This post is part of our new Future of Education series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Aditya Johari, Head of India Operations, Vagupu.
1. What’s the history of Vagupu? Where and how did you begin?
AJ: In 2012, Natraj founded myKlassroom.com, a social media-based LMS. While operating it, he saw a need for online tutoring. At that time, in the USA, although online tutoring had been around for a while and had few established players like tutor.com and tutorvista.com (tutoring service), but the technology has been changing at a very fast pace and that created room for startups. At the same time, there was a very big unorganised sector, independent tutors, who relied on word of mouth for marketing, phone calls/ email for scheduling, cash/ Paypal for payment and Skype for teaching. These teachers were also slowly and gradually coming online. In most countries including India, online tutoring was in very nascent stage and presented a decent market opportunity.
When we did our research, we found a lot of inefficiencies in online tutoring space and people were trying to employ stop-gap solution to workaround these. And there was no one providing them a complete one stop technology solution to cater their needs. In 2014, Google made its WebRTC technology open source. This technology is being used in Google Hangout. WebRTC made online audio-video communication technology products easier and cheaper to develop.
With this insight and knowledge of education industry, Natraj partnered with Melo, who had a vast experience in online marketplace from his IT consulting background. The two together raised some money from few angel investors to start the product development work for Vagupu.
B2B Business Model – We consider most of tutors to be edupreneurs. For tutoring centres or tutors who would want to develop their own brand, we provide them with technology to help them provide online tutoring services and compete with others. Due to low turnaround time and effort required, we are able to keep costs down. For clients, it is cost-effective solution, with no investment in technology, hardware or manpower. Right now we have 6 enterprise paid clients using our services. By next month, we will also release self-service model for small players to get online with our services. Our B2B business vertical is christened as myTutoring.
Vagupu Founding – August 2015
Launched Marketplace in India and the USA – April 2016
myTutoring Launch – Jun 2017
Tutoring marketplace is available in India and the USA.
Services of myTutoring are available globally on demand.
2. What specific problem does Vagupu solve? How do you solve it?
AJ: Vagupu is an online tutoring marketplace. We integrate everything needed for online live tutoring from both student and tutor’s perspective – discovery, scheduling, ratings/reviews, browser-based audio/video collaboration, whiteboard tools, etc.
From student’s perspective, we provide him/ her quality teachers from around the world. He/ she can choose tutor as per his/ her budget and schedule.
From tutor’s perspective, we provide him/ her great source to boost the revenue. On Vagupu tutors are independent contractors providing their services directly to the students. Most sites out there are intermediated. Tutors can set their own price and hours on the platform. We just charge a flat 15% transaction fee compared to most sites that charge 20% to 40%.
Through myTutoring, we provide all the tools needed to start a new business or expand and extend an offline tutoring service to go online – branding, own logo, identity, tutor discovery, smart scheduling, superior collaboration, browser-based audio-video collaboration and whiteboard tools, ratings, reviews, tutor landing pages, payment processing by Stripe, parent tools, marketing, promotions.
3. What’s the future of education?
Prediction #1: For the online education apps, I expect augmented reality will be next big thing. This will be a mix of immersive and customised virtual learning. Children have already seen the power of augmented reality in the gaming world. By extending the same to education apps, one would be taking it to the logical next level.
Prediction #2: Innovations in the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors and embedded electronics allow quantifying learning improvements among students. All this is done as they work on various projects. Therefore, hardware, sensors, and the associated Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology solutions will soon embed into overall education apparatus, thus allowing easy adoption.
Prediction #3: I am expecting slow and steady decline of lecture-based pedagogy. The lecture-based teaching style is completely outdated. This only produces rote learners, not suitable for the contemporary world. Many companies and government agencies are doing innovative work in this field, so even here I look up to technology to provide better solutions.
4. What are the top 3 technology trends you’re seeing in education?
Trend #1: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Every student has a unique style of learning. Educators need to adjust to his learning style, learning speed, interests and problem areas. With artificial intelligence and machine learning, teachers can help students in picking up lessons at their own pace from their own devices. These applications will help schools and universities to outline a personalized learning path for each student based on his progress. This model of education is way different than the traditional model.
Trend #2: Big Data. Big data will revolutionize the education industry in the coming years. Right now, schools and universities produce large amount of data from student assignments, periodic tests, projects, attendance, etc. By mining this data properly, teachers will be able to determine patterns and improve their pedagogy style. With large datasets, big data can reveal important patterns and trends in students’ behaviour. Using this insight, teachers can adequately tailor their methodology.
Trend #3: Gamification in Education. Gamification will change education more than anything else. Step-by-step or rote learning will be soon replaced by game elements. It has been proven that games increase motivation among students, leading to better engagement and learning. Games can be used to explain difficult concepts in a less formal way and make the learning process easier. Compared to the traditional learning methods, gamifying education cuts down boredom and makes the learning experience more enjoyable.
5. Why is the education industry ripe for disruption?
AJ: One in every three startups is coming up with some idea to disrupt the education industry. That is why, it is not required much stretch of imagination that some great improvements in this industry are just around the corner. I am hopeful of coming years will bring significant change. The edutech sector will grow in two particular extremes. On one hand, virtual solutions like app and browser-based solutions and virtual classrooms will become more popular. On the other hand, engaging physical experiences like activity-based projects and hands-on learning experiences will become new normal.
About Aditya Johari
Aditya has experience in education, consulting and software industries. Being an engineer by education, he worked in software industry for 7 years with companies like IBM and Oracle. Post MBA, he worked with United Nations. For last 5 years, he has been working in edutech field. Currently, he is working with Vagupu and myTutoring and taking care of product management, marketing, sales, operations and customer support. Aditya has done engineering from National Institute of Technology (NIT), Nagpur (India) and MBA from IE Business School, Madrid (Spain).
Aditya loves travelling and cooking. He has been to more than 30 countries and trekked some of the most difficult terrains. He can cook decent food.