Like many engineering graduates in India, 25-year-old Rahul Verma became an engineer, not out of choice but due to lack of opportunity. He realized much later in life that his passion was in management and sales, not coding. After commanding the operations of AIESEC in India, he became the Chief Operating Officer for an EdTech startup in Bangalore.
There, Rahul felt that India’s schooling and education system was outdated because what was being taught in schools and colleges has hardly any industry relevance. Most youths lack industry relevance and real-time skills to keep up with the pace of change in technology and other industries.
In a conversation with BK, Rahul says, “The question is, are the current systems and schooling standards really working for the purpose of creating an employable and entrepreneurial workforce?”
He also cited a NITI Aayog report that by 2025 there are going to be 600 million youth (45 per cent of the total population) in India and about 45 per cent of them will be employable.
All this prompted him to start unschooling in Hyderabad in February 2019.
What does a startup do?
It is a marketplace where industry experts host online courses for students and earn a royalty per sale offered by the unschool team.
Students on the unschool platform can sign up and begin their lesson immediately. Once they complete 20 percent of the course, they are attached to a project that tests their knowledge. After finishing 70 percent of the course, another major project takes place in front of them. Once they do well and complete 80 percent of the course, they get good internship opportunities from respected multinational companies, startups, NGOs etc.
“We want to strengthen learning and teaching methods to meet current industry demands while providing personalized learning pathways so that students do not have to pursue studies they are not interested in. Our USP is that we An online learning ecosystem provides the system. Courses, mentorships, projects and guaranteed internship opportunities, all under the price of $ 50. We enable youth to employ. “
Unschool relies on a learning management system that allows instructors (experts) to host their lessons in various formats and to learn and engage students with peers and instructors, as well as applying for internships. allows for. Some of the unschool courses are based on data science, AI, coding etc.
While many such platforms provide pre-recorded videos, Rahul points out that the average completion rate of these platforms is less than four percent. The reason is that students are rarely motivated to enroll and complete the course.
Rahul claims, “Unschool has a 50 percent completion rate because, in addition to providing pre-recorded videos, it builds an online learning ecosystem that provides personalized mentoring by industry experts to complete LIVE projects. is. This enables students to place internship opportunities at the best companies due to its results-based learning approach (which no other MOOC platform offers). ”
He says that close to 25 percent of the unschool students are placed for internships in companies.
Rahul remembers saying,
“The challenges of starting from my parents’ home, moving into a rented three-bedroom apartment, having a 4,000-square-foot office and being self-financed with all of these were challenges. When we were working from a residential apartment, it was difficult for our employees / interns to join us. ”
Work on the idea began simultaneously with Rahul and his friend Narayanan S (who joined as a co-founder) on the initial sales and pitches. The team has now expanded to 30 employees.
In addition, the EdTech market is very crowded with companies offering online courses and there is also a good demand for on-ground training institutes. Rahul says that the college faculty also relied on only a few conservative MOOC (largely open online course) platforms and recommended those to students.
He says, “The biggest challenge was to convince faculty and students why unschooling is better and why a results-based education and personal mentoring are so important for the future. On the other hand, India studies every one to get a degree/certificate, but does not study with uplifting / learning spirit. After receiving positive responses from our first 100 customers, we started gaining recognition through the discussions that people had and moved on from there. ”
Booming Edtech Sector
With the coronavirus epidemic and the new National Education Policy 2020, there has been a massive increase of EdTech players. The acquisition of Whitehat Jr. for $ 300 million has heated up the sector.
According to RedSeer and Omidyar Network India reports, online education offerings for classes I to XII are projected to grow 6.3-fold by 2022, creating a $ 1.7 billion market. The report also revealed that the EdTech user-segment of paid and free unique users (after K12 and K12) has seen growth, with the user base doubling from 45 million to 90 million.
Many startups like Hyderabad-based NoSchool, UpGrad, Great Learning and Simplilearn are focusing on the upskilling segment. With Rs 4 crore in revenue in the last 14 months since its inception, the unschool team claims to grow at a 150 percent quarter-on-quarter rate.
The team claims to have 25,000 paid users. Rahul says, “We have come a long way and intend to have hundreds of courses over the next three years, including 500,000 paid users. Our course completion rate is 50 percent and the placement rate is 70 percent. ”
He said that they want to partner with colleges to provide skill-based immersive courses to students at an affordable cost.
Rahul says, “By the end of the year, we will come with our web application and will also introduce a mobile application by next year. We intend to be a one-stop solution for learning skills, assessing your knowledge through projects, mentorship and placement opportunities. We intend to have more than 500 courses in the next three years. ”