Manoj Kumar is used to being the first. Indeed, he has a share of firsts, from being the first member of his family to have studied beyond the 10th grade to being the first member of his village where he was born and brought up, to having successfully cleared the prestigious IIT JEE exam. His rural roots in an unknown village near the small city of Sikar, along with his significant academic achievements and technological expertise, make him perfectly placed to address issues in rural education with personal insights.
The origins of the EdTech startup- Schoollog belong to IIT Ropar, where the non-profit NGO Enactus selected Manoj for a program to identify and solve issues in the schools of the Ropar district. Manoj took up the task with great zeal and enthusiasm, as he and his friends took bicycles for rent and visited many schools in the district. Their visits and interactions with officials and stakeholders across the rural educational spectrum give him further deep insights into the problems they face.
Personal insights into pain points
As per their interactions with Government schools students and teachers, it became clear to him that the need to earn a livelihood was one of the most pressing needs that prevented youngsters from rural areas from completing significant educational landmarks. Through his proactive role in imparting education since his college days, Manoj observed that even private schools from such rural backgrounds were sorely lacking in modern-day technological resources to ensure a smoother and more effective functioning of the school, so he started solving problems of tier3/rural background schools by creating solutions for these schools.
The Entrepreneurial solution
By 2017, Manoj had decided to adopt an even more proactive role in helping kids complete higher education. He had earlier noted the lack of adoption of modern technology in rural education, which resulted in inefficient communication and functional processes. His mind also vibrated to the idea of personalized education as he came to realize how unfair it was to expect children to learn at a strictly uniform pace when there were such vast differences in terms of how every child learns. Manoj took matters into his own hands and, in the same year, founded Schoollog along with Abhishek and Harish, who were his peers from Kurukshetra University. By the end of its first year of existence, the firm already had 100 schools onboard as paid users.
The host of Schoollog products now levels the playing field for urban and rural educational contexts by making it easy to impart education in hybrid mode. Their products also help in the total end-to-end management of processes involved in imparting knowledge. An interesting thing to note in this context is that Schoollog products help both schools and private coaching institutes. All can better impart education through the use of Schoollog products and apps. The host of Schoollog mobile apps already have significant traction of over 1 million downloads.
Schoollog tries to address the tricky issue of personalised education as a facilitator by giving institutes and teachers the tools they need to successfully achieve it. To this end, they have developed an ERP especially meant to solve problems faced by rural Indian educational institutes. Through it, educators get access to tools that let them personalise the knowledge they impart.
Business model and funding
Their ideas and business plans struck a harmonious chord with angel investors, and the firm raised about Rs. 1 crore from angels and their alumni network. Many, many challenges need to be overcome for the startup to meet with success. In this context, Manoj can’t help but mention the immense contribution and significant role of Mr. Sanjeev Kulhari of Daffodils World School, who was an early adopter of the product. As with many other startups and most other businesses, COVID-19 forced them to the back foot. Six months into the pandemic, the startup had to negotiate severe fund crunches and all sorts of challenges. If it were not for the dedication and efforts of the team, which worked day and night to create an online teaching MVP in a matter of just 3 weeks, Schoollog would have had little chance to meet its present success. With time, things got smoother with FY 2021 seeing revenues increase by four times the pre-covid period. During that period, over 500 major schools and coaching institutions used Schoollog products to better deliver online educational experiences. Today, the firm is proud to have over 700 schools and 80 coaching centres as clients.
Currently, Schoollog is among the top 5 school ERP platforms in the country, and its target audience is high-level decision-makers in rural areas and tier 2 and 3 cities. The startup is presently concentrated on consolidating its position in the personalization of tests.
The firm has aligned its goals of on boarding 3000 schools on its ERP and LMS platforms and has a reach of over 15 lakh students by 2025. The NEP or National Education Policy has been their guiding light while planning funding goals. Some angels have already exited with an impressive 20% IRR.
Words of wisdom
Manoj is quite candid about how all startup founders must abide by the PPP of business, i.e., patience, perseverance, and persistence. He says starting and successfully running a startup is more akin to a marathon race than a sprint. People with the above-mentioned 3 Ps are far more likely to succeed. Entrepreneurs need to keep at it, day after day, with the same zeal and enthusiasm as on Day One. As he advises budding entrepreneurs, “Start early; this journey is very rewarding, making money is another thing, but the kind of learning that one gets at a tender age is unmatched.”
A true story to inspire even school students!