An excerpt from the Interview:
• What made you start your venture?
We were a bunch of technology enthusiasts with experience in consulting, large scale internet products and android development and wanted to do something on our own. Education seemed like a space where a lot could be done especially from a technology perspective.
The Test prep space in India itself is a 10,000 Cr industry dominated by offline players. The possibility of delivering quality education at a fraction of the cost of offline means is huge. Adoption of technology and dissemination of educational content on the go have been increasing over the past few years. With the aim to make education engaging and available on the go, we started GradeStack.
• What has been the key to your business’s success?
For us, our mobile first approach has been the biggest success factor in being able to attract a large number of users and creating a differentiated identity for our brand. We started with focus on tablets as the device students would use to learn but seeing our consumption numbers we have figured that the biggest driver for users is smartphones and not tablets where we initially started.
We are working really hard to understand how users are interacting with their phones and our learnings are the key differentiators over competitors. Secondly we follow a marketplace type approach where our content is sourced through existing publishers and institutes, this helps us keep costs low and also ensure we get high quality content to our users.
• What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them?
It is still a nascent market and we are trying to build awareness around learning through mobile phones and tabs. For any new market the top challenge is in creating awareness and making users realize the benefit of using our solution over the existing methodology they have been using.
To overcome this we have tied our products to books and existing offline courses that our partners are already selling to students. This builds in early adoption and also gets students to purchase additional content once they get used to the platform and are able to derive value out of it.
• Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business?
Times Internet Limited has invested in our business. Being one of the biggest digital players in India they come with a lot of experience specifically for the Indian Digital Market. On top of that their VP of Ad Tech – Swapnil Srivastava was the founder of Vriti, the pioneer in online testing and assessments, he is a mentor we reach out to every now and then.
• Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations?
Since we process a lot of educational content which is created in various different formats it is important for us to have a robust content management system that can accept content in different formats and can easily structure it based on our own product.
Most of the CMS has been built using open source technologies; we have spent a lot of our internal resources into building and updating our CMS.
• What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion?
We follow an analytics driven approach to product development where we keep a track on usage patterns and determine where our users are facing any challenges.
This helps us understand what changes we need to make to our product before the user starts feeling issues.Secondly we provide multiple channels to the user to get back to us and let us know the issues they are facing. Our marketing efforts are a mix of online and offline means.
We use our partners reach – through their books, institutes etc. to push along offline means on one hand. On the online front we have a well-definedstrategy, which uses SEO, App Store Optimization and Content Marketing to attract users.
Due to the interactions between users our product is inherently social in nature and that also drives a lot of users through referrals. Being a mobile first company the expansion of mobile devices and Internet penetration on them drives our user base.
Current smartphone penetration is about 10% of the market today and is expected to reach 50% over the next 3 years, we see ourselves riding this wave of growth with a mobile first approach and a portfolio of content to engage all forms of users.
With a growing young population getting into the workforce, there is an ever-increasing demand for more educational content and reliable means for testing and assessment.
• What, according to you, are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
First and foremost isthe ability to focus on your long term goal, be able to determine what needs to be done to achieve that and then focusing on the task at hand. An entrepreneur is bombarded with opportunities that may be lucrative in the short term but will take him away from his end goal. Second the flexibility of accepting failure, learning from it and incorporating what you learn as you move forward.
Lastly and the most important quality that complements the above two is perseverance.
It always takes time to get results, and especially for a startup when uncertainty is very high this journey can have many ups and downs before there is a clear path in sight. Visit their Website: http://gradestack.com/ Like them on Facebook: GradeStack Follow Them On Twitter: @grade_stack