Anyone who has spent some years in the Indian education system has benefited from the affordable and accessible textbooks and guides published by S. Chand.
With over 12,000 titles in the school and education category published last year and over 50 Mn books sold, the publishing arm of S. Chand Group is a major force in the Indian textbook market. Founded by Shyamlal Gupta, it has become a household name and most students would be familiar with the brand and the pedigree. But does that guarantee success for S. Chand in the bustling edtech market?
Chand’s multipronged edtech approach is fairly new and naturally there are many questions — why did a leading Indian educational publisher enter the digital education space and how it will compete against heavily-funded, tech-centric startups.
Speaking to Inc42, Vinay Sharma, business head of digital services at S. Chand, said it is a natural transition. As a content company, the logical move was to go from providing content in physical media to multimedia in the digital space, which is fast becoming more prevalent among users in the current times.
“We have created decades of expertise and understanding of the Indian education sector. We have top quality content, and a huge distribution network along with an incredible brand that is recognised for its high-quality educational content. We want to leverage these strengths to transition from only being a publishing leader to a complete content services leader,” Sharma added.
Chand currently has three digital products including a hybrid school education solution Mylestone, student-focused learning application Learnflix, and pre-school centric solution SmartK (yet to be launched). And beyond this, the company has invested in edtech startups at various stages and across segments. Its portfolio includes multiple edtech startups including test prep startup Testbook, Ignitor, Flipclass, and Smartivity Labs. According to Sharma, Ignitor has built its expertise in creating platforms that can deliver various content formats and assessments on mobile devices, S. Chand’s Learnflix app has even leveraged Ignitor’s platform to offer its content digitally.
Chand is targeting schools and students with its edtech products and is also looking at at-home learning kits, similar to Smartitivity Labs.
Mylestone: Digital Offering For Schools
Launched in 2016, S. Chand’s Mylestone platform is a hybrid curriculum solution for schools which includes textbooks, workbooks, digital content, teacher training manuals and assessment tools — essentially everything that school needs to offer remote education. The product is focused on serving schools in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities where the company provides them with complete process, tools, and teacher training and support to ensure they are able to deliver quality education and achieve the right learning outcomes.
Post Covid-19, Mylestone has also been integrated with video conferencing facility and school curriculum, textbooks and guides, teacher schedule and training have been brought online. Also, the company’s in-house academic consultant team which supports clients in the implementation of the curriculum has created new lesson plans and are working with teachers to help them conduct online classes.
“This was a huge step-up from our hybrid curriculum to a completely online curriculum —- this is something which we would have done in a year’s time, but thanks to covid-19 we were able to do it in a month’s time,” said Sharma.
Mylestone is currently working with 400 schools, 6K teachers, and 1.5 Lakh students. Further, depending on the grade, Mylestone is priced at between INR 1400 – INR 4000 per student, and the school has to pay INR 1 Lakh for curriculum implementation and teacher training that the S. Chand’s inhouse team provides.
Learnflix: Digital Offering For Students
The second part of the equation is the Learnflix app, which offers maths and science learning modules based on CBSE syllabus for students in classes 6 to 10. Some of the features of Learnflix include unlimited practice tests, animated videos, quizzes, revision notes/summaries, sample papers, in-depth focused and actionable analysis, ebooks, personalised learning journey, and remedies to master development areas.
Targeted at school students, Learnflix is currently priced at INR 1,999 per class per year (for classes 6 – 8) and INR 2,499 per class per year (for classes 9 – 10). S. Chand has positioned Learnflix as an affordable digital education product, in line with the brand’s legacy of offering affordable books.
“It has always been our vision to provide quality education at an affordable price. Even back in 1939, S. Chand started with a vision to provide Indian author books to students at a very affordable price. Keeping up with that trend, we have priced Learnflix at one-tenth of our competitors’ (like BYJU’S and Toppr) products,” said Sharma.
The third vertical within the S. Chand edtech play is SmartK, a pre-school in a box concept including interactive educational toys, curriculum, multimedia content, teacher manual, tablet PC and a soon to be launched mobile app. It is a balanced games and activity-based program which provides a stimulating environment for the language, intellectual, social-emotional and physical development of the child.
Strategic Partnerships For The Future
Talking about future plans, Sharma said that the company’s plan has always been to offer an end-to-end education solution to its customers whether it is school, teacher, or student. “We will make sure that we’re providing them our content and education product across various formats like books, ebooks, mobile apps along with all content types including written, multimedia, assessments etc,” he added.
Many are expecting the education sector to move towards a hybrid model where students will have a combination of offline and online interactions — new models will come up as hybrid learning gains adoption. For S. Chand, the investments it has made in edtech platforms are seen as synergies. S. Chand has plans to launch a digital product in the test prep segment. Given the group’s existing market share in test prep books and investments in Testbook, this launch is expected to happen soon, he added.
S. Chand & Company had invested in the Pre-Series A funding round of Testbook in 2016. Further, the company had also invested about $3 Mn in educational toys company Smartivity Labs and holds 23.29% shares in it on a fully diluted basis. Smartivity Labs specialises in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) educational DIY toys, augmented reality-enabled activities, and internet-connected toys. Such educational toys are also a major part of S. Chand’s pre-school product SmartK.
Chand says it supports its portfolio through strategic tie-ups like bundling Testbook’s online test prep offerings with S. Chand’s R. S Aggarwal series of textbooks. Expanding on this partnership, Testbook cofounder Ashutosh Kumar said that S. Chand has been instrumental in taking the startup’s brand and name to remote corners of India through the textbooks.
“We bundled Testbook Pass subscriptions to more than 2.5 Mn books of a renowned author R.S Aggarwal (under S. Chand publication). With majority of our users coming from smaller towns of India where it was very difficult to reach audiences through digital channels but this strategy worked pretty well,” Testbook cofounder Kumar added.
Started in 1939, S. Chand has seen over 80 years of transformation and shifts in the Indian education system, and it’s taking its time spreading the edtech empire, even as it balances its core business with a pan-India distribution and sales network consisting of over 5K distributors and dealers. To make the change to digital, it’s taking the smart approach of looking for partners. “We do have synergies with the investee companies, we help them with our strength and we also leverage their strengths,” said Sharma.