My venture is a WhatsApp for parents and teachers’
Chander Prakash Garg calls his venture, Educhat, the WhatsApp for parents and teachers. Like WhatsApp, it is a simple chat platform, but restricted to parents and teachers. Like WhatsApp, it has negligible sales and marketing expenses. It does not have a single sales person on the field and headcount is mostly restricted to product development.
Yet it has seen significant adoption. The Bengaluru-based startup has more than 4,000 schools and 2.5 million parents using the platform, sending more than 5 million messages every month. Each school is a separate closed user chat group.
What else does it do?
“Nothing else,” says Garg, non-plussed. No bells and whistles, a la WhatsApp. The schools that have taken to the app are mostly private English medium urban schools like Delhi Public School, Don Bosco, and St Xavier’s.
“In parenting and education, word of mouth and references are better than sales and marketing,” says Garg. Educhat started as a web-based platform. Mid last year, it launched a mobile app that has now more than 65,000 downloads. Garg hopes to reach around 50,000 schools in another two years.
Garg says that while there were innovations happening in the business-to-business education space, consumer apps were almost non-existent. His platform is used for passing on messages about attendance, report cards, fees, activities, etc on a regular basis.
Garg ‘s father is a headmaster in his hometown, Sri Ganganagar, a prosperous agricultural town bordering Pakistan in north Rajasthan. That appears to have influenced Garg. He did well at school and got into IIT Guwahati for a degree in computer science. He graduated in 2007, and later worked at online tutoring company Tutor Vista.
In 2011, Garg founded Global Shiksha, the company that went on to develop Educhat. He reached out to venture capital firm Accel Partners through references and received funding even before launching the venture.
Global Shiksha began as an education supplement products company, giving out information CDs, online tuition, etc.
The company nearly reached profitability, but then Garg saw the space getting commoditized and decided to move on to solve another problem. He found that other than the occasional parent-teacher meetings in schools, there were hardly any interactions between parents and teachers. And teachers did not want to share their phone numbers with hundreds of parents. That prompted the pivot to Educhat.
Educhat does not make money now; growth and user engagement is the focus. But Garg notes that there are several potential revenue sources — selling supplementary education material, advertising and may be even a payment gateway for school fees. “Our cash-burn rate is low and we don’t need much money,” he says.
Were there tough calls and challenges? “Entrepreneurship is all about ups and downs. You should have belief in yourself and have processes to overcome all that,” says Garg. After the company pivoted, the new product was up and running in four months. “You have to be quick when you pivot. You should know your customer inside out and be clear about the new product you are going to build,” he says.