Suchitra Reddy and Ashwitha Reddy Chinnamail were in the final year of their four-year bachelor’s course in computer and information technology at Jawaharlal Nehru University of Technology in 2016, when they noticed the lack of instant peer learning platforms in India.
In 2016, the duo decided to start LevelApp to take advantage of India’s growing edtech sector. The start aims to help students find the best tutors among their own peers or seniors, get instant answers to their questions, and win through their knowledge. It focuses on thematic tutoring compared to thematic tutoring, and offers online and in-person learning.
Suchitra and Ashwitha, based in Hyderabad, are now pursuing their master’s degrees in computer science and business administration, respectively, from California State University, Long Beach. The duo were later joined by Sai K Arni and Srikanth Sammeta as co-founders; They are also based in Hyderabad.
A student can enroll in a demonstration class for any topic of interest before paying for the course. The demo session also allows tutors to assess a student’s skills and ability, and plan lessons accordingly.
So far, more than 7,000 students from 19 countries are enrolled on the platform. The edtech platform offers courses for K-12, bachelor’s and doctorate, as well as skill-based learning for languages and technology. In India, where after-school tutoring of children is the norm, such learning platforms are likely to see high adoption.
Since the closure was imposed in March, the platform has witnessed the presence of more school-age children who enroll in summer classes such as coding, game design, robotics, creative writing, classical dance, and musical instruments, among others. The founders attribute the startup’s successful international expansion to its move to the United States for higher education last year. Now they spend their days coordinating among their 15-member team in Singapore, Canada, and India.
With an initial investment of Rs 10 lakh, the startup says it is self-sustaining right now and that it will seek to raise funds just six to eight months later. Ashwitha shares that the duo did not face any gender bias, and they benefited after being incubated at WE Hub, which has been a supportive ecosystem and offered help in operational and marketing efforts.
The path to start-up presented a set of challenges for young entrepreneurs, recent graduates at the time. Fortunately, two of the members had work experience of around three years and played a key role in hiring people; they knew what to look for, ”says Ashwitha.
Ashwitha says they initially “made the mistake of focusing only on product development.” “We think that only the product should be developed and that everything else would be in its place. Later we learned that marketing and other aspects also needed to be addressed. The fact that there is more to the business than just presenting the product is the greatest lesson I have learned. ”
He adds that one of the mistakes they made in the initial stage was assuming the clients’ needs, without asking or investigating. For example, they started offering the service by charging them per minute instead of the current hourly payment model. The team believed that students would not have to spend more money paying a full hour. They later found that most users began to feel the pressure of watching the clock instead of focusing on learning.
The increased growth of e-learning after coronavirus-induced blockage is good news for edtech startups like LevelApp. A report from RedSeer and Omidyar Network India found that edtech users, both free and paid, doubled from 45 million to 90 million, with a 40 percent increase in willingness to pay, between 2019 and 2020. The online education market is expected to reach $ 1.7 billion by 2022 and increase by 6.3 times. And LevelApp, and the founders, seem poised to take advantage of this burgeoning market.