iProf Learning Solutions India, the e-learning company that offers a personal education tablet device and runs a chain of Wi-Fi-enabled e-learning centers across India, has secured Rs.22 Crores in Series A funding from Norwest Venture Partners (NVP) and IDG Ventures India (IDGVI), reports VCCircle. The capital will be used to expand iProf’s e-learning centers (iProf iStudy Zones) in metros and tier 2 and 3 cities across the country and in overseas markets, as well as bring new iProf products to market. Mohan Kumar, Executive Director, NVP India, and Sudhir Sethi, Founder, Chairman & Managing Director, IDGVI will join iProf’s Board of Directors.
iProf also announced a tie up with Open University, IGNOU, which offers diploma and degree programs through distance learning. Through the tie-up, IGNOU will conduct diploma programs for 75 of its courses on the iProf platform.
The company had said last year, that it was looking to mobilise investment worth Rs 100 crore for its entire e-learning eco system by the end of 2011. iProf runs 20 e-learning hotspots called iStudy Zones, and aims to increase this number to 100 by this year. The centers are being operated both on a company owned and franchisee basis.
According to the annual report filed by iProf Learning Solutions India Private Limited, the company reported a net loss (before tax) of Rs. 78.83 lakhs for the financial year ended 31st March 2010, after providing depreciation of Rs.1.33 lakhs. It’s turnover for the year was Rs 17,95,094, Total Expenditure was Rs 96,78,141, Loss before Tax was Rs. 78,83,047 and Loss after Tax was Rs 79,49,613.
iProf’s business model is tightly linked with its Android based tablet, through which it provides course modules for entrance exam preparation, in partnership with with professors and educational institutes. Currently, it features Engineering entrance exam preparation modules from Brilliant Tutorials, Kaysons Education and Future Vista, Class X ICSE study modules from Sinhal Classes and English speaking courses from Words Worth.
The e-learning centers called iStudy Zones sell the tablet as well as provide course material and updates for it, in addition to running related video conferencing sessions. The cost of the tablet has been reduced to Rs 8,900 from Rs 14,900 which was the launch price of tablet, however, the course material costs are additional. For example, Class X ICSE study material from Sinhal Classes costs Rs 14,500. A lot of other players are also jumping into the education tablet market or are developing content for tablets. We recently reviewed IL&FS’ Xperica app for the iPad, which was designed well and offered a good amount of interactivity. Recently, Edutor Technologies also launched a tablet.
Touch screen tablets can be an engaging learning device, but with multi-purpose tablets in the market, which can also be used to provide such course material, we wonder if iProf’s approach of being a device supplier and course material aggregator is sound. We think the company would be better off staying out of the tablet game, which isn’t its core business, and focus on being an aggregator and producer of interactive course material. How many education related tablets or computers have really achieved scale? Also, don’t forget that there’s a move from the Indian Government to provide their own $100 tablet is also in the pipeline, although it’s been in the pipeline for a long time now.
Why can’t iProf make the system platform independent and port it to other tablets like the Apple iPad or Android devices like Samsung Galaxy Tab. Also, it can make the modules available online for access on any device which has a web browser. We feel that the ecosystem needs to be tablet agnostic in the long run and iProf might switch over to online web based modules, to expand its reach. iProf can of course keep sourcing tablets to push its content, but it need not link it to the device.