Viraj Deshmukh, Co-founder, Shubhra Viraj EduTech Private Limited

Viraj is a seasoned Information Technology professional with almost 20+ years of professional experience during which time he has lived in India, Switzerland and United States. Prior to co-founding Shubhra Viraj Edutech, Viraj was a data warehouse architect and an IT services delivery leader at Credit Suisse. He has also held project management roles at Fidelity Investments and iGate (now part of Cap Gemini Technology Services). Through his experience, he brings to bear a unique blend of financial services knowledge, business partnering, enterprise data warehousing expertise, and project delivery rigour. His significant accomplishments include the design, development and implementation of Holdings Hub, a proprietary fund management platform for Fidelity Management Research Company.

 

The Covid 19 pandemic hit the world early last year. Soon after, another unexpected phenomenon followed – the boom in the EdTech industry. The industry had been on an upward trajectory in the last five years, but the growth in the last two years has been particularly extraordinary. As India went under lockdown, parents resorted to e-learning platforms to keep the kids constructively engaged and socially distanced. It led analysts to quickly revise their earlier projections to reflect the unprecedented wave. The $700 million market is now estimated to touch $30 billion in the next 10 years! Not just the K-12 segment but also the post K-12 market. This is true for the UPSC coaching segment as well.

At Shubhra Ranjan IAS (SRIAS) we had introduced certain technology products way back in 2015-16 – a feat literally unheard of in the UPSC coaching space back then. We gave our students options to take crash course lectures and the UPSC Mains Test Series online. We even had a mobile app of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) to help students prepare for Prelims.

We have been consistently investing resources in R&D for the last five years. When the pandemic struck, we embraced technology with a new vigour so that the UPSC preparation of our students continued unhindered. Our tech products that had been in the petri dish were actively brought to life.

We launched a GS Prelims-cum-Mains Tablet Course wherein the student is provided a Samsung Tablet exclusively configured to use the Shubhra Ranjan app. The course lectures are relayed on the tablet, followed by Q&A sessions to clear the students’ doubts. Over 300 GS Course lectures are also available in recorded format on the tablet with over 2,250 hours of viewing time. We started live-streaming the lectures from our flagship Delhi centre to all the affiliate centres, followed by active Q&A sessions. Our unique hybrid model enabled us to closely guide and mentor each of our students and proved its mettle when SRIAS students bagged 8 of the Top 50 ranks in UPSC CSE 2020.

There are other players in the UPSC online coaching space and there is information overload. Unfortunately their content is designed in a way that does not make it palatable for the students. They don’t understand that UPSC exam is very different from JEE and CAT. We have decades of experience backing us – we understand that even in the online medium we need to mentor and guide the students. Our content is powered by teachers, evaluators and mentors. It is unlike the LMS floating in the industry. At SRIAS, we only provide relevant content and our online lectures are scheduled in a way that keeps the teachers connected with the students. Student engagement and student participation are our keys to success.

We will soon patent our MCQ tool and reintroduce it on our website. It is a unique tool with a bank of 10,000 plus questions divided into sections and designed by subject matter experts for Prelims’ preparation. Through a user-friendly colour coding system, it tells the aspirants their preparedness levels. Anyone who aces this tool stands a good chance of clearing the prelims exam.

In the next quarter, we also plan to launch our brand new initiative – The Institute of Humanities (IoH) – which will offer specially-designed workbooks in tandem with online lectures. Majority of the UPSC aspirants choose humanities and NCERT books are the integral part of their preparation journey. We will start with Grade X-XII NCERT books and then extend the programme to graduation and Post-Graduation level. Plans are also afoot to go multilingual in the near future.

The traction for our tech products has been very encouraging so far. We are likely to double our tablet enrolments compared to the last fiscal. At the same time, our offline enrolments are going as strong. It indicates how the market demands a hybrid multi-modal learning approach.

Our technology solutions have simple interfaces and are fairly priced. They are not only designed for India, but for the entire Bharat. Technology can help us reach out to all the aspirants. We believe everyone should get a fair chance at Civil Services. Right guidance and mentoring can make that possible.

We are planning to double our footprint by expanding from 14 affiliates centres to 30 centres in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. We are targeting to increase student enrolment from 9,000 students to 16,000 UPSC & 10,000 SPSC aspirants by FY’24 with our eyes set on $20 million revenue. Our experience, coupled with EdTech, will get us there.

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