Onkar Prasad at a municipal school in Giridih, Jharkhand Image: Manob Chowdhury for Forbes India
For over two years now, schools in Giridih district in Jharkhand have been seeing increased teacher attendance and proper midday meals being served. All thanks to EmpowerU, a technology platform that keeps a check on government school conditions, tracks and brings real-time data from the schools without use of the internet, analyses it to detect critical issues, and accordingly recommends smart actions to administrators.
The headmaster of each school marks the attendance of students using the mobile app, and all leave taken by teachers and students is tracked. The school also has to give an update about the midday meal scheme and sanitation facilities. The information collected is checked by a cluster resource coordinator who is in charge of monitoring about 15-20 schools. The information eventually goes to the deputy commissioner to fix the problems.
“There has been an increase in teacher attendance from 58 percent to more than 86 percent, increase in midday meal serving to more than 90 percent through real-time analysis of funds and grains provided and students served, and improved infrastructure and basic facilities through intelligent issue detection and grievance redressal,” says IIT Kanpur alumnus Onkar Prasad who started Promorph Solutions in 2015 to change the way government schools function in India. “Our motto is to improve education by leveraging technology and analytics,” says Prasad.
The bootstrapped company raised funds through the Invent programme of the UK government, Villgro Innovation Foundation, Technology Development Board, SIIC IIT Kanpur, and is supported by Social Alpha (Tata Trusts). The company, headquartered at the Sidbi Innovation & Incubation Center (SIIC), IIT Kanpur, was bootstrapped with about ₹30 lakh and has received seed funding of ₹50 lakh.
Promorph works on Software as a Service model. “We’re doing real-time monitoring and evaluation of government schools on daily basis and the application runs without internet,” says Prasad. “Currently we’re working with the governments of Jharkhand and Odisha, and 1,500 schools in Jharkhand and 2,000 schools in Odisha are using this app.”
All the schools have also been geo-tagged and geo-mapped. “It was necessary to ensure that we’re getting accurate information from the headmaster, so to avoid any discrepancies we collected the data of each school and mapped it,” says Prasad.
For its services, the Kanpur-based startup is getting revenues from the government—it charges a fee of ₹150-250 per month per school. “We’re planning to work with the government of UP, Bihar, Goa and Karnataka in future. We’re also working on a project with a chain of private schools. Besides providing data, the plan is also to provide consulting in the future,” says Prasad adding that they are looking to impact 5 million students in the next two years.