The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the envelope for online education, training, and learning like nothing else ever has. Stuck at home, and with schools and college shut indefinitely – at least for the foreseeable future , students are turning to digital platforms to keep their grey cells engaged and keep up with their academia.
Bengaluru-based Impartus, founded by Alok Choudhary, Amit Mahensaria, and Manish Kumar, has been providing educational institutes its video platform for conducting online classes over the last six years.
It was the first company in India that allowed schools and colleges to use its platform and conduct classes, for free, after the coronavirus pandemic began to spread across the country.
Over the last six weeks, the startup has on boarded 110 new institutes, 50,000-plus teachers, and over six lakh students on its platform. The demand for virtual classrooms is so high that the company is still adding at least four new institutes on a daily basis, according to its estimates.
Impartus is not the only platform seeing that kind of demand though. Over the last two months, hundreds of small edtech platforms have cropped up to service educational institutes looking for ways to continue their academic programmes.
And even though it competes with them, and other, well-established edtech companies – such as Vedantu and BYJU’s – the company believes it differentiates from others in the way it offers lessons, in that it takes content owned by schools and colleges, and converts them into online videos for them.
Impartus does not produce its own content or videos – it white-labels the videos from the likes of Vedantu. Being cloud-based helps students and teachers access the platform with just a few clicks.
“In our model, the teacher engages with everybody and there are no backbenchers. It’s a platform where the video is permanently stored; it is designed primarily for learning and not meetings like other well-known office video tools,” Amit says.
Over the last two months, Impartus has seen a total of over two million hours of free learning (actual learning by students, measured in terms of student hours). Eighty-eight percent of teachers on-boarded were using online tools to teach for the first time.
The company’s clients include universities like IIT-Delhi and BITS-Pilani.
The early days
After Amit and Alok graduated from IIT-Delhi, and Manish from IIT-Madras, in 2002, the three worked corporate jobs around the world. They reunited in 2010, and decided to start their own venture – a tech company that failed to take off.
In 2013, they recognised the impact an online educational portal could have on the learning industry. By that time, e-learning portals like Coursera and Udemy had already proved market traction for such products, and in India too, companies were starting to wet their feet.
The trio immediately jumped in and started building their own video tool that could not just record sessions, but archive, index, and recall them too. Their idea was compelling enough to catch the attention of Sandeep Aneja, Partner and Founder at Kaizen Private Equity, who put in $4.1 million to help the company scale in 2016.
Impartus has, so far, raised $5 million in total.
“(We’ve found that) students revisit 80 percent of their classes. Till date, we have four lakh hours of video data,” Amit says.
The platform is simple and easy to use. It works almost like a SaaS product, where each school gets their own login. Using ‘elastic search’, they can look up videos as per their lesson plan for the day.
Impartus has built the search module on AWS, which means it can scale up quickly, on any given day. For example, at an engineering school in Bengaluru, the platform hosted 15,000 students who were watching at least a 1,000 lectures, simultaneously.
“Our solution is designed for low bandwidth and helps colleges when the network is patchy. The company uses ML capabilities to ensure that students are engaged; the video can nudge the student to pay attention in case the attention span drops,” Amit says.
The company hashosted free live virtual video classrooms for more than four lakh students and 24,000 teachers across India, on AWS, as of April 30 – the online equivalent of 10,000 physical classrooms.
Using AWS services, Impartus has on-boarded more than 50 educational institutes, such as IIT-Delhi, BITS-Pilani, and SRM, among others.
The company charges schools Rs 150 per student, per month. It also makes money from white-labelling its software to other edtech companies.
The way ahead
The founders believe they can double the number of students, going forward, as this pandemic would have changed the behaviour of schools and colleges.
“A lot of medical colleges have come to us for live surgery-based lectures. We are already working with one medical college. The opportunity in India is large for video solutions,” Amit says.
The market potential for a company like Impartus is huge. More than 12 million students graduate every year from India, according to statistics by the Ministry of Higher Education. It biggest competitors include Zoho, CamStudio, and Webineria.
The startup did not disclose its revenue, but those numbers give it the confidence to believe it can be a multimillion dollar business by the end of the decade.
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