When Umesh Jain was evaluating schools for his four-year-old in his home town in Chennai, he could not find any reliable source to procure information about the admission criteria/timelines of top schools.
“There were websites with outdated data. Discussion forums had details buried and lost in the conversations,” recalls 35-year-old Umesh. He worked as an Information Management expert for 15 years with data and serving global clients. He did an executive MBA from Temple University in USA.
Umesh wanted to return to India to start his own venture. After a quick market research, which enabled him to gather data of around 100 schools in Chennai, the idea of SchoolConnect was born.
Started in 2015, SchoolConnect provides details regarding admission process, eligibility and timeline of each school. A dedicated team has been set up to update the website on a periodic basis.
Umesh fondly recalls how in six months, the published information was consumed by more than one lakh parents. More than 3,000 have subscribed for 2015-16 admission updates. The number of subscribers has gone up to more than 12,000 parents for 2016-17 admissions information and 250 premium users from Chennai alone.
SchoolConnect has branched out in Bengaluru and Delhi, and added premium options like subscribing alerts for higher number of schools, formation of WhatsApp group and more.
To build a website and a team of two members, Umesh infused his personal capital of Rs 3 lakh in the first year of operations (which started with a shared office space). The website development and maintenance rendered into a lot of snags in terms of dealing with different freelancers from different locations at different times.
However, it became difficult for Umesh to manage everything solely. In December 2015, he roped in Rajesh Sanghvi, who later joined SchoolConnects as a co-founder. Rajesh, 41, has more than 20 years of experience in stock broking and financial management services field.
Addressing the information asymmetry
Chennai-based SchoolConnects.in helps parents seeking school admissions in India, especially “first-time school parents”. The requirement revolves around in selecting the education boards (CBSE, ICSE and State), school and understanding the admission process of each school.
Our mobile application enables real-time ‘discussion’ with peer community of area/school where existing school parents act as ‘guides’ providing real-time consultation,” says Umesh.
He adds, ‘SCANS aka School Connects Admissions Notice Schedule’, a calendar of admissions in the city helps parents keep up with the often changing admission timelines. Within one month of its launch, SchoolConnect has seen 500 downloads.
Through SchoolConnect, parents can avail information about 1,800 schools across nine cities (Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Kolkata, Pune, Mumbai and Hyderabad) based on their preferences (location, syllabus) and also compare them online. It even allows parents to apply to multiple associate schools by filling a single form. One can also seek input and guidance on the choice of school from education consultants through webinars, blog and articles.
We further expect parents to exchange more live information in the form of pictures of admission and selection notice from school gates, which could help others who cannot make it in person. Parents can also explore schools and the admissions calendar on the website through the app,” Rajesh says
Expecting a surge
SchoolConnect’s primary source of revenue has been advertisement followed by subscription model, marketing and promotion services for partners and commission on per transaction of admission fees. The #startup generated Rs 4 lakh in revenue last year.
Including the founding members, SchoolConnect has a team of seven members. By the end of this year, it is expecting registration from more than 40,000 parents and revenue of Rs 10 lakhs.
Startups in the edtech space are betting big not only in finding the best institutions, but also making quality education accessible in Tier II and III cities. Vedantu, Simplilearn, Toppr, Iprof, Talentedge, and embibe.com are some of the names one would likely take to leverage the education methods and technologies like real-time book updates, online tutoring, edutainment, and online test preparation.
India’s online education market is expected to grow to $40 billion by 2017 from the present $20 billion. According to Docebo, the inflow of venture capital in the e-learning space has been $6 billion globally in the past five years.
In May 2016, Prepathon, a learning app for competitive exams from PaGaLGuY, raised an undisclosed amount of fund from Blume Ventures in pre-Series A round.
Recently, education startup Byju’s raised $50 million in a round co-led by Mark Zuckerberg’s and Priscilla Chan’s investment arm The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and Sequoia Capital, along with investors Sofina, Lightspeed Ventures, and Times Internet Ltd.