Business Today

Bookless in the Classroom

E. Kumar Sharma        Print Edition: Feb 3, 2013

EDUTOR TECHNOLOGIES
LOCATION: Hyderabad
BUSINESS: Digital learning
FOUNDED IN: August 2009
LED BY: Ram Gollamudi, Co-founder and CEO
COOL QUOTIENT: An interactive solution for school students and teachers using touchscreen devices

The mechanic works on motors, the accountant has his computer. Were a school student to work on a machine or device, what should it be called? Edutor, decided the group of engineers, all alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, when they founded Edutor Technologies in August 2009.

The group wanted to enhance the learning experience in schools with an interactive digital medium that could be used within and outside the classroom. They created a solution that digitizes school textbooks and other learning material so that students no longer need to carry as many books to school and back as before, but can access study material on their touchscreen tablets. They can even take tests and submit them digitally using the same tablets, and the teachers in turn can download the tests using the company's cloud services.

"The teacher can act on the data rather than having to collect it," says Ram Gollamudi, 37, one of the cofounders of Edutor and its CEO. The company's annual subscription costs between Rs 1,500 and Rs 3,000 per student, depending on the grade she is studying at. Edutor's tablet costs Rs 6,500 for a seven-inch device and Rs 10,000 for a 10-inch one, but the data can be accessed using any other tablet as well.

How did it all begin? In 2009, Gollamudi was contemplating moving back to India from the United States, where he worked for a venture capital firm, investing in early-stage technology companies. He realised the power of touch-screen devices when his fouryear-old son was attracted to the one he used. He also noticed that the children of his relatives and friends were keen on a digital learning medium, but their parents discouraged them fearing they would spend more time on social networking sites and online games if they had free access. Gollamudi then teamed up with three friends to build a digital learning platform. The start-up was incubated at their alma mater IIT Madras, and became operational in April 2010.

Edutor learning solution is currently in use in 20 schools and coaching institutions across Hyderabad, Bangalore and Delhi, teaching about 4,000 students. "We will get to 30,000 to 40,000 students by December 2013," says Gollamudi.

The potential is huge. "Every year, 20 million children enter schools. Spread over 10 classes, there are roughly 200 million children in schools in a year, hardly any of them use this medium," says Gollamudi. "Even if 10 per cent or 20 per cent of these children start doing so, it would mean 20 million to 40 million children overall," says Gollamudi. And if Edutor gets even 10 per cent of this market, it would mean two million users, he adds.

There are challenges as well. Broadband coverage in the country is still poor, there is also lack of awareness. "It is a new space. Though people know the use of this medium for entertainment, the challenge lies in conveying to them its great potential in education," says Gollamudi.

The company expects to close the financial year 2012/13 with a revenue of Rs 5 crore. It began with seed capital of just Rs 1.5 crore, getting an additional Rs 2 crore from Hyderabad Angels, a group of angel investors, in January last year. Half the amount came from Sashi Reddi, a serial entrepreneur and the founder of AppLabs, a software testing company acquired by Computer Sciences Corporation in September 2011. Reddi acknowledges the hurdles ahead. "This is a new market that will take time to evolve," he says.

What made him invest then? "I bet on the team," he says. "That was the strongest thing about this venture. It had a committed team of founders, who initially pitched in with their own resources." He intends to invest even more though he knows it could be a long wait - "up to five years or so," he says - for the company to acquire reasonable size.

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