Edewcate.com is an e-learning company focused on multimedia based educational content. Based out of Vishakapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), it offers a website featuring interactive content, a video channel on YouTube and digital classroom solutions, in addition to content for DTH and digital cable services. Satyadev Chada, is the co-founder and CTO of Edewcate. In Part 1 of this interview with MediaNama, he talks about the company’s offerings, the motivation behind its inception, revenue model, product strategy and competition.
MediaNama: Why did you decide to shift into educational content after your first startup in the supply chain space?
Satyadev Chada: With the recession looming in 2007, we could foresee where the products and manufacturing sector was headed. So we wanted to build a technology company specifically in areas where that will not get hit by recession. That’s how we zeroed down on healthcare and education. Since education has a wider scope, we finally decided on education. Besides we were working on web 2.0.Education combined with this technology was something that none had explored at that time so we thought we should try it out. We finally started Edewcate in 2008.
MediaNama: How would you describe Edewcate? Would you call it a content company or technology company?
Satyadev Chada: We are a technology company that leverages content for various services. What we essentially do is build tools using technology that leverage content that we develop. We have a web 2.0 website, our content on Youtube, mobile platform and also provide it to schools using our digiclass software. The largest revenue stream as of now is our digital classroom model for schools. Our digital classroom is present in over 125 schools in more than 200 rooms with more than 1.5 lakh students watching our content live every day. We charge per room in each school. We provide service on top of the basic platform. However our services are different from our competitors. Apart from delivering content we also do teacher integration from remote location thereby making it interactive. In the long run, we want to develop a one to one model that goes by the individual student’s learning pace. We also provide Aptech and other training institutes with tutorials on Maya, Photoshop etc .
MediaNama: How do you weigh doing your own content in comparison to sourcing? Why did you choose creating your own content over sourcing?
Satyadev Chada: The problem in the school ecosystem was not just the lack of digital content. Schools also fundamentally lack good teachers to deliver good content. Hence, we designed a digital software, Ezlearn digiclass application that integrates content with remote teaching.
We also realised that the content available online is either incomplete or incoherent. And in India, you have to follow the CBSE/State boards/ICSE content to the T for schools to buy your content. So we were compelled to develop our own content. We have integrated 4500 digital videos corresponding to the syllabus along with 8000 digital learning objects like quizzes, interactive learning objects, question papers, additional study material, 12,500 objects in total.
Besides, sourcing content did not allow us the mix we wanted. Sourcing would work when there are large pools of shared content available. The higher education model (in IITs, MIT content etc) is open. But K-12 model is not open yet. So the exact content that we wanted had to be created. We are planning to open K-12 content now so that schools don’t have to spend several lakhs in buying content. They can access the content with a small subscription fee every month from our website.
MediaNama: Would the opening of your K-12 content lead to loss of revenue? How do you plan to manage it?
Satyadev Chada: In the last 2 years, our limited marketing budgets ensured that we could reach out to only 120+ schools. When we open out our content, we look at reaching 5000 plus schools. We will compensate with volumes so we won’t lose money. We would provide a basic service free to the schools. But to get complete access to the content, schools need to pay a very small subscription fee per month. An average digital classroom costs 3 lakhs for 3/5 yrs per classroom. Through this model, schools can get 5rooms at the same cost. We might also tie up with leading mobile telecom providers to see if this content will be available on smart phones, tablets etc providing access for these students on their phones within their phone bills itself. Instead of paying tuition fee, they will pay the service provider every month
MediaNama: Are you at any point planning to tap the best teaching resources in different schools for your K-12 content?
Satyadev Chada: Right now most small / medium schools don’t have great teachers and most of them don’t want to share as well. But if schools are willing to share then we are open to it. We need to also find a business model to implement it – how much to pay the schools for the partnership, how much to pay to teachers etc.
MediaNama: Describe the demographics of the schools that you cater to.
Satyadev Chada: Currently, we have couple of international schools, 60-50 average schools, some municipal schools. There is no fixed category of schools that we work with.
MediaNama: Which are the subjects that are most viewed among your K-12 subjects?
Satyadev Chada: Science videos have maximum viewership especially for IX and X grade. Students in these grades start preparing for competitive exams then so they spend more time in the class. Kinder Garden content is otherwise typically the most viewed. We have good content here as well so Kinder Garden kids really enjoy the classroom.
MediaNama: Why did you decide to diversify and get into other segments of content like cooking, carnatic music etc?
Satyadev Chada: When we have people in house who have Carnatic knowledge then why not build carnatic karaoke channel? It is the only karaoke music learning channel to learn Carnatic music on the internet for free on demand – Edewcatemusic. Similarly we found a chef because we were trying to have a canteen service for the office. Since the person could cook in any case, we thought she could also teach us the same and we could shoot it.
All of them were done just as a hobby. We wanted to just see how it worked on Youtube. Only when we saw returns on Youtube for this content that we decided to invest more in those videos as well.
MediaNama: Doesn’t this diversification dilute your positioning as an educational content provider?
Satyadev Chada: It does to some extent but the important part was that we were focused on getting the next rupee. We wanted to be self sustained and not dependent on investors till we were ready to scale. More the money came from Youtube, we could invest more in offline classrooms/ create more content. In the long term, we would want to scale as a media company and an education company and keep both as separate profit centres. Currently, both media and education are already profitable sectors for us. It does dilute the brand but we believe we want to create a much bigger brand that integrates both education and media.
MediaNama: What is the cost of creation of each of your videos?
Satyadev Chada: Cost varies from piece to piece depending on the expertise required. It may range from $2 to $100 depending on the complexity. The key innovation is that, we have used students who are toppers in local entrance, board exams etc to tap their knowledge during their spare time in our office to deliver content. It is a cost effective manner of doing it. There are lot of subject matter experts from top students to teachers of years of experience who have been used to build this content. We used a share creation model where people (experts, students) from around India and the world have contributed to creating our content thereby reducing the cost.
MediaNama: What is the time taken to recover cost on single piece of content?
Satyadev Chada: On Youtube, it takes us a few months. From there to lifetime is our bonus and in some specific channels, we are making a few times our investment in the first year itself. , This is not universal and depends on how popular your content is on YouTube and how you engage with audiences world over.
MediaNama: What do you think drives users to your content?
Satyadev Chada: We deliver niche content. We provide high quality content that drives people’s curiosity packaged with good animation in a market where there isn’t much competition. We also find the best tags to be available on search results.
MediaNama:What do you think motivates people to pay for educational content on your website?
Satyadev Chada: Video would increase data retention in students by 60%. Schools understand that. Hence anything with colours, images is important so digital education is here to stay and schools will pay for our product but the way this model is implemented in the near future would change.
MediaNama:What were the initial marketing strategies employed to generate traffic to the website?
Satyadev Chada: We have never done any online promotion. We built a lot of video and content tags for the website. We didn’t have to spend even Rs.100 to get audience. The video tags we had put and sent to Google got us traffic. It is very hard to name a website which had 1000 videos for free back in 2008. NCERT, CBSE syllabus for free were the largest searches that got us traffic then. Probably now there are a few others who do it as well, but back then there were none.
MediaNama: How has your strategy changed over time?
Satyadev Chada: We entered YouTube in 2009 and have grown exponentially since 2011. Simultaneously, from 2008 – 2010, we were clear on building the product for schools and selling it to them. There was no great strategy shift. Now the strategy shift is essentially to create a one to one learning model in the long term. If you see the education system right now, it is one teacher to many students which will move towards tablet, computer based one to one or many to many education models enabling individual assessment of learning from the videos.
MediaNama: Who do you see as competition in the market?
Satyadev Chada: There are very few websites dedicated to education that make any money. That’s also an opportunity and liability. Unless we see 3G/ 4G implementation done more expansively, making revenue out of Indian online users for video is at least a year away. Our competition is really international than Indian. We are benchmarking ourselves internationally instead of individual players in India. We could be a larger Khan Academy. We believe we have the wherewithal to beat them. We have slightly different model from them with graphic integration and access to one of the largest markets which is India. China is not a market because Youtube doesn’t play in China. So the largest market for Youtube based content would be India. Although the traffic and revenue may not be happening right now, it will work in a year’s time once the technology is built in India.
In the offline school space, Educomp, Eduwrite, HCL, Learn Next Education etc would be our competition. Even in the school model, we are soon planning to shift the 1.5 lakh students and others to access our content live using 3G, 4G/wifi from a website called Elearnin.com.
By Brindaa Lakshmi