Business Today

Going the Distance, Cheaply

twitter-logo Goutam Das        Print Edition: Feb 3, 2013

LOCATION: Bangalore
BUSINESS: Online distance learning infrastructure
FOUNDED IN: July 2010
LED BY: Piyush Agrawal
COOL QUOTIENT: It charges far less than other such service providers, delivering online lectures remotely at super-low bandwidths

While studying for his Masters in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University in the United States in 2008, Piyush Agrawal took a close look at the institute's extensive online distance learning programme. He felt the programme could be run at a fraction of the cost it was incurring without compromising reach or quality. He told the authorities so, but Stanford was not interested in cutting costs - it was making enough money.

India was a different story. On his return, Agrawal, a Bhopal resident, found plenty of takers for low-cost online education at the Indian Institutes of Technology and other leading engineering colleges. He thus decided to start Aurus Network, initially in Bhopal in 2010, but shifted to Bangalore in mid-2012.

Aurus Network provides the tools for video creation, video management and video delivery. It does not create any content, but gives customers a 'proprietary box' programmed with its own software.

The software, compressing the feed from a high-definition camera and a microphone, sends it to servers in Singapore, Delhi and Hyderabad, from which it can be accessed by distance learners using their laptops. It already has around 25 customers, including the Academy of Commerce in Delhi and tutorial institutes such as Career Launcher and Career Point. Institutes can deliver live lectures to as many as 70 centres from a single location. It charges just Rs 10 per end point per hour - if an institute delivers lectures to four locations, there are in all five end points and Aurus earns an hourly Rs 50.

"Our solution works on a superlow bandwidth. It is designed for bandwidths from 100 kilo bits per second onwards," says Agrawal. "We have designed the video compression algorithm in such a way that it compresses the video in a format where we are able to deliver good quality at low bandwidth."

Aurus also provides a course management system using which institutes can store class schedules, lectures and videos that students can download any time they want to. "People miss classes, do not understand things," says Agrawal.

"They would want to revise by watching videos or lectures again." He believes this, too, is a key differentiator for Aurus. "Most video streaming companies do not offer a way to manage the content. We offer an analytics module as well to help institutes measure which content is proving popular," he adds.

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