Shantanu has always longed to become an entrepreneur ever since the start of his career. He is a serial entrepreneur with names like Paradyne Infotech, Broadllyne Technologies and Glodyne Technoserve. He has an expertise in business development, pre-sales and key account management as well as business strategy.
His latest venture Schoolguru, is strategically positioned as a Academic Support Services organization providing Technology based academic services to Indian universities. He is looking forward to participating with young entrepreneurs as an angel investor and mentor for projects that are innovative, progressive and scalable.
Please provide a brief overview of your product/ service.
Schoolguru is a Technology led Academic Services organization helping Indian Government Universities launch, run and manage their Online Programs/Online Services initiatives on our managed services platform.
We provide several services, some of which are:Academic Support Services, Content creation and management Services,Admission and Counseling Services, Fees Management, Student Support Services, Examination Management Services and Brand Management.
Currently, Schoolguru is associated with 12 large Indian Govt Universities spread across eight states in the country. Schoolguru currently serves about 1.5 lakh students spread across these states.
Schoolguru has enabled m-learning in its true sense for the students. The students of the university are provided with the mobile app on a micro SD-Card. The card, when inserted into the smart phone, starts the app which has a large part of the audio-visual section embedded into the app. Hence, the students can access most of the content without the need of any internet connection. However, for the interactive sessions that are pre-scheduled, the student would need to come to an Internet enabled zone.
Are you active in rural education i.e. is that your area of focus?
Yes, rural parts of the country are our key focus area. Schoolguru realizes that a large section of the students who enrol into these programs come from geographically challenged locations. Hence, Schoolguru aims to democratize the access to high quality education by use of its technology. Partnering with the Government Universities, Schoolguru has ensured that the fees for these programs are kept within the reach of the weaker sections of the society.
Do you also develop your own content?
The content for the courses is developed at the Schoolguru studios that are spread across the country. Schoolguru works with about 2000 professors and academicians in the country and abroad. Schoolguru ensures customized, syllabus based content development for these universities in English and also in vernacular medium. Schoolguru, currently, has the capability to teach in 9 regional languages apart from English.
What inspired you to build the above product/ service?
The formation of Schoolguru was an idea that matured and formed with time. After carefully studying the Indian education ecosystem, particularly the distance learning higher education segment, I found that there was massive scope for improvement. It wasn’t a eureka moment.The idea was built after careful research over 12 months and in 2012 Schoolguru was established in Mumbai.
What is your life mantra?
To help provide engaging, purposeful and employable education to our students.
What was the most challenging part of your journey till now?
Looking at the demographics of the country, we decided to work with the large Indian Government Universities. However, convincing the Universities to adopt a revolutionary platform like the one proposed by Schoolguru was one of the most difficult task. Moreover, even after the Universities are convinced about implementing the platform, the process to sign an agreement is quite cumbersome.
How did you overcome those challenges?
I assume it is about the universities adopting our platform.
Schoolguru has engaged in long term sustained counseling of the universities. We have ensured that all the different stakeholders of the university get involved and buy into our proposal. Finally, to remove bias, Schoolguru proposed an Open Tender route to bring in transparency into the vendor selection process.
What kind of tie-ups you have with Indian universities?
Schoolguru works as the technology platform service provider to Indian Government Universities. The selection of Schoolguru happens through an open and transparent tender process. Since these are PPP programs, hence the agreements are long term and exclusive. Schoolguru undertakes the entire capital expenditure required to create, run and manage the platform.
How do you choose which all courses have to be made available digitally?
Schoolguru currently has handled about 140 programs in nine languages. The courses belong to various streams like humanities, commerce, pure sciences, management, IT, law, performing arts and vocational programs. Normally, the choice of programs is made by the University in consultation with Schoolguru. Schoolguru handles under-graduate programs, graduation programs, post graduate degree and diploma programs and Certificate programs for these Universities.
Share some details about the investments that you have been able to fetch for the business till now.
For the first two years the promoters bootstrapped to fund the organisation. However, with the passage of time, the need for more growth capital became evident. Finally, the company raised its first round of capital, amounting to 20 Crores, from three seasoned entrepreneurs, based out of Indian and the US.
What is the Unique Selling Proposition of Schoolguru?
We have following unique proposition of Schoolguru:
- Experience of successfully managing the Online Programs of 12 universities
- Very strong and experienced team
- Huge content library – available across 170 programs and 9 languages
- A very stable technology platform
- Innovative Mobile app – learners do not have to depend on Computer/Internet
How do you protect yourself from the problem of Brain Drain?
Schoolguru follows a two pronged strategy to attract and retain the right talent. Schoolguru ensures that only those candidates who believe in the vision of Schoolguru are recruited by the company. Schoolguru also has an attractive ESOS policy that helps retain the critical employees.
According to you, what are the three qualities an individual must have to achieve success?
Perseverence, Determination and Truthfulness
Which online tools/ services/ apps do you use the most and would like to recommend as well?
I do use social networking apps like Facebook, Linked in and other productively apps like Bookmyshow and make my trip
Share any one habit which you think makes you more productive.
Never say die
Share any one habit which you wish to change in yourself.
Wanting to be aware of everything that happens in the organization. At times, it leads to information overload and diverts your attention to non-important issues.
Answer in less than 50 words
You need to believe in your dreams and pursue it to the core with all honesty.
- One mistake you believe every individual must avoid:
Rushing too fast into your plan unless you have evaluated all the risks and the opportunities well.
- One most important lesson that you have learnt till now:
While selecting your business partner, get the terms discussed clearly and openly. Write it down in the form of an agreement. Its better discussed upfront rather than having a gory ending.
What are your plans for next 3 years?
Make Schoolguru a world leader in the Online Education Space that provides engaging, purposeful and employable education.
Please articulate the ‘problem’ that Schoolguru is trying to solve? And who / what are you replacing in the process?
India has faced infrastructural bottlenecks in Education in general, and Higher Education in particular, for many decades. Shortage of quality teachers, lack of buildings and space, unavailability of funds to procure supplies and equipment, are but some of the fundamental challenges higher education in India is besieged with. To address this problem, higher education in distance mode was introduced with much hope in the 70s. Today, it has grown to a massive size with an annual intake of over 10 million learners. However, poor quality of learning material and near total absence of student guidance & support has reduced these programs to a last recourse of inferior quality for the not-so-bright students. Schoolguru is recasting these programs in a modern shape by solving the challenges of inferior quality and inefficient administration with the help of technology, professional management and innovation. Schoolguru aims to dramatically improve the learning experience and outcome in terms of quality of learning, ease of access and interactivity to make distance education far superior to its present outdated form.
In the process, Schoolguru seeks to replace traditional mode of distance learning through self-learning material culminating in examinations that lead to degrees or diplomas. Instead, Schoolguru will offer affordable and interactive learning through its partner universities to students deprived of opportunities to learn due to space and time constraints.
If you get a chance to start your career again what would you do differently this time?
I think, I will do similar stuff…
What are your top three getaway destinations?
Switzerland, Paris, Singapore
Share a quote that inspires you the most.
Abraham Lincoln, in his second address to the congress in 1862 said, “”The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must dis enthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” He talks about thinking differently, rising with the occasion and dis enthralling ourselves so that something new can take birth.