Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel – Socrates
For most graduates in India, however, the yearning for professional learning comes to an end after college education. One main reason cited for this is the hard, time-consuming and relatively boring nature of the existing skill training programmes. Wharton School graduates –Indranil Sarkar and Anant Gupta – thought of this as an opportunity to create an innovative platform where learning can be fun.
The duo came up with – nhance – a personalised mobile learning platform which transforms learning content into interactive games. Launched in 2015, the company is headquartered in Singapore and India and has a team of eight. The core team also includes Amit Arora, an experienced technology professional, and Varun Dutt, a recent INSEAD graduate.
The founders also raised a seed round of $300K funding early this year (in Q1, 2016). The investment was led by education entrepreneur and investor, Mohan Lakhamraju. He is the Vice Chairman of Great Lakes Institute of Management and was Ex-MD at Tiger Global Management, a global investment firm.
Addictive Gaming Combined With Every Day Learning
According to Indranil, games can be highly addictive even for adults (some recent examples can be Candy Crush, Pokemon Go, Sudoku, and more). Also, educational games have been used quite effectively in the past. “We combined gaming with everyday learning. This enables professionals to learn a little every day and make learning a continuous daily habit,” he added.
The application has a global appeal and is targetting working professionals from emerging markets – majorly India, Africa, and South East Asia. Today, it focuses on business skills essential to early career professionals including finance, marketing, and analytics, as well as general management skills such as interview & career tips.
It leverages research-backed retrieval-based learning methods to help users learn through application. The content is broken down into bite-sized interactive lessons followed by the training games.
“The games help people apply their learning in an engaging way, while the effectiveness comes from the application of scientific learning principles through a three stage process: Learn, Practice and Reflect (feedback)”, said Indranil.
One can also access the game modules in offline mode once downloaded to the smartphone. This helps the users utilise their pockets of idle time (for instance, traffic jam, long travel time, etc.) more productively within their daily routine.
Monetisation and Current Traction
The application is currently available for free. The founders plan to further monetise in two ways – by providing interactive learning solutions to content owners & learning platforms and by delivering paid modular learning in collaboration with partners on their platform for advanced/ specialised content.
To date, nhance’s beta Android app has garnered over 10K downloads, and 150+ reviews with an average rating of 4.5. There are more than 200 games available on the app such as situation-based games, categorisation, sorting, comparing different pictures, and more.
It has collaborated with professors from leading business schools like Wharton & London Business School, industry experts with experience at institutions like Accenture, Amazon, Citibank, Bain & Co., IBM and Standard Chartered. It has also partnered with digital learning platforms like Great Lakes E-learning, work-readiness platforms like Talerang.
Challenges, Competition, and Road Ahead
According to Indranil, building a high-quality team with a global outlook in India can be challenging. Having said that, he has found the quality of talent and desire to succeed amongst Indian working professionals to be high.
When talking about market competition, Indranil said, “We are differentiated in our approach as we have used existing and established scientific principles of adult learning and translated them into a game-based learning platform. What really helped is that we could reimagine how professional learning should happen in today’s kind of mobile-first world.”
They were also one of the 12 startups accepted to the India Education 2016 programme developed by Village Capital, a global venture development organisation.
In the near future, nhance aims to launch advanced content for professionals interested in learning an advanced business and general management skills covering areas like Digital Marketing, Corporate Finance, Sales etc. Also, they continue to seek partnerships with leading content publishers looking to reach more adult learners in emerging markets.
The edtech space in India is currently crowded with K-12 and competitive exam preparation portals. There are a few who are engaged in corporate training such as SkillSoft, and Mind Tools. But considering the amount of stress, late working hours and deadline pressures, it becomes almost impossible for a working professional to cope with the depth of these courses. To learn while having fun playing games is an interesting concept, however, how far users can reach with high difficulty levels would mark the usefulness and simplicity of concepts taught by the app.
Further, the global mobile learning revenues are projected to reach $14.5 Bn by 2019, with Asia alone contributing $7.7 Bn. With 65% young population, this will open doors to a ‘yet to explore’ niche of professionals training in India, as we move towards a mobile-first and mobile-only economy.