28 Nov 2017 15:18 IST

Learning from a Mohali start-up on how to tutor, world over

Vnaya.com caters to K12 students as well as offers parenting support

Based in Mohali, Tarun Uppal admits to the challenges he faces in building a global business. That has not deterred him, as he gets ready to scale up his online tutoring venture Vnaya.com.

One of the challenges, he says, is to find the right people to work in a product company. There are a lot of entrepreneurs in Punjab and Chandigarh, but not too many trying to build the kind of business he is doing. However, there are benefits too.

The cost advantage

The biggest being the savings on cost. “We save 30-40 per cent in salaries and infrastructure,” says 37-year-old Tarun, who started E-Online Tutors Pvt Ltd, the forerunner to Vnaya.com, in 2012. He had previously run a medical transcription company and a call centre.

Vnaya.com offers personalised online tutoring to school students in North America, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, West Asia and Africa. Tarun, Founder and CEO, Vnaya.com, says he was interested in doing something in the online education space. The idea took shape and he launched the venture in 2012 catering to the K12 segment, offering one-on-one tutoring in Mathematics, Science and English. The venture went live in 2013. “Being in Mohali, it was difficult to find people who had worked in product companies and to find people who had worked in online tutoring or online education companies,” says Tarun.

He says there has to be value that the venture should offer for it to attracts students abroad. He decided to match a student and a tutor based on their learning and teaching style. He talks about the efforts he made to get appropriate psychometric tests and how he came across and enlisted the supporter of Patricia Porter, an educator in British Columbia, who is also a Patron of Vnaya.com. Patricia, according to Tarun, has created her own psychometric tests, which bring out multiple intelligence levels of a child. Vnaya.com signed an agreement with her to have exclusive lifetime rights for those tests.

With this done, Tarun says the company also re-branded itself as Vnaya.com. “We wanted to position ourselves not as an online tutoring company, but as an online education company offering various products and services related to the education progression of a child.” Vnaya.com offers both online tutoring and parenting support.

According to him, Vnaya.com has about 20 tutors on its rolls based in Mohali, another 30-35 who work from their homes in different parts of India and a few from outside India. The tutors are enrolled after a rigorous screening process and each one of them has an hour of training every day. About 60 per cent of the students are from the US and Canada. Vnaya.com has enrolled around 800 students. On an average, 200 students take sessions every day.

Business model

The company offers a subscription model – monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and annually – charging $190 for a monthly subscription for 25 hours. On an average, it charges a student $125-150 a month.

Parenting support includes psychometric assessment to measure a child’s learning strengths and weaknesses. Parents are offered a half-hour of free advice after which they can sign up for the service at $200, which includes four calls in a month.

Tarun has invested close to ₹1 crore in the venture and is looking to raise about ₹3.5 crore to improve the technology and increase marketing efforts. He wants to conduct 100,000 sessions a day, which, he says, is not a large number. “We are preparing ourselves by strengthening our core process. To succeed in the long run, there has to be a differentiator which should not be replicable easily,” he says.

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)

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