There is a great demand of English language in India. According to a rough estimate, around only 10 per cent of the 130 million population can communicate in this language and also use it as a lingua franca in the country.
Experts explain the reason behind the penchant for English in the country and say that it is related to the sense of being an elite. There is a notion that if you know this language, you automatically join the elite and intellectual club as well as it opens a plethora of job opportunities.
The experts, however, feel that even though there is a great liking for the language and everybody wants to communicate in it, 10 per cent is an overestimation. They say that there is a huge lack of proficiency among the people who can speak in this language.
Arshan Vakil, Founder and CEO, Kings Learning noticed a similar gap while working as a product manager at an ecommerce startup and running a mentorship initiative for underserved youth.
“Though English is the language of business in India yet there is a lack of access to quality training. There are aspirants for high demanding sectors such as retail and hotels, but they lack the command over the language, which hampers their growth,” said Vakil.
He added that with this problem in mind, he founded Kings Learning, an ed-tech startup aimed at providing English language training through innovative technology-based products.
Enguru is a self learning English language and communication skill application by Kings Learning. The app course is split into short 10-12 minute modules. Each module consist of a lesson and conversation or comprehension. Lessons comprise of a variety of questions including image, text, audio and speech questions coupled with an adaptive algorithm. Conversations are industry specific stories which users play and practice.
The platform currently offers a general English course for free. It also has paid courses for retail, hospitality, and BPOs, among others. Each paid course has a blended option wherein users can connect with teachers qualified from Cambridge via live video through the platform itself. The paid courses also include a final assessment and certificate.
Other Products include Enguru for Enterprise App, Enguru Talk, and Physical Learning Centres
“Our flagship app has over 10 million downloads with approximately 90 per cent in India and the rest across Asia. Last year, we raised $2.5 million led by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Village Capital and Weihua Yan,” said Vakil.
He added that the technology runs at the center of the platform. Primary functionality of the Enguru app works completely offline. It has built a separate app for JioPhone and is also the first and only education app available on this device.
There are two primary revenue streams which can be split into B2B—English and communication skills training programs for enterprises, and B2C—Premium courses and live classes.
“Currently, our B2B programs account for majority of our revenue. These programs are run with clients ranging from NGOs and Foundations to large corporates like the Tata Group. All these programs are built around our second app – Enguru for Enterprises and have a varying degree of teacher contact as well,” said Vakil.
He added that his aim is to scale up its enterprise programs in the coming months. Apart from generating revenue, this serves as a brand building exercise for the certificate courses. The programs with institutes help build brand recall with job seekers.
The platform has already been observing a rapid expansion of users. It claims to have over 1.5 million new users every month.
Besides, it is running 3 pilots with government schools in Harayana, Karanataka, and Rajasthan—its first foray into the K-12 space.
Combating odd challenges
The platform has been able to reach the stage fighting challenges such as completion rates and engagement, which are difficult to sustain.
Besides, other issues it faces are convincing enterprises that online learning can be very effective and getting them to agree to pay for it. “The concept of free pilots is all too common in the edtech space but over time as everyone sees the positive learning outcomes we believe the industry will be able to move away this,” said Vakil.
On the student side, there is a very common issue is retention.
Besides, there are some other platforms which are offering similar service in the country such as Jaipur-based Hello English App and Duo Lingo.
Vakil feels that the competitors, through their offerings, are contributing in the upliftment of the edtech segment rather than posing a serious challenge. “I believe that various startups are trying to change education through different means. As of now, It is one of the most important sectors which has not quite leveraged technology as much as it can. There have been a couple of major success stories but there is still a long way to go. I already believe edtech is a powerful sector in the Indian startup ecosystem and I think the best is yet to come.”