E-Learning company iProf Learning Solutions India, has raised Rs 55 crore ($9 million) in Series B funding, in a round led by Daily Mail Group Information (DMGI) on behalf of its education subsidiary, Hobsons. Norwest Venture Partners (NVP) and IDG Ventures India (IDGVI) that invested Rs.22 Crores in Series A in iProf also participated in this round.
iProf provides online and offline educational material, tests, education videos etc. To schools the company offer the solution pre-installed on tablets of its choice. It also lets them install the platform on tablets they have already procured on their own. The company plans to use the funds raised to reach out to CBSE schools across the country to pitch its new product, SchoolEra, a fully automated school management platform, that will offer personalised learning solutions for CBSE schools in India and around the world.
SchoolEra will help teachers auto generate and auto check assessments, monitor class progress and performance. The platform also automates student’s gradebook and teachers notes. For students, it provides interactive learning experience and gives self assessment tools and questions for unlimited practice. It also provides over 600 hours of animations, 120 hours of video lectures, 80,000+ questions and thousands of digitized notes. iProf is pitching in with the technology platform while McGraw-Hill is contributing the content on the platform. This move could be a foot in the door for the company to offer many of its other services to schools in the future.
According to Sanjay Purohit, CEO and Founder of iProf, there are half a million students using the platform now. After raising Series A in 2012, the company deployed it platform across Meghalaya, then went international to cover most of the students in Mauritius.
The company also plans to target ICSE schools with its offering, but it will get down to that only after it have covered significant number of CBSE schools.
The company is working on B2B and B2C side by offering iProf in retail and dealing with schools directly to push the new SchoolEra offering. Apart from these, it also sells course materials in pen drives through its website for offline learning.
A trial version iProf’s platform is also pre-loaded on tablets manufactured by Lava, Pantel and Symmtronics, while the company loads course specific apps as required when dealing with schools. The price for iProf’s offering varies from Rs 1,000 – 14,000 depending on the course materials that are needed.
Tie-up with Vodafone: The company had tied-up with Vodafone and MTS and the Vodafone is set to launch an educational platform called Vodafone Study Zone next week that will be powered by iProf. The service will be accessible on non-smart phones too, which provides iProf with access to a whole new demographic.
According to Stephen Stout, CEO of DMGI Asia Pacific, the way iProf can reach out to those who might be offline, or online for only limited period of time is what got it interested in iProf to begin with. It needs to be noted that Hobsons provides services that are complimentary to those provided by iProf and in the future both the companies are planning to cross-promote each others solutions in each market. Hobsons is an established played in US and UK market with its flagship career counselling and college readiness product being used by over 7,500 US schools. It’s ERP solution for schools are also widely used in Australia.
Hobsons will try to use iProf’s testing and assessment tools as part of the offering in the future, though both the companies are yet to figure out revenue sharing agreements for such a deal. Such a cross-promotion should be good for both companies as it not only has presence in vastly different markets, but also have access to more educational institutions combined.
MOOCs not a threat for now: Purohit says that he is not really worried about MOOCs right now as most courses available online are targeted at college students while its products are targeted at K12 level students. Also, several of iProf’s offerings work offline.
Competition: Though there are several e-learning startups in India now, Purohit says he doesn’t have any big competitors and that it controls 80% of the tablet-based education market. K2 Learning Resources had raised $1.3 million in funding to set up Tab Labs and introduce tablet based education in schools.
As far as use of tablets in schools, it’s worth noting that Apple has taken some interest in the market and introduced iBooks Textbooks and iTunes U Course Manager this week. Among Indian schools, several international schools that follow British curriculum have been actively pushing for the use of tablets in education, but the general perception is that it is bit of a gimmick to get newly rich parents to sign up. It should be interesting to see where the market moves once tablets become more common in education sector and less of a +1 in the facilities offered by a school.