‘India has a scarcity of good teachers, e-learning can solve that’

Anuradha Mascarenhas
The core team of testbook.com.

Digital education has promising solutions for students at remote locations, especially to get access to good teachers. But the problem seems to be at the transaction level. A bunch of IITians have set up testbook.com that prepares students for more than 70 government recruitment exams. The founders CEO Ashutosh Kumar, co-founders Narendra Agrawal, Praveen Agrawal and Manoj Munna, all from IIT Bombay, tell The Indian Express that they have launched a unique code-based voucher, Testbook PASS, that can be purchased through simple cash mode of transaction,

How did you come up with the idea of launching vouchers?

I am from a small town in Bihar and many of my relatives have been preparing for government. jobs. Right from childhood, I have seen how deeply people are engaged with cash transactions for both sales and purchases and there are many reasons behind it. When we intersected this fact with our target users where 70 per cent of them are from Tier II/III/IV towns, we knew that just having online mode for transactions is definitely not going to work. I personally went to Patna and spent a month there to study and understand their behaviour and then came up with an idea: Why not launch a voucher-based activation on our platform, which users can buy directly from local places such as bookshops, cyber cafes, or institutes, the same way they do for prepaid recharge. And it worked! Behaviour in smaller towns is completely different. Most parents are either running a shop or doing farming, where they earn in cash and spend in cash. And it is obvious that they give cash to their kids to spend who are preparing in other towns.

How different and difficult was it to manage cash-based transaction versus online transaction?

Dealing with digital money versus cash is a completely different ball game. Digital money is instant and comes directly to your account. Cash transactions are done two to three layers down and so you must have a strong and healthy distribution channel to minimise bad debts and ensure that the money reaches you on time. We also made many mistakes in the beginning until we learned the right recipe.

From where do students get this voucher Testbook PASS ? How do they activate it?

Textbook PASS is a simple and desi way of buying our digital product. It has a 9-digit code printed on it, which a student can insert either on our mobile app or website and in a single click, you have transaction and activation of more than 2,000 mock tests. Students don t need to worry about net banking or credit/debit card details or OTP or any fear of losing the money. Testbook has partnered with book shops, cyber cafes, coaching institutes and libraries in North India and a student can visit these places, pay in cash and get Testbook PASS. We also plan to provide subscription to our Learn Courses (high quality teachers made available for Tier II/III/IV students sitting at home) via a similar model.

Does it also bring trust during the transaction compared to online?

When you pay in cash and get a tangible product in your hand, it has a high level of trust and satisfaction. And this is true also because they have been doing this for the past 25 to 30 years. They know if there is something wrong, they have someone to bounce back on. Also, they don t have to worry about putting in sensitive details like credit/debit card numbers, net banking details in online forms (yes, it still makes them suspicious to do so).

How promising is e-learning solutions for students?

India has a scarcity of good quality teachers. When we see this in smaller towns, the problem is even much bigger because no good teacher wants stay in smaller towns. They generally move to big cities in search of better career and financial opportunities. Without accurate content and good mentorship, it is difficult to learn anything. Even though students go to a classroom and a teacher is teaching them there, learning doesn t happen. E-learning platforms like Testbook have come up to address these challenges. We are able to search and select a good pool of teachers who are teaching and mentoring, sitting in metros, students thousands of miles away in remote corners of India.