Toppr: Revolutionizing Learning
An innovative blend of cutting edge technology and sophisticated analytics fused with sincere grit and undying entrepreneurial spirit spews out an exceptional startup that is capable of impacting the lives of millions, and positively so. One such example is the prodigal brainchild of 2 conscientious batchmates at IITB, Mr. Zishaan Hayath, and Mr. Hemanth Goteti, who jointly conceived Toppr.com in a modest 2BHK apartment in Mumbai, 2013.
Hayath, a 2005 graduate from IIT Bombay in civil engineering, had already begun shining brilliantly while still in college. Decorated with the Institute Organizational Citation and two Institute Colors, he commenced his journey as an Assistant Manager at the multinational conglomerate company ITC. Before venturing into entrepreneurship, he also worked with the consulting firm ’Opera Solutions’ on strategy projects for Fortune 100 clients in North America, Europe, and Asia. After being bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, he quit his job and built his first company, from scratch. The phone commerce marketplace was later acquired by Future Group, the biggest name in Indian online retail.
On the other hand, Mr. Goteti, a 2004 pass out from IIT-B in aerospace engineering, acted as the head of engineering at Futurebazaar.com and a software associate with multiple companies before collaborating with Zishaan as the Principal Engineer at Chaupaati.com.
The fundamental motivation behind the idea of Toppr.com, an online preparation platform for entrance exams, struck the duo when they became conscious of the ginormous amounts of time spent by students in coaching classes. In addition, the colossal market size viz a viz the school-going population, was humongous, nearing about 300 million. Evidently, a relatively untapped market was brimming with potential, waiting to be harnessed. A focused and clear vision amalgamated with immense market potential gave genesis to Toppr.com, which would one day define the learning experience of millions of students.
The ed-tech disruptor began its voyage as an e-platform that prepared students for ‘competitive exams’ - a dreaded monster that haunted the final years in school. The Bombay-based startup managed to build a compelling e-learning platform (replete with concise courses, versatile mock tests, informative video lectures, online doubt-solving, etc.) that redeemed students from the collective chaos of physical notes, test papers, guidebooks, and whatnot. It allowed students to revise concepts time and again via video lectures, test their weak areas via special mock tests, and eliminate their doubts using the doubt clearing facility, all of which were hopelessly inconvenient and inefficient in the conventional tutoring methodology.
Toppr fabricated its tech-army by innovatively combining its cavalry from AI and Machine Learning, and the navy from Big Data and Analytics. Its growth was nothing short of meteoric. After disrupting the online test prep market, Toppr expanded its user base by proliferating into the most substantial chunk of India’s student population, the junior and the senior grades (classes 5th to 12th). In 2019, six years since its inception, the ed-tech startup now offers courses catering to 25 school boards, from ICSE and CBSE to several state boards. Its registered user base has exploded to 7 million across mobile and desktop, with 6.6 million monthly sessions being clocked, according to the founder. From a meager 40,000 pieces of content in 2013, Toppr now harbors 2 million pieces of learning material and strives to touch 3 million by 2020. The numbers become unfathomably high as one begins to analyze the statistics on the number of doubts cleared and the number of tests taken.
Investors, finding themselves increasingly incapable of resisting the fresh, relatively unchartered and potentially unlimited field of educational technology, have endowed significant investment in recent times. Unsurprisingly, Toppr has attracted lavish fundings, with over $58 million raised in venture capital since 2015, involving eminent venture capital investors like SAIF Partners, Eight Road Capital, and Helion Ventures. Led by Kaizen PE (claiming a 10% stake), Alteria Capital, and Brand Capital, the startup managed to bag a mammoth $35 million in a recent series C funding in December 2018. In addition, Toppr accrued a net revenue of over $4 million in the previous financial year, though the company still hasn’t achieved profitability.
The co-founder Zishaan has himself also acted as an angel investor in a number of affluent startups including Ola and Housing.com and established a group of angel investors comprising chiefly of the institute’s alumni, the Powai Lake Ventures, that has invested in 20+ startups across diverse sectors, thus generating multiple successful ventures and huge employment opportunities.
However, a sizable market potential of billions of dollars, paying customer base, and growing investments offer lucrative temptations for increasingly more companies, who along with and before Toppr, zeroed in on the ed-tech sector. Toppr faces stiff competition by other strongly funded education online platforms like Byju’s, Unacademy, UpGrad, and Embibe, yet it manages to increasingly dominate the market share and has attracted over 30,000 tutors. Toppr also boasts of the highest user interaction, the students spending almost thrice the time on its platform than they do so on ByJu’s, the largest player in the market.
With a substantial influx of financial backing and more educational channels opening up, the startup intends to utilize its resources and investments to penetrate the Tier II and Tier III cities, wherein the demand to supplement the conventional teaching and education is much higher owing to the lack of quality coaching. Toppr’s diligence to employ intelligent algorithms for identifying points of concerns and providing a customizable interface to optimize and enhance learning is a major facilitator for its expansion of geographical footprints and user acquisition. Further, the company has also taken steps to make its content as much accessible as possible, providing the same for major competitive examinations like JEE, NEET and Civil Services, and in both English and Hindi.
Many accolades have come the way of this enterprise. Toppr was recognized as one of the Top 10 Hottest Startups by CB Insights in 2015, the Best Educational Website by AWS Mobility for the year 2016-17 and by Indian Digital Awards in 2017. Most notably, the startup has been awarded the title of “Best Education Platform” by the Indian Education awards 2018.
What makes Toppr a cut above the rest of its competition is the unique way in which it reaches its customer base. Having a firm belief that word of mouth publicity will always triumph over glittery ads, it has consistently grown in the non-urban India. Keeping consolidation and improvement in product quality at the top of the priority list has led to many innovations on the platform. Examples include tracking and forming a behavior model of the student based on the interaction with its interface to predict the learning trajectory of the user, hence aiding the educators to craft a personalized learning plan that would keep in mind the strengths, weaknesses and unique learning requirements of the student.
Toppr, forged in the zeal and sincerity of its cofounders in a modest Mumbai flat, has risen to astronomical heights by helping 10 million students learn better and carved out a niche in the digital learning space. Benjamin Franklin creatively sums up the importance of engagement in modern learning methodology in his famous quote
“Tell me, and I forget,
Teach me, and I may remember,
Involve me, and I learn.”
Toppr presented an exemplary platform that has made learning not only engaging via personalization but also accessible and convenient. Pioneering a change, that translated into making learning a little more far-reaching and integrated students of all capacities and tastes, the startup signals a paradigm shift in the way we enjoy learning. This change is welcome.