The education industry in India is considered to be a multi-billion market. First-time entrepreneurs (like me) plunge into a startup with the aim to sell to schools/parents to make a lot of money with ease. This ease becomes unease in a couple of months when it becomes f*cking difficult to get the first appointment with the school principal.
Education and Healthcare are two such categories where no one wants to compromise. People spend a hefty amount on child’s education and family health. I thought that schools are making so much money, so why can’t I sell something to schools and be part of their success?
With poor analysis and wrong thought process, I started my first startup in the education domain. I started building Zomato like review platform for schools but pivoted to cloud ERP in few months. We built features to improve communication between teachers and parents with the aim of addressing student’s behavioral issues.
My experience with schools was not that great in my first startup. We had a hard time to cross the gatekeeper and speak to the principal of the school. Our first few customers (schools) were from references only and other schools were not interested in our product. We were clueless why schools wanted to struggle with excel files and poor software when we were ready to provide better software at a cheap price.
I had to shutdown my startup, because of my own mistakes. But I learned many things about the schooling industry. I am sharing few points with my experience of selling to schools.
1. Most of the schools do not care about student’s education. They are running a business and all they care about making $$$ money. (Exceptions are always there)
2. They are interested in the product that can be sold to parents irrespective of its benefits to the students. I have seen smart boards in some schools that appear to be rarely used for teaching. Those schools just joined the race of becoming a smart school to charge more money from the parents.
3. They don’t even buy your product free of cost if it’s not a money earning instrument. You keep 30% schools keep 70%, your product may be sold. (Understood very late)
4. Don’t talk about benefit of student’s learning, better humans, and relationship with parents — Talk about how to lure parents to get more admissions!! (Smart Class tactics)
5. They don’t look at your brochures. Leave it at reception or their desk and it will go straight to the dustbin. I think it’s better to find some hacks to meet the decision maker than wasting time on distributing brochures.
6. Most of the email-ids mentioned on their website do not exist, yes, emails bounce from their official email-ids!!! Surprised?
7. Some email-ids exist but no one opens, if someone open emails then forget to respond!! Very low ROI from email marketing. It only works with mature & internet savvy schools (very few in percentage).
8. It’s difficult to find the decision-maker. Sorry to say but the Principal works like a puppet in many schools, most of the time without any power to take decisions (regarding education products). He is the top profile for parents and teachers but not for startups.
9. Decision makers do not sit inside schools. They are running their own businesses somewhere else (Builders, Trustees, Management Directors, Owners)
10. It takes about 4 to 6 months to close a deal with school. If you are lucky, they will pay on time.
11. No one knows what sort of software is required in their school. They believe they are running the super efficient software, but you will find them working on excel sheets.
12. They don’t really care about technology, next generation software, go-green initiative, data protection or security unless you solve their real pain point.
13. Don’t even talk about transparency of activities through software!! Their business involves black money and they are scared to hell to disclose anything. Ssshhh…
But the time demands a revolution in the education field. I shared my experience with different schools in Gurgaon, Delhi, and Chandigarh area. Like humans, all schools are not the same. There are always exceptions. Some schools are doing awesome work for students and teachers. It all depends on their management.
I learned that If you care about student development, then stop selling to schools and shift your focus on selling directly to parents. Only parents can appreciate student-focused products because they are genuinely interested in better future of their kid.
If we can fix education, many other things will be fixed automatically. Better human beings make better societies.
Create something to add value to the future generation. There are lots of fresh engineers, commerce & arts graduates, but companies are struggling to find talent. Make something to make students skilled & employable. Or build something that can reach masses at low cost and add high value to their lives (English teaching mobile apps).
I failed at my education venture, but you can learn from my mistakes and build next big thing. Now I am running a personal finance blog CashOverflow, financial education but not focused on schools.
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You can reach out to me at my email pardeep[at]cashoverflow.in or via Twitter
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Don’t consider schools as Cash cows or Low hanging fruits.