Globally, the education market is valued at $1.3 Tn with the EdTech products market valued at $40 Bn. Presently, more than 740 Million students use EdTech products and services while 30 Mn teachers use EdTech for $60 Bn tutorial market. India is poised to be the third-largest online market for education, with a plethora of web- and mobile-based courses and tools available currently. Research, however, predicts that even today students spend a majority of their time in preparing and arranging study material relevant to their style of learning.
Manak Gulati, and Roman Khan thought of bridging this gap and came up with the concept of an online notes-sharing portal. He officially launched Notesgen in November 2014, as a global peer-to-peer student notes exchange marketplace. Based in New Delhi, it has active users in 118 countries and has a team of seven.
The company has recently raised $100K angel funding from Riju Gupta, CEO of JuiceUp and other angel investors (Kamal Chhabra). Earlier, Manak also self-invested $25K in January 2014 and then raised a seed round of $50K in January 2015 from ex-head of engineering at Adobe India, Arvind Jha, Career Launcher CEO Satya Narayana, and Lepton Software CEO Rajeev Saraf.
The startup is advised by Sushma Gulati, Ex- Head, NCERT, Psychology; Amit Ranjan, founder of SlideShare; Naresh Gunda, Assistant Vice President & Business Head – International Business at Jabong; and Satya Narayana.
What Is Unique About Notesgen
As Manak explains, students retain information from each kind of study material such as visual, text, audio, etc. in a different manner. Studies suggest that 85% of students prefer notes, visual cues, diagrams, notes from other students, etc. to enhance their revision process.
“You might say that I have my own circle of four-five peers and I can get notes from them, but then it’s not necessary that it would serve the purpose as they may not offer you content in the way you consume it. At Notesgen, you have the option to find notes as per your conceptual learning requirement. That is where we are adding value,’’ says Manak.
Notesgen provides a web- and mobile-based (both iOS and Android) solution which allows students and teachers to share their self-prepared notes, typed notes, research materials, assignments, presentations, and case-studies. The notes can be uploaded to cloud repositories such as Google Drive, Dropbox, etc., and users can get updates on notes added by following peers or friends.
Being a marketplace model, the authors of the notes have the independence to keep their content free or charge a small fee for it.
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With its partner programme, it also helps B2C companies to target students effectively. “We ask them to add their content in files so that one is not compelled to purchase the entire package. For instance, instead of buying the complete course material for IIT-JEE from FIITJEE, one can buy study material for Physics from FIITJEE, Mathematics from Career Launcher and so on,” says Manak.
The Product Progress Track
As Manak claims, Notesgen has reported over 10 minutes per session average engagement with its mobile app, with 85% users preferring mobile over web. It currently offers content across 14 categories such as arts, commerce, engineering & tech, management, and more.
The platform recently crossed 400K+ users and offers over 30K crowdsourced notes from students, educational institutions, coaching institutes etc, globally. It has also launched a personalised notes feed, for each student based on their preferences, keywords, and field of study.
Presently, more than 70% of the target audience lies in the age group of 13 to 26 years. The returning percentage of users lies between 40% to 55%. The top content consuming geographies are India, USA, Middle-East, Africa and Australia while top-trending categories are IAS, engineering, commerce and medical.
Monetisation, Competition, And Challenges
Notesgen monetises through commission on paid downloads, targetted notifications, promoted notes and advertisements.
It currently competes directly with Course Hero, which works on a subscription-based model. However, it neither has a peer network, nor a process for content approval. Also, the content is displayed on the basis of university name only. “Notesgen differentiates on its intelligent system which can automate the content approval process in real time. It’s a first of a kind EdTech marketplace where users can earn from their hard work. A content recommendation engine based on subject preferences, areas of interest, level of study, etc. and a peer network to connect like-minded users across the globe, only adds to our advantages,” says Manak.
Other portals which are providing similar services in India are Edukart, Coursera, and Khan Academy.
On the challenges front, Manak believes that the major challenge is to create relevant content based on individual user profiles. “That’s the only key to increase the returning user percentage on the portal,” he added.
What Does The Future Hold
As Manak says, “The data bank being generated at Notesgen through sharing notes by young & bright students, intellectuals etc., around the world has the potential of converting it into a mini Wikipedia where one can download notes on any topic/subject on the click of a button.”
In the coming few months, there are plans to launch an app for Windows, create new content discovery channels, partner with more educators, leading EdTech brands, colleges, schools, etc. The existing founders have committed to pour in an extra $100k to accelerate the product roadmap and marketing. Also, Arvind Jha has joined the board to drive Notesgen to 1 Million active users by Dec 2016.
The studies conducted by various research firms revealed that in India only 10% students reach college while 90% dropout at secondary level only. With 1 Million schools and 18000 higher education institutes, this exposes the pitiful state of higher education in India and also forces us to ask a question – where do we lack?
With Internet reaching even to the remotest corners of the country, online educators are doing their bit to make a change. Also, portals like Notesgen are reducing geographical barriers and taking EdTech into the global arena, opening up more opportunities for the coming generation. Hopefully, in the near future, we could see more startups catering to niche areas in EdTech space, instead of running behind the crowded row of established business models.
Note: All the research data points are gathered from inputs by founder of Notesgen, Manak Gulati.