Rajiv is based out of Delhi-NCR and writes stories on startups, corporates, entrepreneurs of all kinds, and yes, marketing and advertising world. His ‘historic feats’ include graduation in history from Hansraj College, master's in medieval Indian history from Delhi University, and PG diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Another forgettable achievement was spending over a decade at The Economic Times as his maiden job. For the first seven years, he learnt the craft on the desk, and the remaining years were spent unlearning and writing for Brand Equity and ET Magazine. What keeps him going, and alive, apart from stories is the heavenly music of immortal legend RD Burman.
When Rohit Jain, co-founder of Ufaber started the ed-tech startup in 2014 along with Anirudh Swarnkar in Mumbai, he faced two challenges. The first was on the demand side: Lack of trust for online education and patchy internet connectivity. The second was getting good trainers and making them work consistently from home. Jain thought of something unique: Roping in women. “Hundred percent of our trainers are women,” he claims. Though initially it was quite difficult to get the women to take eMaester—teacher training certification programme—things became easy after the success stories of over 2,000 trainers. “Now we get over 100 applications every day,” says Jain. Over the next five years, Ufaber plans to create an army of over 50,000 trainers, he tells Forbes India in an interview. Edited excerpts:
Q. You started in 2014. How has the growth been over the last four years? We have enrolled more than 10 lakh registered learners, over 30,000 paid customers and 1,200 trainers. Ufaber has been growing 2x every year for the last three years, and this year we are doing 3x to reach about Rs20 crore in revenue by March 2020. And this is the sustainable, profitable growth without any major funding. We just raised seed funding of Rs3 crore from friends and family.
Q. What’s driving the growth? English language courses have been a major reason for growth as they contribute over 45 percent to our revenue. Take, for instance, one of our offerings called Fluent Life. Lack of English fluency proves to be a barrier to personal as well as professional development. At Fluent Life, Ufaber offers trainer-led, English fluency courses that shape your English language for whatever goal you may have, be it for Business English or interview preparation. A good 50 percent of our students come from Tier II towns, thanks to 4G and internet penetration. We realised from the beginning that tech alone won’t solve the problem.
Q. Is technology alone a solution or a mix of human intelligence and machine is a better option? An element of human intervention—hyper-personalised learning through a personal trainer—in the learning process would ensure higher result accuracy and learning consistency coupled with the design thinking approach to the learning process. Today, Ufaber provides hyper-personalised affordable education across domains such as IELTS (International English Language Testing System), UPSC, GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) and English communication along with skill development programmes for students from nine years and above
Q. You reckon that hyper personalisation is the future of learning? It’s the future of learning more effectively. Every learner has different pace of learning and different starting and end points. They have different level of exposure, interest and commitment level. Hyper personalisation means having a customised learning path for every learner and continuously updating it based on the progress of the learner. This is where a personal trainer is required. The teaching pace, time, content and even evaluation method is personalised to each learner. So essentially personalising each aspect of the learning process for each learner is what we call hyper personalised learning and we have the best machine (amazing quality human trainer) to do it. We started with phone classes and then moved to video classes and developed a lot of technology and content to make the job easier for the trainer. For the student, the one thing that changed the game was offering free trial class and giving them the free experience of how our method is better than the others.
Q. You focussed on training the trainer… The tough question for us was ‘How do we teach a teacher to be passionate?’ While the issue was a challenge, the solution was simple: Find passionate people and make them subject matter experts. And as it has turned out, most of the passionate individuals and future trainers happen to be women, who braved out of their careers to do more for their family. Emaester enabled them to become a qualified online language trainer by equipping them with the skills required to teach business communication as well as skills needed for personality development. The Ufaber team constantly monitors the quality of the online sessions between the student and the certified trainer.