When Akshay Shah passed out of college in 2003, he realised one thing – the SMB space in India was vast and expansive, yet it didn’t have automated operations. Akshay was also fascinated with software giants like SAP, BAAN, Microsoft, Apple, and Google. But he always wondered why India never built software products and focussed only on IT services.
Akshay then decided to work with a SAP partner to understand the mechanics of building tech platforms and software. This led him to start iWeb Technology Solutions Pvt. Ltd, a web-based ERP solution system, in 2005. The startup currently has operations in Mumbai and Pune.
The startup has been providing enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution for multiple verticals. However, around 2013, the startup shifted its focus and started digitising end-to-end operations on the Cloud / SaaS for educational institutes, i.e. universities, colleges, and schools across India on a homegrown platform called PaaS Agilewiz.
Today, iWeb claims to have around 50 odd customers, including marquee names like Frankfinn Institute, LICHFL, Airtel SFA, Reliance ADAG CRM, IndiaInfoline, Destimoney, Vipul Sarees, and Ajay Metachem. It also works with many small SMBs who wanted to automate their operations.
Moving to edtech
After he decided to start up, Akshay got in touch with his father’s friend, Ketan Trivedi, a CA with many decades of experience, and roped him as the co-founder. He also roped in Varsha Shah, who had 18-years-experience in marketing in the B2B space; and Yogiraj Kamat, who had over 13 years of experience in engineering and technology. The startup currently has a team of 17 people.
While iWeb’s operations were running fine until 2013, the team realised something about the Indian customer. Akshay says,
“They prefer fixed cost projects and will never pay extra for any changes. This forced us to backtrack, go back to the drawing board, and come up with a broad strategy on what to do, and more importantly, what not to do. We decided to rejig the founding board, get in a couple of founders with some international experience and exposure, and expand our operations with a razor sharp focus and precision.”
The team thus turned into an ERP solutions company focussed on educational institutions. “iWeb has created a unique student universe to provide students, professors, and administrators an amazing academic experience through a comprehensive digitised educational application. This is provided on a freemium model that brings banks, fintech, edtech, and several other student service players on a common platform,” explains Akshay.
During his research, Akshay had found that only five percent universities in India are digitised, and this is mainly attributed due to lack of funds. About 70 percent of the universities are government aided, and none of them have an entire end-to-end solution that digitises the complete workflow operations.
Apart from this, there is also low adoption of digital payments. “There is a dire need for an end-to-end Student Lifecycle Management System to give students a seamless experience, especially during COVID times, and in the new and changed post-COVID world,” adds Akshay.
With iWeb, universities and colleges get a comprehensive SaaS and Cloud-based workflow solution, and banks and financial services get ready and recurring paying transacting from the student base of the universities.
The startup has built a ‘student universe’ that works as a marketplace for different student services such as student housing, education content, books, courses, counselling, student lending, and insurance providers, where the service providers get a ready and qualified access to a large student base on a single platform.
For teachers and staff, the platform offers e-lectures and online collaboration, and also lets them avail services like cashless payment and salaries, e-timetable, online leaves, etc.
Students and parents can access forms online, do online admissions, get certificates, gain access to attendance, e-books, and libraries.
“Overall, we have over 80 sub-modules enabling a ‘Student Universe’, a marketplace for multiple service providers through API integration with multiple banks, fintechs, edtechs, others,” says Akshay.
Akshay says, the startup works on a B2B2C and freemium model. The current revenue is at Rs 150 per student per year.
The platform does not charge educational institutes directly. Instead, it partners with vendors like banks, insurance companies, edtech content providers, hostel and student housing platforms, and payment gateways. This, in turn, helps them give their solutions for free to the colleges.
“Our target is to add student lending, student housing, education content, books, edtech courses , and counselling , which will increase the average revenue per student per year to Rs 325 by FY 23,” says Akshay.
Market and future
Some of the startup’s prominent clients include Indian School of Business (ISB), Bombay College of Pharmacy, SVYASA Yoga Anusandhan, Akola Agriculture University, IGIDR, IIGJ, and many more.
According to a UGC report published in 2018, India has close to 1.1 million government schools, 350,000 private schools, 40,000 colleges, over 900 universities, and several thousand private sector examination preparation and tutorial centres.
However, there are some other players offering services similar to iWeb. These include Fedena, Serosoft, MasterSoft, IoN, and the US-based Clever. Akshay explains that the startup’s business model is similar to Clever, but its key differentiator has been the focus on freemium model.
Currently bootstrapped, iWeb is looking to raise $500,000 in pre-Series A funding. “We will be touching a million students on our platform soon, and the next target is to add 10 million students. Our ultimate aim is to get 100 million students on our platform across India,” says Akshay.