More than 4,000 edtech startups are currently catering to India’s growing appetite for online education. Driven by cheap and accessible internet, rising disposable income, and a gradual increase in the demand for upskilling, the overall market has also witnessed a favourable increment. In fact, it is estimated to be growing from $247 million in 2017 to an opportunity worth $2 billion, in the next one year.
It is a massive shift for sure. And while it took some time to transition from physical classrooms to online learning, India’s burgeoning edtech ecosystem is finally enjoying its time in the sun. Fuelled by an unfortunate turn of circumstances and a global pandemic, digital education is scaling new heights today.
“Edtech is experiencing a sharp upward demand, thus marking its potential for profitability and the role it can play in improving societal well-being. This pandemic has mandated everyone across the globe to look at Edtech as an essential ingredient in ensuring a student’s progress,” says Sonam Choudhary, Co-Founder of edtech startup Glossaread.
A serial entrepreneur with over 10 years of experience in both corporate and startup environment, Sonam co-founded the edtech startup in August 2018. Based on three driving principles – affordability, accessibility, and convenience – the Mumbai-based startup has since been serving as a digital hub for curated, affordable higher education content created by leading professors as per university syllabus.
“Glossaread's primary target segment is Tier-II and Tier-III colleges where the access to good infrastructure is limited,” says the entrepreneur, explaining that the aim is to bridge this gap by seamlessly integrating classroom learning with e-learning model. “To facilitate this, we are also planning to partner with coaching institutes, teachers, and professors to use Glossaread as a common platform for teaching students,” she adds.
Of small beginnings and humble backgrounds
For Sonam, and building a lucrative online learning platform was nothing short of a personal achievement. She hails from a small town in Bihar where lack of proper schools at the elementary level required her to move to a different city and study in a boarding school, 14 hours away from her hometown. She says that education has always been very important in her family. Sonam’s father is a doctor by professions and a “master in his field” according to her.
A techie with a degree in Instrumentation and Control Engineering, Sonam pursued MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, following which she went on to work with Tata Motors in South Africa for a year. Her role there involved building a market entry strategy for light commercial vehicles (LCVs).
“Post my stint there, I came back to Mumbai and realised that working in a corporate was not very exciting for me. I wanted to run faster and take decisions and implement them faster,” she quips.
As one thing led to another, the maverick entrepreneur found herself taking the plunge and launching her first venture – GetMyVaccine.com, which was focused on raising adult immunisation levels in India – before moving on to consulting early-stage startups on product building, MVP offering, and market entry strategies.
During this time, she also started advising Glossaread, eventually joining the founding team alongside Co-founder Chandrabhanu Pattajoshi.
“As an entrepreneur, you have an innate ability to take risks,” says Sonam adding, “But as a woman entrepreneur, the main problem is that you need to keep learning a bit more than your male counterparts.”
She points out, raising funds is a little more challenging for women. “The VC community is dominated by men and it is scary at times when you look around and find yourself to be an outlier.”
Bootstrapping your way to success
She might have been outnumbered in a man’s world, but Sonam proudly dons the boss-lady boots at Glossaread.
Interestingly, the genesis of the startup was as a "pay as you go sachet-based content" where magazines and newspapers were split into articles so that users could just pick up what they wanted to read and not the entire edition. But upon MVP (Minimal Viable Product) testing in colleges across Maharashtra, they realised that college students struggled to buy an entire book (which was expensive), when all they needed was a few chapters from it.
“This was the turning point of Glossaread’s story of creating accessible, convenient and affordable study materials as per the university syllabus,” Sonam explains.
The pivot proved to be successful. Today, Glossaread has over 1.5 lakh students using it to access study material in line with their university syllabus. “We are present in five universities within streams like Engineering/ BA/ BCom. We will be rolling out to more than 150 universities and 2.5 million students in the next 12 months,” adds the founder.
In extraordinary times like now, the traction on the edtech platform has increased manifold. Repeat visits by existing users have seen 10-15 times surge, and there has been an over 100 percent jump on new visitors week-on-week. “We grew over 10x between December 2019 and March 2020, but the COVID-19 period saw us grow 10x just between the first week and fourth week of March, 2020,” says Sonam.
The edtech market might be a tough nut to crack, but Glossaread has been able to make an impact with increased traction, returning users, and constant engagement with little external funding. The plan, moving ahead, is to grow into 993 universities in India and internationally.
As says Sonam, “Being a cog in the wheel of the societal development is something we will keep on doing.”
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)