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Education Beyond The Classroom
Mappr — an edtech (education technology) startup — is replicating a US model to reach out to shy and reticent students
Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma
(L) Dheeraj Jain and Ashwani Duggal, Co-founders, Mappr
Piyush Bhadola, a class IX student from KVK, Hisar had trouble asking questions in class. Unlike his confident classmates, shy and reticent Piyush couldn’t raise a hand when he had a query. His grades went down each year till Mappr came to his rescue, after his school acquired the technology.
“Mappr is a social network specifically designed for primary and secondary schools, offering a way for teachers to assess students more easily and trade tips, a model replicated from a US edtech company, Edmodo,” says Dheeraj Jain, Co-Founder of the year-old edtech startup. “We are the only social network for the school community,” says he.
Most indigenous edtech products focus on refined content or generic assessments for teachers and students. While this approach adds some value, it fails to reach the core of the problem of bridging the communication gap between students and teachers. “We felt that connecting everyone on one secure platform and facilitating proactive communication and collaboration would generate a tremendous amount of benefits to teachers, students and parents,” says Jain’s partner, Ashwani Duggal.
Mappr is a cloud-based technology platform that establishes a secure learning commune by seamlessly connecting schools, teachers, parents and students in a secure environment. This learning commune stimulates peer-to-peer learning and brings hesitant learners mainstream. “This is basically a learning and engaging platform for the shy, hesitant learner, who has access to technology and can clear his or her doubts by just typing them on the screen,” says Jain.
“We have crossed five million students, all five regions of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, we plan to cross two million in the next two months,” adds Duggal. A brainchild of Dheeraj and Ashwani Duggal, Mappr enables personalised attention without increasing the teacher’s workload, ensures proactive parental engagement and focusses on multi-dimensional development of the student.
Jain is an active angel investor in Indian startups and has funded and strategised over 15 investments, including Shipsy, Deyor Camps, Dogspot and Burger Singh. Duggal has a vast knowledge of and experience in the education sector. He is known to have built NIIT’s overseas business. Wincourse, a Delhi-based full-stack platform dedicated to developing edtech products, acquired 85 per cent of Mappr at an early stage and acquired another seven per cent shares in it subsequently. “We exited the non-technical team that had originally started Mappr, while retaining the technical team,” explains Jain. Mappr competes with Ahmedabad-based Flinnt, Eckovation, Myly and Gyanfinder, among others.
In August 2015, Jain and Duggal began their research by examining what was essential to learning and student development. “We understand that learning happens when teachers invoke curiosity in their students and who then come back with doubts, which results in a continuous process of interaction and learning, getting the community closer,” says Jain.
Keeping in mind the model brand, Edumodo, which Mappr has replicated, the duo also figured that Indian learning was a step-by-step approach, with concepts building on one another like a staircase and that both learning and development required the essential support of peers, teachers and parents. They then examined the prevailing scenario in the education space to figure out how learning and development was taking place. “We learnt that the data we can collect can help the school focus on the pupil’s weak areas,” says Duggal.
Based on the findings of on-ground research, they decided that connecting teachers, students, schools and parents on a network and combining it with user-generated content to stimulate learning, was the best way to achieve their mission. For communication and collaboration, the company offers features like discussion forums, interest groups, private messages and sharing rich media content. “It is a perfect mix of Facebook and Linked In,” says Jain.
Mappr allows the institution or the teacher to connect students with external experts and provides complete flexibility in interacting with online data from other systems that the institution has access to be it for administration, assessment, educational content or professional development. It claims to be the only edtech platform that provides deeper analytics insight into students’ performance to teachers, with teachers’ performance to the principal, customised by the user. Mappr targets schools, colleges, pre-schools, coaching centres and tutors in India and globally. Already, the venture has amassed about five lakh active users (students and teachers) across more than 200 schools, including five colleges and 12 coaching centres. “At present, we have 15 schools, two colleges and five coaching centres as paid customers,” says Jain. The company charges between Rs 40 and Rs 70 per student, depending on the features they avail of. Its reach extends to many Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities, apart from the major metropolises.
“We plan to first reach the billion-dollar club in the next five years, then go the IPO way,” says Jain. It plans to employ a platform approach. “Once adoption reaches a critical mass, we will service this platform with various apps. These apps will be both indigenous and third-party development,” says Jain. It has an integrated in-house app called Trakkr. It’s a simple plug-and-play app that lets schools and parents track their students’ school bus on a map in real time. “Moving forward, we will be developing school administration, fee collection, diagnostics, scheduling and health apps.”
The platform expects to have five million users by September this year in more than 300 schools, 20 colleges and coaching centres. It is developing various products and solutions for schools and tuition centres. “Our strategy is to acquire a few startups at the early stage and do further product development in-house,” says Jain.