Providing quality and affordable online learning in the rapidly growing educational technology (EdTech) market, Utkarsh Classes has become a niche and is one of the few startups in the country that are profitable.
Started in 2002, Utkarsh Classes launched its learning app in November 2018 and is one of the first players in the very popular edtech market today.
YourStory spoke with Nirmal Gehlot, founder, Utkarsh Classes & Education Pvt Ltd, about how to make Utkarsh Classes affordable and their plans for the future.
How did your journey begin? Where did the idea to start coaching classes come from?
I did my private undergraduate degree in Hindi literature, political science and history subjects and then did a master’s degree in Hindi literature. I’ve been teaching since class 9. I started this by teaching kids at home and teaching classmates. After 12, I started teaching Shishu children Vidya Mandir. After that, I used to teach reasoning in coaching at night.
Do you prepare for different exams from class 6. Which course attracts more children?
We have more children preparing for government jobs. Most children in Rajasthan study state level exams. From class-6 to IIT-JEE, NEET, Nursing, etc., we started preparation about two years ago.
During the Kovid-19 epidemic, there was a boom in edtech platforms. What was your impact on your business?
We were present offline and online from the beginning. We have advanced continuously during the Kovid-19. Preparing for online tests has become an advantage for children preparing for competitive government exams. These children with a weak financial situation who cannot pay the fees offline can study from home.
For example, for the Rajasthan Administrative Service (RAS) examination, the fee for a 6 to 7 month course for preliminaries is 25,000 rupees. After that, the hostel fee of about 6 thousand rupees a month is charged. We have now given the same course live directly from the classroom to the Utkarsh app for 8 thousand rupees. Therefore, online education is the only affordable means for students with financial difficulties.
At the same time, there are people with this money who cannot join offline classes. There is a constable and he wants to be a sub-inspector. There is a subinspector and he wants to eliminate the UPPCS. It is also convenient for this working person.
Along with that, it’s also convenient for those women in areas like Tier-2 and Tier-3 who can’t get out.
In online classes, we offer the same content that is taught in offline classes. Our classes are high-tech and we play them in real time while the rest of the content is uploaded. The cameras also show the children in the classroom.
We offer online grades for kids and we also have tests for them where they can find out their rank. Along with this, there is a feedback system in which your comments are not visible to other children and therefore are not affected by the comments of others.
Why is the rate for your offline classes not affordable?
It needs infrastructure in offline classes, it has to be taught by good teachers. Therefore, we cannot keep the rates for offline courses very low. Online, the child is studying from their internet. He is neither using our toilet, nor drinking water in our place, nor using our electricity. That’s why we can offer you courses at an affordable price. I just want to ask why some people take between 60 and 70 thousand rupees even after taking online courses?
What is the affordable package you provide compared to other major edtech platforms?
Compared to them, there is a difference between night and day. Our full neet course is 5 thousand rupees, while no other ekech platform offers you less than 40 thousand and they are taking between 40 and 80 thousand rupees.
We also focused a lot on the scale. Our paid users are the majority of them. We also have more daily active users. The usage time of our app is also over 1.15 hours on average.
What is the background of the students? What is the economic situation of most of them? What kind of origin do they come from?
Most of our students come from a background called Real India. They come from villages and small towns and villages.
Where are your offline classes?
Our offline classes are in Jodhpur and Jaipur. We also started in Jaipur in September 2019. We have already added 18,000 students to Jaipur in the same first year. In the last fiscal year, our total number of offline students was over 30,000. At the same time, in the last financial year, the total number of online students had exceeded 7 thousand.
What are your plans for the future of the Utkarsh Classes and how do you want to go about it?
First, we are focusing our attention on government oppositions. From police to collector, we are just getting ready. Central-level railroads, banks, SSC, Airforce, NDA, etc., have already begun. After completing the Rajasthan state preparation exam, now all UP courses are also available. Similarly, they are preparing to push forward Hindi-speaking states like Bihar, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh. Our future plan is to open 100 offline centers in Hindi-speaking states.
Where do you find Utkarsh Classes compared to other great edtech platforms?
The truth is, we haven’t seen anyone else. I don’t deny anyone but that’s what we’ve seen as we move forward.
What is your total number of employees and faculty? How do you hire teachers?
We currently have a staff of more than 1200 people and of these 170 are teachers. I started high school in 2002 but have been teaching since 1996. I know what the teacher wants. We have prepared completely new people and we have become teachers.
We have developed a process for them and we also test them through our studies. We check their grades, do written tests, do interviews and then we also know the reaction of the children through offline classes. After that, we also put their recordings online and from that the reaction of the kids online is also known.
How do you see technology having changed so much?
Mobile phones and the Internet have made a big difference. We built our first studio in 2017 and posted the first video. Along with video, we offer an audio format that consumes less data and students can do reviews instead of listening to songs.
Before our notes were in PDF, but now we have turned them into smart electronic notes where students can also search on Google. At the same time, students can also create their own test as per their convenience.
How do you see the future of traditional offline classes?
If offline classes remain affordable, they will continue to move forward. However, for that they will also have to make some changes. We have installed 4K interactive panels in our classes. We give written PDFs from teachers to children and we also give them videos of offline classes.
Along with offline classes, students can also check their ranking among all students by taking online tests in our app. It also progresses rapidly by mixing offline with online.
Our total revenue during the current year is Rs 150 crore. Daily active users of the app are over 3.5 lakhs. Our main YouTube channel has 93,000 subscribers, and our app has only been downloaded to 93,000.
Many companies are firing employees after Kovid-19 while we hire them. We plan to hire between 400 and 500 employees in the coming months. Before confinement, our total was 70 and now we are 1200.
We hired very aggressively during confinement. All teachers are in our exclusive agreement. We will take you to the Teachers Talent Hunt Show. In this, teachers will teach online on YouTube and our jury will rate them.