Shubham says.
Team BharatClass currently has five employees.
How does it work?
BharatClass helps educators teach online by helping them create an instant platform with teaching and selling tools. Educators have to either visit BharatClass’s website or download its Android app to create a virtual institute for themselves in two clicks.
Teachers and educators can use BharatClass to either organise live classes or to share their content securely. During the live classes, educators do not have to separately mark the attendance of each student. It gets automatically recorded when a student joins the class. Additionally, teachers can share PDF, images, and videos.
“Content shared over WhatsApp is not secured as students can forward it. With BharatClass, educators can be assured that their content is accessed only by their students,” Shubham explains. BharatClass also supports Zoom and Google meet calls.
The platform works on a freemium SaaS model for teachers. It plans to soon launch a MaaS (Marketplace as a Service) model as well.
A report by KPMG and Google titled ‘Online Education in India: 2021’ projected that the edtech market would reach $1.96 billion by 2021. Another report by RedSeer and Omidyar Network India suggests that the number of users in the K-12 and post-K-12 segment had doubled from 45 million to 90 million.
BharatClass competes with the likes of BitClass, Classplus, Proctur, and Knorish among others. “We currently stand out because of the simplicity of our app and two-click on-boarding process which does not require a sales team,” Shubham explains.
Initially bootstrapped with Rs 25 lakh of his personal savings, Shubham says that BharatClass has raised an undisclosed amount in its seed round from Bewakoof.com Co-founder Prabhkiran Singh, Accio.ai Co-founder of Amit Dalmia, and Director of GTV Engineering, Gaurav Agrawal.
BharatClass is actively looking for external funding.
The road ahead
Speaking on the challenges and opportunities, Shubham says that COVID-19 has accelerated tech adoption in the education sector, not just among students but also among teachers.
While Shubham did not see any inherent advantage of having a base in Mumbai or Bengaluru, the team is now starting to realise the impact of investors and other entrepreneurial activities that BharatClass misses out on, for its choice of base city.
“Edtech can be built from a Tier-III city as well, since most of the work is online. In fact, content creation cost in Satna is less as compared to other metro cities. But we are reconsidering our decision and may move out of Satna soon,” he says.
The Bharat Online app has a 4.9 rating on Google Play Store. Shubham claims that about 40 percent of its downloads are daily active users. More than 100 teachers and 20-plus institutions are currently using the platform, and it has just started generating revenues. The revenues from the startup’s MaaS model are expected to come in by mid-2021.
“We aim to onboard one million teachers on our platform by 2021,” Shubham says. In the next two years, BharatClass also plans to start its iOS platform.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)
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