While on our six-city tour of the Tier 2 startup ecosystem with BIGShift, we discovered several promising startups. This series will cover some of the most innovative startups. The second profile is of Teacherr which has taken an initiative to help the educator community by providing them with a platform to share knowledge, attend workshops, find jobs and more.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to call educators the backbone of the economy. Without the right guidance and mentoring from an early age, individuals are unlikely to get motivated to innovate, question the status quo and solve problems.
And while technology has helped create virtual teachers through online learning and edutainment, what is needed is a solution that would help teachers and educators stay updated about the latest in teaching techniques, modules and new-age skills.
There are very few solutions that actually help the educator community directly, as most edtech solutions focus on the learners. This means the student-teacher ratio in India is woeful. At 24 students for each teacher, India lags behind Brazil and China who have ratios 19:1.
According to the data recorded by the government, India has vacancies for over 10 lakh teachers, but the qualification criteria often exclude a host of applicants. This data also reveals that educational institutions end up using the same educator for different subjects, regardless of the expertise.
With these systemic issues in mind, it was clear to Varun Beluguppa and Harsha Teja that something needed to be done. They learnt from their school principal the need to create a digital and global educator community. Joining them was former colleague Sonu Sharma, and that’s where the story of Teacherr begins.
The trio hit the road and visited over 150 schools to identify the most common problems for teachers and institutions when it comes to hiring, retention, engagement and skilling.
During their talks, they realised a lot of common problems amongst them all, “Schools and institutions were still posting ads in newspapers and it wasn’t fetching them the returns that they expected. Very few candidates turned up after looking at the ads. And the existing consultancies they took the help of used to charge very high,” Belugappa told Inc42 in a recent interaction.
Launched in June 2019, Teacherr is one of the only platforms in India where teachers across the country can connect and build a community based around the essentials for teachers and educators. Besides connecting with institutions and with each other, teachers can share tips, resources, find and seek opportunities, attend professional development sessions and workshops, and get exposure to new ideas and knowledge.
Solving The Problems For Educators, One Step At A Time
Starting with a small website that had job listings and vacancies for educators, Teacherr grew rapidly as more and more applications started coming in and visitors filled the site. While it was able to get schools to tell them what vacancies it had, the one problem was finding the right candidate. Even though it was getting candidates to apply, they didn’t meet the requirements of institutions.
So through an offline job fair, the founders looked to understand the hiring patterns of schools. Hosting the fair in Hyderabad, they invited more than 20 institutions and e-learning companies; over 2,500 teachers registered for the job mela and introduced Teacherr to the WhatsApp groups and communities of teachers. Building Teacherr around this concept, the trio delved deep into how online communities are created. They reached out to more teachers and were soon conducting skill development workshops for them.
All these efforts helped the startup understand and onboarding more teachers to create the Teacherr community. With their collective experience holding them in good stead, the founders brought 6K teachers to the platform in just 4 months.
Through the community approach, Teacherr is targetting four key areas — social networking, jobs, events and profile-building. Here’s what the platform offers educators:
- Home Feed: Here’s where the social networking happens — educators can connect with each other, discover videos, resources and articles, and learn content and learn from peers.
“We believe that the greatest ideas in the classroom are often restricted to the four walls. The feed page of our platform is one case where you can interact and ensure that your idea comes out,” Beluguppa added.
- Jobs: Teachers get a view of the local jobs and opportunities thanks to Teacherr’s partnership with institutions.
“What happens is that a lot of teachers do not like to work in institutions that are beyond 5 Km from their place. So we have job preferences displayed depending on the preferences, the distance, skillset and more,” the Teacherr cofounder said
- Events: Discovery of events and workshops happening nearby such as professional development sessions, training camps and more.
- Profile: Educators can build a complete profile to let others know more about themselves, just like any other social network. This helps teachers build a personal brand, post achievements, milestones and more. Through the profile, teaches can host events and invite other educators.
Additionally, Teacherr is working with a small team of academic advisors that conduct education training and workshops.
Currently, the startup claims to have helped over 90 institutions in Hyderabad with their hiring requirements, building a community of over 6K teachers and training over 1,500 teachers through workshops and skill development initiatives.
Teacherr: Growth Through Collaboration
In addition to that, it collaborated with Telangana State Innovation Cell to conduct an awards ceremony, where 16 best educators and innovators were selected and honoured. The initiative took all government as well as private schools from 33 districts of Telangana. Another partnership of the startup is with Osmania University, which has 75 different colleges in Telangana under them. With the university, Teacherr is launching Campus Ambassador programmes, which will allocate ambassadors to a region who will be responsible for building and running teacher communities within their region.
“Right now our focus is on growth because, at the end of the day, the talent solutions will work only when we have a lot of teachers on board. Currently, we have only captured 10-15% of the educator market in Hyderabad. We will be beneficial to the institutions only when we have a lot of teachers onboard and a lot of teachers are applying to their jobs,” added Belugappa.
While currently, it offers all the features and services for free apart from the workshops, from February 2020 it will charge institutions for posting a job on a freemium basis and will roll out subscriptions for educators to enhance their visibility and reach.
“With regards to the technology, we would be looking to boost scale and reach through the use of AI models and algorithms. We have a marketing strategy in place to retain users and we are ensuring that the algorithm is consistently in line with our recommendation engine. We are first testing these recommendations with the jobs listing part to enhance the experience for educators, before bringing it to our social networking feed,” the founder said.
With the aim of expanding to more cities within Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the next two quarters, it has already identified nodes within various districts to drive forward its brand, run the communities and onboard institutions. It has also established networks within cities where it plans to expand its operations.
“This is our effort to give back to the educator community. While other names in the field only focus on jobs, our aim is to help with not only jobs but networking and skill development as well.”