As schools and colleges are forced to go digital amid the pandemic and the lockdown, technology has become an essential for students and educators. While edtech platforms have tried to simplify the adoption journey to a great extent, the gaps in the online learning space such as the digital divide, training teachers, and adapting existing curriculums for online learning environments may prove too much for many schools.
Plus, there are multiple tools solving these pieces of the larger education puzzle. And schools not only have to pay for each separately, but their data streams are often not interoperable and these applications don’t talk to each other to make things easy. This eventually limits the kind of insights students and academia get and may hamper the efficacy of online learning.
Ken42 has been built to fill this exact gap and bring varied services under one dashboard to streamline data. Founder Ganesh Raju told Inc42 the platform was built to meet the demand of educational institutes through a comprehensive suite to manage their end-to-end needs. Ken42’s touch points start at the student acquisition and carry on to the admission process, scheduling of classes, faculty roster management, learning materials for shared learning, job placements and even alumni management.
In fact, Ken42 combines different startups from the InnovationQore Turbostart accelerator programme, which is also led by Raju. The company does not intend to build each feature and capability on its platform rather it is envisioned to be a modular marketplace-like platform or a suite of SaaS applications that makes more economic and technological sense for educational institutions.
“The vision is to be a gatekeeper to educational institutes, in the sense that any new offering that comes to the market will have to necessarily go through Ken42. And depending on whatever improvisation that happens in this field, we can also add or remove features from the platform,” the founder added.
Ken42 is looking to differentiate itself in the crowded edtech market through the fact that it is sort of a super app for every stakeholder including student, faculty, owners, administrators and the parents to keep track of the concerned processes at the institution.
For instance, a college administrator with multiple facilities or buildings under their wing can keep a tab on all new admissions, the total fees collected and other details. Similarly, educators can check the number of students that have signed up for their classes, weekly or monthly lecture schedules, and monitor progress. Teachers can also share course-related content and personalised assignments with students.
Given the modular approach, institutes can pick and choose the features or capabilities as per their needs or budget. And it will also enable them to add on new features as and when they need. The range of capabilities include marketing tools, admissions management systems, university management systems, learning management systems, placement tools, internship monitoring and even ecommerce tools.
The Six Services That Form Ken42
Ken42’s complete outreach programme is built on HEDA (Higher Education Development Architecture), which is offered by its technology partner Salesforce. Further, the company’s ecommerce bookstore is provided by a startup called D-bookstore. InnovationQore Turbostart had initially invested about 20% in the company and Ken42 later acquired 60% stake in the entity, to hold 80% of D-bookstore.
D-bookstore is a content management company that hosts all digital content for colleges and also allows professors to upload customised content for consumption by any student accessing the platform.
“Suppose a particular professor is very good in a particular subject and students from other colleges want to access their teaching notes. Well, they can buy that particular material or book on this platform,” said Raju. D-bookstore is already working with 85 engineering colleges in Karnataka alone and Ken42 claims to be in talks with reputed global publishers to bring their content onboard.
Then comes the placement automation software built by Placements365. This startup uses an AI algorithm to ease the recruitment process for both students and placement managers. It has features such as algorithm-based profile matching, résumé generator, placement-related resources.
Next is QuizNext which helps students to learn math and science concepts in an interesting and engaging manner. Comparing it to BYJU’S, Raju said that while BYJU’S is more about knowledge consumption, QuizNext allows students to practice what they’ve learned through Ken42. It’s more of a revision product and helps students catch-up to what they have learnt.
The fifth startup integrated into Ken42 is NuLurn, which is focused on commerce students. It helps them to prepare for entrance tests and exams for chartered accountant (CA), company secretary (CS), certified public accountant (CPA) and other positions.
And finally, there’s an undisclosed entity that is an exam prep and monitoring platform, which Ken42 is in the process of signing up and hence cannot name. Raju noted that online proctored exams have become a very important tool in the lockdown and in the future with the Covid-19 pandemic making large-scale tests unfeasible in many cities. So Ken42 felt it’s a must-have for most educational institutions.
20K Students Onboarded
In addition to these six major services, Ken42 also offers optional features such as financing assistance for students, which parents can avail by filling in a loan request. It has also integrated other features where students can pay as per their capabilities. This includes certification and skilling courses from various MOOC platforms. Students can access such courses depending on their pursuits and they are claimed to be offered at a slightly lower price as compared to directly buying from the platform.
These over-the-top services also act as a second revenue stream for Ken42. The primary source of revenue, however, remains the subscription fee paid by universities to integrate the platform. Ken42 charges universities per student basis for each year depending on which capabilities and features are selected by them.
Since its inception in October 2019, Ken42 has brought five educational institutes on board, which includes three colleges and two schools, for a total of 20K students. By September 2020, Raju projects 15 education institutional partners and at least 1 Lakh students, with a target of 5 Lakh by March 2021.
The company recently appointed Sasi Kumar Sundararajan as an advisor in the company. In his career of 23 years, Sundararajan has worked with PwC, Deloitte and EY as practice leader working in growth, investments, technology and capacity building in India, South Asia and the Middle East. He is expected to play a key role in helping Ken42 reach more partners and institutions.
For the coming academic year, most of the institutions apart from the reputed ones will have to deal with pressure on their cash flows and there are already protests from students over having to spend for edtech products and services and pay the same fees. But Raju believes that a platform like Ken42 will become a must for most institutions to manage their operations digitally and survive, which should be the primary consideration.
Before Covid-19, most colleges would have visited schools to solicit students, organised offline events, students would have walked into the college to file applications —- but now all of this has to go digitally. So a lot of the universities are facing problems and they have to invest in technology to stay afloat.
“While there is pressure on cash flows, they don’t have choice but to use technology. So it’s no longer just a discretionary spend for them. They have to spend.”
Correction Note | 18:02, July 21, 2020
An earlier version of the article mentioned that the average cost for onboarding one student for a year on Ken42 can be anywhere between INR 1000 and INR 2000 depending on which capabilities and features are selected. However, Ken42 later clarified that earlier shared numbers are only indicative.