Sumeet Verma, CEO & Co founder, KopyKitab.
TheNFAPost Podcast

With an aim to make education more affordable and accessible to all, KopyKitab was founded by Sumeet Verma and Amit Shrivastava in 2013. The Bengaluru-based Edtech startup uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning programmes to help track users’ consumption patterns.

In an exclusive with the NFAPost, KopyKitab CEO and Co-founder Sumeet Verma shares the startup’s journey, funding and how this pandemic has changed the edtech and growth opportunities in the sector.

It’s been more than seven years since you started KopyKitab. Can you explain the journey and initial struggles that you had to face as a startup?

Sumeet Verma: At our time, quality educational experiences weren’t available to all and the industry was yet to go through technological disruption, and students from small towns had very limited access as compared to our peers in metros.

The struggle to procure higher education textbooks, tutorials and notes for students living in tier II and tier III towns was real, and two decades later, not much has changed. We personally understood the pain from our own experience as both the Co-founders have grown up in small towns and belong to same alma mater, Sainik School, Rewa.

There are 40 million students in colleges who spend $40 billion yearly on their education content and tutorials. We saw it as a market opportunity and came up with KopyKitab to help students manage their full learning life cycle. The idea of this virtual learning platform that facilitates on-the-go was to democratise learning stems from problems of accessibility that we faced growing up in India’s obscure towns.

What role does KopyKitab play in students’ educational journey?

Today, KopyKitab covers 8% of the addressable market, a personalised virtual learning platform for higher education students that is helping and providing them education content and tutorials to achieve their goal of landing a good career.
KopyKitab ensures right relevancy supported by technology platform with learning suites, comprising e-books, notes, course videos, practice tests, coaching in bite-sized format that helps students access highly customised and relevant bundles of learning materials.

We basically support their entire learning lifecycle from school to college to competitive exams. It is provided by live tutorials by the faculty from top Institutions across India to ensure very high quality engagement. With its ability to understand the needs of students, KopyKitab has been able to position itself as a market leader in the higher education vertical.

Are you witnessing any trends during this Covid-19 lockdown?

Due to the current pandemic, many students are looking for technology driven, flexible and convenient options for themselves and these factors are gradually making the prospect of higher education online more appealing for students and professionals.

Some of the trends that we have noticed:

  • Though we made many study materials free of cost with our #Gharbethepadho campaign, we saw that many students are not shying away from paying for more premium content according to their requirements.
  • We saw massive growth since the lockdown. Students at undergraduate level have boosted KopyKitab’s revenue by 30-35%.
  • We are also seeing leading coaching classes opting for video conferencing tools to continue education of their enrolled students.
  • Over time, there has been an ease among students, teachers and parents to embrace online education. Just like businesses, students also had to adopt virtual classrooms without much preparation, but if data and our traction numbers are anything to go by, we have witnessed 6 times more traffic and 3.5X growth on app downloads and 24.4 minutes of average reading time/ session, which showcases that they have adopted online education quite well.

With this new normal, what kind of scope or growth you are seeing for the Edtech startup in general and KopyKitab in particular?

The Corona outbreak has shaken many business sectors to its core. Some had to bear a tough brunt because there was no time to innovate. However, edtech being tech enabled was able to turn this whole situation on its head quite quickly as our platforms are built to scale. An additional benefit that emerged was that the government and stakeholders of the education system appreciated the fact that it is time to give the Indian education sector a tech boost. The government’s support to make online education mainstream is giving fillip to the entire industry.

This pandemic will change the fundamental ways in which we consume many services like healthcare, media and education to name a few. We believe that going forward, digital will have to be the main vertical for all education verticals, moreover, colleges/institutes and schools will be at the forefront of adapting to this change. We have already seen the changes and consumption of digital content in education is rising rapidly. This in turn will impact the education sector in a big way as it will open up access to education for students in the tier 2 and 3 towns.

We have seen the hunger for growth and learning is more in students from small towns, while the metros have good colleges, schools, tutorials and high bandwidth, but accessibility and affordability are limited in tier II and tier III cities, that’s where KopyKitab is creating an impact. We have witnessed a massive growth with 68% of the traffic coming from tier II and tier III cities. With our most critical and latest technology in the current Covid-19 pandemic, which is Peer-to-Peer learning with a systematic learning options and video connectivity, has created a highly optimised beneficial learning environment for students. The growth is expected to rise more with the increased use of technology.

What about the new users in these 4 months period alone?

We have seen a 75% jump in users on our site and 200% jump in mobile app downloads. Our MAU and paid users have grown 3x with 82% repeat traffic, making us one of the most successful edtech startups in the country. Our content is curated and published in seven languages, which has helped us reach students with diverse background and also contributed in acquiring customer loyalty as they continue to come back to the platform. We aim to address the underserved market of higher education and reach our target to amass around 10 million users by the year end. With our high- growth phase we are on ARR of Rs 12 crore.

How many students are making use of the platform at present and how many have benefited so far?

With over 6 million app downloads and 5 million registered users, KopyKitab has certainly found resonance with students from diverse background. With 7 languages – Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Sanskrit and Urdu — besides English and Hindi, KopyKitab caters to all age groups from school students to college or competitive exam aspirants and provides them curated and relevant content, supported by coaches.

About 82% of users return to KopyKitab consistently. We are delivering new form of learning architecture to students and trying to make the learning experience an interactive and enriching one for them. Students are getting more comfortable in using our edtech services and virtual connectivity. KopyKitab’s focus is to benefit those from small towns and we have received feedback from tutors and students that the services provided by us have specially helped students preparing for medical and engineering exams, as going to physical coaching or libraries remain a suspended activity. KopyKitab provides more than 5,00,000 resources, curated to specific requirements and courses.

There are many players in the education space. How unique do you aim to be, going forward?

With the K-12 segment in India heating up with major players like BYJU’s, Toppr, Vedantu, Doubtnut, and many more, KopyKitab is chasing the higher education and competitive exams segment. We believe that we have created a niche for ourselves due to our content acquisition and distribution, and mobile-first strategy, and have managed to recreate an offline studying experience for students online, at a much lower cost. Our focus areas are higher education and competitive exams but we have a strong hold even in school and college education space.

How this model works for students?

Increased internet access across the country has made this portal a go-to choice for over 45 lakh students already. Students can first check out content and material for free and then further opt only for what they require. Students may choose to subscribe whole bundle for unlimited usage to pick a piece of their need and relevancy.

The KopyKitab e-reader app can be downloaded for free, and then one can access the content on our platform. We have also roped in teachers who will be available to take online classes, solve doubts for students who opt for a package that includes study materials and a mentor. The free sessions began during the lockdown and we’ve got a great response. We are targeting the higher education sector specifically, as not many edtech platforms are currently focusing on.

What about funding? Are you planning to raise in the coming months?

In 2018, KopyKitab raised funding from ECF, a Rs 100 crore fund registered under the SEBI. The fund’s marquee investors include Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and Gray Matters Capital, both US-based international investors in the education sector. We have also raised about $2 million from Pactolus Singapore, and well-known angels including Praveen Gandhi, Paula Mariwala (Stanford Angels), Mohit Dubey (Carwale), Satyen Kothari (Citrus Pay), and others.

We are currently closing a round with our existing investors and would be looking to raise Series A later this year.

Tell us more about the prevailing regulatory environment and what entrepreneurs are expecting from the government to improve the business?

Entrepreneurs need support from regulators during this pandemic. There should be an ease in operating, be it tax regulators (due to no incomes it should be relaxed for next 24 months) or compliance regulators for startups-ROC, GST and IT.

Entrepreneurs are also expecting financial support, in terms of loans – to make process faster for their companies. Funding process for domestic investors should be made much easier, and the government should encourage domestic capital inflow. Further, there should be more support for staff like PF and ESIC, as many western companies have already done, so there would be no job losses.

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