They launched test prep startup Pratham Institute in 2010 to guide students and ease the college admissions process, bootstrapping the business with less than Rs 50 lakh.
“We realised that there was an immediate requirement for a credible institute that could guide students to good colleges and help them with entrances. We established Pratham with the sole motto of easing the process of applications and entrances for various colleges, and showing students the way,” Ankit says.
The test prep startup believes in a continuous journey of learning and testing. It uses mock tests to give students a fair idea of the examination they are keen to clear; this helps gauge areas that need more attention and draw out an action plan. The company offers a blended model of online and offline training.
Pratham in FY19 reported revenue of Rs 20 crore; the test prep startup aims to grow this to Rs 100 crore by 2023.
Focus on customised learning
The Pratham Institute team customises learning based on interaction with counsellors, and uses technology to guide students on their daily practice sessions.
“Customising the experience of preparation is essential because every student is different,” Ankit says.
Test prep for undergraduate entrance exams forms a very small section of the education industry. Not many institutes have a track of record of success, and Pratham is focusing on customising learning.
The test prep startup mainly focuses on preparing students for undergraduate entrance examinations; the preparation includes offline and online training. These classes are run for Class 11 and 12 students, and those who have taken a drop year for preparation.
Test prep is offered for domestic exams in management, law, computer applications, mass communication, and hotel management, and international ones such as SAT. After the exams, the startup also provides application support for universities out of India.
For students in Tier II and III India, Pratham focuses on online training. “We provide distance learning through our non-classroom programme. Our online portal lets them access videos by our faculties so they can clarify their doubts at home,” Ankit says.
Over the years, the test prep startup has helped 80,000 students crack exams. It charges them a fixed fee online for on an annual basis.
Pratham also offers career counselling.
“The transition from school to college is bewildering. We become the one-stop shop for students eyeing a reputed university/college for their undergraduate studies, domestically and internationally,” Ankit says.
Speaking about challenges, he says: “When you are a founder, you are supposed to know everything. You are accountable for everything, be it Infrastructure, HR, accounts, marketing, or sales. And you have to make it work.”
The market and future
The exam preparation space, largely offline at present, is moving online.
Technavio says the test preparation market size in India will grow by $7.14 billion during 2018-2022. The increasing use of analytics is likely to have a positive impact on the market and contribute to its growth significantly over the forecast period.
According to the HRD Ministry, India has 50 million students in colleges and around 240 million in junior and primary education. All of these students will – at some point in time – need to prepare for competitive tests. This is the opportunity that edtech companies such as Pratham Institute Toppr, Prepscholar and BYJU’S are eyeing.
Pratham, which has a 100-member team, will continue to push digital sign-ups and take classes from home as digital enables faster scale-up. It will enable video-based interactions and continue to offer personalised training.
“In the next 18 months, we plan to introduce a GMAT module. We also aim to expand to more cities soon,’’ Ankit says.
Speaking about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on startups like his, the co-founder feels this may drive the popularity of the online courses as more students would prefer to learn from home.