Thought Behind The Most Successful K12 Ed-Tech Product-Line For Indian Market
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Thought behind the Most Successful K12 Ed-tech Product-line for Indian Market

IIT Chennai Alumni

The K-12 ed-tech market has always been extremely challenging. This article talks briefly about how I (& the team) invented the most successful product in the Indian K-12 ed-tech market being used by millions of students today as it eventually became the flagship product of the biggest Indian ed-tech startup.

Thought behind the Most Successful K12 Ed-tech Product-line for Indian Market


Throughout the earlier part of the last decade, most ed-tech companies, globally as well as in India, focused heavily on different versions of MOOCs. MOOCs are basically self-based learning apps with videos, question banks, test series, etc. On its face, it is a great business model, similar to a SAAS model. You create apps and content once and keep operating with high gross margins. 

But getting student engagement always remained a challenge, more so with young K12 learners. In the era of social media, digital games and online entertainment, students would often find more engaging distractions. Without a teacher to discipline young students, most companies struggled with user retention severely. 

This made business growth very hard as parents, the buyer for the K12 segment, would be non-willing to pay for something which the child will not engage much anyways. The high gross margins would burn in super high customer acquisition costs.

Live Classes 

In offline mode, live classes have been the mode of teaching ever since. Online live classes were a way to go as it could potentially solve the missing teacher angle in the MOOC way.

But when you mimic classes online for school going students, you need a 10x better teaching quality, in general. Oh! Why so? 

In an offline class, once a child is inside the classroom, it is hard for him to walk out even if he does not follow the lecture, due to psychological hesitation in the student's mind. Imagine him walking out in front of the whole classroom and the teacher, it required confidence. In online mode, he just has to click a button at the top right corner, very easy. The mere presence of a physical teacher makes him stay and thus learn even if the quality is mediocre.

Now you need super teachers for the live classes who are not that common and thus expensive. To take care of the high variable cost of these classes, you need to stuff hundreds or thousands of students in an online classroom. Ufff!

It is proven that in an offline classroom, only 30-40 students can be effectively handled by a teacher. In online classrooms, naturally the number is even smaller. With hundreds of students in an online class, the teacher cannot interact one-on-one with any student. The whole purpose of the online classroom is seriously defeated.

Also, this is not a scalable model from a business perspective as it is hard to get lots of such super teachers. 

The McDonald’s Moment

In 2016, I was also selling self-paced MOOC type solutions in my ed-tech startup for K12 students in India and abroad but I knew the fallacies of this model. I wondered, if not MOOCs and live classes, what is the right business model which can provide right unit economics, easy scalability and a high-quality outcome to students. 

The idea struck me when I was having a meal in a McDonald's outlet lost more in my thoughts than in the food. The idea was based on the philosophy of how McDonald’s makes its burgers at low cost, still delicious, managing high and consistent quality across thousands of outlets.

The idea was the 2-teacher model which could solve the problems. It surely went through some iterations.

The 2-Teacher Model

You create very high-quality video lectures using super good teachers called master teachers. Then you have another set of junior teachers, called facilitators. The videos are played in live class in chunks of 5-10 minutes. After every video, the facilitator interacts with the students, clearing doubts, asking pre-decided provoking questions, and ensuring the learning of each child.

This provides high quality lecturing via videos and proper handle holding by facilitators. The cost is under control as facilitators are not very expensive. Unit economics is under control with a classroom size of only 10-20 students. Video and technology cost is high but it is a one-time cost and thus a capex. It is highly scalable as hiring and training facilitators is easy. 

The Journey

We implemented this model in my startup in 2016 named DronStudy itself but closed it within a year. That’s surprising, isn’t it?

The Jio revolution was yet to boom and thus access to fast and seamless interest was limited to a few Indian students. The students who had access to fast internet loved the new model very much but we thought that the product was a bit early in the market.

So, we started the product line again in 2019 (much prior to Covid) as India had come a long way with good internet by then. We witnessed great success; we saw both qualitative and quantitative improvements in students. We ourselves were surprised when some students who would earlier even struggle to pass were also to score 90%.

Eventually, this model was implemented in the biggest ed-tech startup of India in 2021, post Covid. Today, it is the flagship product of the company in India and millions of students are benefitting from it.