They wanted to do their bit to improve education and that is when Raveendranath Kamath, Kedar Choudhary and Deependra Bhartari launched Next Education, an e-learning company.
Who wouldn’t want academics to be a much more simpler and interactive affair? Poring over books and burning the midnight oil while trying to understand complex concepts is hardly anybody’s fancy. It was with this in mind that Raveendranath Kamath, Kedar Choudhary, Deependra Bhartari, decided to make an effort to improve the quality of education and the efficacy with which it is imparted in the country. The trio, who were working with PartyGaming Plc in the UK, launched Next Education, one of the top e-learning companies in India.
The business idea took seed when Kamath, CFO and co-founder, was working with the UK company. “After doing my schooling at Govt High School Elamakkara in Kochi I went on to complete my BTech from IIT Kharagpur, following which I joined PartyGaming. But I always wanted to return to the country. That is when this idea took seed. The business became a reality thanks to financial backing by Anurag Dikshit,” he says.
The company which started in 2007, took nearly two years to produce quality content (animation, 2D and 3D graphics) for Math and Science. “We’ve always believed that technology (e-learning) should help simplify delivery of education, not complicate it, which is what our product design focuses on. We have introduced a simple remote to access 95 per cent of the features, without the need of using a visual aid. Besides, we not only build the products, but also handle the sales and service,” explains Kamath.
He says, “The content uses a neutral Indian voice over at a pace that any student can easily follow and understand. Everything from the colour schemes to the fonts were chosen after a careful evaluation of how it will appear in classrooms with a lot of ambient light. We understood from the start that teachers are hard pressed for time, so we built our products exactly they wanted to use it.”
Although the company infused a whopping Rs.250 crore in the business, it is trying to make the products affordable for both schools and students. “We charge about Rs.5,000 per month per classroom. This includes hardware, software and services for a five year term. If there are a 100 students in a class sharing one digital classroom, the cost comes to about Rs.50 per student,” reveals Kamath.
The LearnNext (self learning DVDs) for both Math and Science is offered at Rs.1,899 per year. When asked about providing the content to government schools, he says, “We are glad to do so at highly subsidised rates. But the process is protracted and so far we have not seen a lot of traction in this segment.”
The company even bagged the World Education Award 2012 for its product LearnNext after competing with 100 participating companies from across the globe recently.
The revenues crossed Rs.100 crore last fiscal. They now aim to almost double the revenues by expecting 40 per cent growth in new sales this year. “There is a layering effect on revenues due to the 5 year contracts,” says Kamath.
Talking about future plans and margins, he says, “We want to establish about 10,000 schools as our loyal customers (we currently have 4,000 schools on board, apart from 20,000 students subscribing to our services) and be able to offer different products and solutions in various areas. We expect to make a nominal 15 to 20 per cent margin at a steady pace.”
On the personal front, Kamath enjoys his free time with his two-year-old daughter. “Spare time is a rare commodity these days. I also enjoy playing the flute and love gaming,” says, Kamath, whose biggest inspiration are his parents.
“My father, a retired headmaster, has now lost his eyesight. But he has adapted and outwitted most other abled people. Even today at the age of 86, he remembers more dates than I do and tells me which road to take, and even computes the day of the week for any date,” he smiles.
Food: Homemade Appam (the sweet one with jaggery).
Music: Carnatic. That’s the second best stress buster for me (first is playing with my daughter).
Movies: I prefer serious ones. The Apu trilogy is perhaps the most moving one.
Car: Will change my Honda when someone launches a solar car.
Objective: Want to be a good human.
TeachNext: Digital classroom solution for students
LearnNext: Individual learning solutions for students
NextLabs: For English, Science and Math, for hands-on learning
NextERP: For automated school management