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ASK PRIYADEEP about Ed-tech & Student Entrepreneurship

As a part of our ASK RODINHOODERS series, it’s so cool to have Priyadeep Sinha here! Priyadeep has quietly been building GyanLab in Bangalore and helping many many students as well as student entrepreneurs. Very often you will find him at a startup event reporting for trhs! He is the quintessential Rodinhooder who is always eager to learn & help!

(at NPC2014)

About Priyadeep:

“I am Co-founder of GyanLab which I started in 2011 as a final year student to make learning fun for school students. I failed at scaling GyanLab’s original vision; but with the help of some of the most awesome advisors and investors was able to pivot and help grow GyanLab as a hyper-local marketplace to help parents and kids discover learning programs and activities.

 

We also run a national level challenge for school kids that currently has over 26k students participate annually. I am a Mechanical Engineer from MIT – Manipal. I have been a 99+ percentiler in CAT since 2013. I am a major, major Godfather fan :)”

 

 

What can you ask him about?

a) Ed-tech & K-12 Education

b) Student entrepreneurship (how to convince your parents as well as do’s and don’ts)

c) Any Social Issue (of India)

d) Your child’s education 

e) Cooking (from the simplest thing right upto biryani)

**** 

Priyadeep is following this page – so go ahead and give him a shout in the comments below! 

 

Twitter – @PriyadeepSinha

*****

 

Adding these learnings Priyadeep shared about gyanlab in the comments:

 

Here are my 2 cents on what works in hardware education space and what does not based on our 3 years of struggle:

i) At GyanLab, we had built our own researched curriculum to study STEM and Life Skills in a completely hands-on manner with kits. These kits were either developed by us & manufactured in China (60%) or sourced from our trusted vendors from US / China / Korea / Japan (40%). We spent 2 years in building the product and innumerable number of man-hours with a lot of money as well. That was our first mistake. We spent too much time building the ‘perfect product’

ii) Our marketing dept was only me. Had we diverted about 30 – 40% of the funds ‘wasted’ on products, we could have built  decent 3 – 4 member Marketing team that would have worked around the clock in assisting me that would have helped us close more deals faster

iii) Pricing and Human Resources were a concern. At the peak, we were working with 19 schools, we had to provide a dedicated Coach in 16 of them. We initially felt that we would like to place our Coaches to work with school teachers and get them trained over the period of a year but the schools got too used to having our people around. When we wanted school teachers to take charge of GyanLab centres inside schools, they disagreed. It was too much of an expense. Our partner schools were spread across 5 states. Our pricing accounted for in such a way that we would only break even during the 2nd year in a school to keep the costs affordable. That was wrong too.

So, what ended up happening was that we had a world class product (awarded by almost everybody who saw it 🙂  ) and decent revenues but no visibility of profits in the near future. We were able to raise small funds from our family and advisors but failed to get any large ticket follow on funding despite appraching most investors. Everyone was too sceptic to invest in hardware and education simultaneously 😉 That is still the case. There is so far no success story in this B2B space with maybe the exception of iDiscoveri (they are more of an assessment company now) and EduSports

New innovations in ed-tech are very necessary. But the primary focus needs to be able to sell to schools if you in B2B space.

There are certain problems in the school space including:

i) The user, customer and decision maker are all different people

ii) Principals have limited control over finance. In most of the even larger schools, if your average ask as a provider is over Rs 1 lac, you will have to deal with and convince the Trustee who, again in most cases, has nothing to do with education

iii) Sales cycles are really long 6 – 9 months in most cases and regular follow ups are the only way you can enter a school

iv) Barring some of the really progressive schools, most schools will look at an equation like this: If you are charging them say 50k annually, can they increase their sales by 150k – 200k by marketing your product? If the equation works, they take it.

I personally find the B2C space much more lucrative. Primary reason for that is your customer and decision maker is a parent in this case who has a real interest in the child’s welfare and is constantly on the look out for things that can be of good experience to their kids.

 ****

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24 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Priyadeep Sinha

    Hi Asha, thank you for the kind words 🙂 Always there for all Rodinhooders. This is a great platform for me to learn as well and I hope for some really engaging conversations

  2. Profile photo of Vishal Jain

    Hi Priyadeep

    Thanks for this initiative. You wanted to make learning fun for students, so could you please elaborate on the reasons you were not able to scale up? As Ed-Tech is still unexplored field, your first-hand experience would come in handy for any other person starting up in this field. Today’s students are more tech-savvy than I was a decade ago, what are your views on leveraging this phenomenon and creating new innovations in ed-tech?

    Thanks 

    Vishal

  3. Profile photo of Priyadeep Sinha

    Hi Vishal,

    Thank you for asking this. Just the perfect question to start with 🙂

    Here are my 2 cents on what works in hardware education space and what does not based on our 3 years of struggle:

    i) At GyanLab, we had built our own researched curriculum to study STEM and Life Skills in a completely hands-on manner with kits. These kits were either developed by us & manufactured in China (60%) or sourced from our trusted vendors from US / China / Korea / Japan (40%). We spent 2 years in building the product and innumerable number of man-hours with a lot of money as well. That was our first mistake. We spent too much time building the ‘perfect product’

    ii) Our marketing dept was only me. Had we diverted about 30 – 40% of the funds ‘wasted’ on products, we could have built  decent 3 – 4 member Marketing team that would have worked around the clock in assisting me that would have helped us close more deals faster

    iii) Pricing and Human Resources were a concern. At the peak, we were working with 19 schools, we had to provide a dedicated Coach in 16 of them. We initially felt that we would like to place our Coaches to work with school teachers and get them trained over the period of a year but the schools got too used to having our people around. When we wanted school teachers to take charge of GyanLab centres inside schools, they disagreed. It was too much of an expense. Our partner schools were spread across 5 states. Our pricing accounted for in such a way that we would only break even during the 2nd year in a school to keep the costs affordable. That was wrong too.

    So, what ended up happening was that we had a world class product (awarded by almost everybody who saw it 🙂  ) and decent revenues but no visibility of profits in the near future. We were able to raise small funds from our family and advisors but failed to get any large ticket follow on funding despite appraching most investors. Everyone was too sceptic to invest in hardware and education simultaneously 😉 That is still the case. There is so far no success story in this B2B space with maybe the exception of iDiscoveri (they are more of an assessment company now) and EduSports

    New innovations in ed-tech are very necessary. But the primary focus needs to be able to sell to schools if you in B2B space.

    There are certain problems in the school space including:

    i) The user, customer and decision maker are all different people

    ii) Principals have limited control over finance. In most of the even larger schools, if your average ask as a provider is over Rs 1 lac, you will have to deal with and convince the Trustee who, again in most cases, has nothing to do with education

    iii) Sales cycles are really long 6 – 9 months in most cases and regular follow ups are the only way you can enter a school

    iv) Barring some of the really progressive schools, most schools will look at an equation like this: If you are charging them say 50k annually, can they increase their sales by 150k – 200k by marketing your product? If the equation works, they take it.

    I personally find the B2C space much more lucrative. Primary reason for that is your customer and decision maker is a parent in this case who has a real interest in the child’s welfare and is constantly on the look out for things that can be of good experience to their kids.

    I hope I have answered the present questions satisfactorily. You can shoot any follow on questions that you might have.

  4. Profile photo of Vishal Jain

    Thanks for the reply. From your reply, it seemed that you really burnt your hands. As you mentioned that you find B2C more lucrative, are you guys planning on providing personalized learning solution for a student. I say so because every student has a different learning pace and tutoring them accordingly would be beneficial to them and hence appeal to their parents.

  5. Profile photo of Priyadeep Sinha

    Well, actually no. While doing all of this and we did do some B2C programs as well, we figured out that discovery of the right learning programs and activities a big problem that families and service providers face today. So, we decided to provide a very transparent platform for parents to connect with service providers of all types of learning programs. And, hence the pivot. 

  6. Profile photo of Rishi

    Priyadeep: Sorry to hijack the thread, but this is what happens to most entrepreneurs trying to build B2B/Enterprise solutions from India. Different people to deal with in different industries, but same problems. They all could use these learnings.

  7. Profile photo of Priyadeep Sinha

    Yes Rishi, I would agree with that totally. But, one thing that is slightly different in education is 4 different stake holders with 4 end goals (child, parent, principal – teacher, trustee). This is so unique to education. That makes it slightly more difficult to scale and hence no success story so far.

  8. Profile photo of Dheeraj Chowdhary

    Hi Priyadeep,

    How it feels to be a fellow Ed Tech entrepreneur and read your detailed comment above describing what went wrong with Gyan Lab and education ecosystem in India:

    Point 1: Hmmm, its true

    Point 2: Well, thats true too

    Point 3: True, True, True… It happens to everyone… Oh, thank God, I thought we were doing something wrong

    A suggestion: include it in the post itself as your learnings from running Gyan Lab. More people will benefit from reading it and might miss out if they don’t read the comments carefully 🙂

    Will hugely benefit from connecting with you to discuss our venture. Followed you on twitter.

  9. Profile photo of Priyadeep Sinha

    Hi Dheeraj,

    Thank you for writing. Asha and I had a conversation and she felt that you are right about including the lessons in the main post itself. I also agree. Thanks for bringing it forward.

    I have been very vocal and open about what all had gone wrong with our initial efforts and what have we learnt from the whole thing. So, feel free to connect and ask away anything you wish to know. It will also help other fellow ed-tech entrepreneurs too 🙂

  10. Profile photo of asha chaudhry

    hey priyadeep, 

    i’ve added this particular comment as it shares your imp learnings from gyanlab. but going forward, i think we will stick to keeping comments in the comments section only so that your post doesn’t become too long and prevent folks from going through the comments.

    – also the whole idea is to make each page an individual resource pool of questions & insights for others to read through and learn from 🙂

    thanks for the suggestion dheeraj!

  11. Profile photo of Shrikant Latkar

    Hi Priyadeep,

    Great insights. I am doing my own Edtech venture – would love to talk to you about it. Will send you a note on twitter and Linkedin.

    Shrikant

  12. Profile photo of asha chaudhry

    hi shrikant,

    the whole idea of creating ASK RODINHOODERS is for rodinhooders to reach out to the right people as well as to build a resource pool of insights on each page itself. so i would urge you to ask as many questions as you can here. if there is something confidential you can’t share or are uncomfy about asking in public, then of course you can ping priyadeep privately. otherwise it sort of defeats the whole purpose of sharing with the community 🙂

  13. Profile photo of Priyadeep Sinha

    Hey Shrikant, 

    I agree with Asha here. The forum has been created so that the whole community of ed-tech entrepreneurs can benefit from the discussions. I mean a lot of people go through the same problem as I have but very few can speak openly about it. But I did speak out openly since it can help a lot of people. I would suggest that unless you are building something patentable and something spectacularly new and innovative, it is okay to speak about it openly. Cheers 🙂

  14. Profile photo of Shrikant Latkar

    I get it…

    Do you mind sharing your challenges and experiences of how you acquired users and schools to try out your product? What worked and what has not worked for you so far?

  15. Profile photo of Priyadeep Sinha

    Hi Shrikant, sorry for the delay. It is hard to type so much so did a voice recording to answer your query. Thanks

  16. Profile photo of Pardeep Goyal

    Nice to see you on TRH, Priyadeep.

    I strongly agree with your suggestions for B2B edtech startups. We also experienced same at schoolgennie & pocketscience. 

    Wish you best for GyanLab. 

  17. Profile photo of Priyadeep Sinha

    Thank you so much Pardeep.

    Yes, B2B is a different game altogether in ed-tech and one must enter after knowing all the conditions and issues.

  18. Profile photo of Gururaj S

     I have a question on Facebook, Twitter use for marketing to students and parents. 

    What has been your experience selling via these mediums, by spending on ads? Have you seen the traction go beyond facebook likes, and some twitter mentions, or re-tweets? If yes, what did you spend, how long it took, to convert to wins? 

    I also notice on facebook, twitter, a lot of fake accounts. Many of these are set up by the agencies that sell you followers. What percentage of your ads hit the fake accounts’ pages? Is there a way in which facebook, twitter ensure your ads do NOT hit the pages of these fake accounts? I didn’t find the answer on FB pages (or, am I too lazy to dig deeper?)   🙂

    I throw this question open to all of you, who tried selling to Indian kids, students, and parents, via Social Media!

  19. Profile photo of asha chaudhry

    kanak – pls specify and list all your queries so that priyadeep can give you meaningful feedback. also, feel free to feature your venture in our showcase section to get a broader feedback from the community. 

  20. Profile photo of Kanak Pal

    We have an Idea on a Tourism School.

    The idea is New and Uniquely different from present Institutions. 

    Please have a look on the idea http://www.aitaacademy.com

    To raise the fund basically we have found the below problem:-

    1. Investors are asking about traction whereas we have not started yet

    2. Everyone is telling first you start show something then we will fund your project. But the thing is when i will able to start my own then no investors will be require i can do at my own

    3. The main reason for investors is to start in a big level.

    Waiting for your valuable feedback.
  21. Profile photo of Priyadeep Sinha

    Hi Kanak, the basic funda of getting investor money is just that the investor sees enough in you or your start-up to give you money. I am assuming you are a 1st time entrepreneur which means that (like most other cases), you will have to display a Proof of Concept before someone believes that you have a good scalable idea that can make you and the investor some money. 

    What you are doing is thinking from your perspective. What you need to also see is that an investor gets bombarded with funding requests from a variety of start-ups. So, they need to see some (quality) traction for them to believe that your’s is a viable business they are interested in.

  22. Profile photo of Kanak Pal

    Hello Priyadeep,

    thanks for your reply.

    please find below the reply one by one:-

    1. Yes raising fund as a start up first time. But already did another start up with no investment 6 yrs back.

    2. see as my project is on tourism education so for me its very difficult to find investors whose are investing in this sector. 

    3. Yes have made PPT on this project with details if you share your email address can send to you for corrections require.

    4. yes you are right i am thinking from my perspective unable to think on investors perspective.

  23. Profile photo of Deepak Pandey

    Hello priyadeep, i with my two school friends have founded Meccaniko. We know the quick and fast growing mobile community in this ‘Data driven communication Era’.
    Actually, we too wanted to make the app of meccaniko but in vain.
    As im a commerce student,selftaught programmer still learning and consuming time to make my app by myself only. The need of app is urgent and we are confused now, what to do and where to find a techie cofounder? So please help us if you can.
    Thank you

  24. Profile photo of jyoti

    Hi Priyadeep,

    This is Jyoti. Through a edtech startup Gamingden,  I’m trying to take computer coding to school going kids through games i.e game programming, I have a line up of programs for age groups from 5-14 years.

    But my experience so far, its almost a year now, is not very positive though, Looks like parents want to avoid kids to take up computers or ipads as they don’t want them to get addicted to it, not knowing that they are already addicted to the playing part of it and we are trying to bring productivity & more value to education thru the entire process And schools therefore don’t see any motivation in taking this up.

    My contention is, is this thing worth investing the time and any suggestions you can provide on implementation and taking it forward, I’m associated with a school right now as after school program, although this needs to be introduced as a dedicated subject or elective in schools.

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