Tutoring or mentorship is a fact of life for almost every student in India. As a cottage industry, neighbourhood tuition centres, tutors or home tutors, has existed for decades now. With exponential technologies disrupting every walk of life, tutoring is also transforming and going online. Minal Anand, born and brought up in Delhi went to Boston University, USA for her higher education and worked there for several years before coming back to India. Thereon, while working with EWS students as a volunteer, she realized that there is a lot of scope to improve delivery of education. In 2016, she co-founded her edtech startup, M & J Edtech LLP and began offering online tutoring service under GuruQ brand. Three years later with more than 14000 students and 17000 tutors, GuruQ is expanding to several cities in North India and also going for second round of funding. Minal Anand, who is also CEO of GuruQ tells Autar Nehru about her startup:
Let’s begin by understanding what is GuruQ essentially? An online tutoring aggregator or more than that?
GuruQ is an ed-tech platform that connects students to only qualified, proficient and certified tutors to enable them to benefit from the numerous advantages of personalized learning. Our highly-interactive and user-friendly dashboard has already won over 14,000+ students and 17,000+ tutors onto our platform and our newly-launched app will make the process of finding ‘the perfect tutor’ at extremely pocket-friendly prices, even more convenient and easy.
GuruQ is ‘more than just an aggregator of tutors’, it is also a ‘facilitator’ for streamlining the learning process by equipping students with important tools and features to learn effectively. We go beyond providing the students with the right tutors as we enable parents to track their children’s progress online and supplement the tutor’s lessons with online tests and assignments so as to broaden the student’s knowledge and elevate their overall learning experience.
Please explain to us your model both in terms of how it works for the students as well as tutors?
Students have to sign-up on our platform and they have two options – (i) Find The Right Tutor or (ii) Post Your Tuition Need. Under Find The Right Tutor (FTRT), they need to input the area of their study- do they require tuition for school education, competitive exams, study abroad or language learning. Once they have made the selection, they have to fill in other details as per their selected area of study – and based on where you are located, GuruQ shows a list of the various tutors available for that criteria. After this, they can further filter the list of tutors as per their budget, the tutor’s experience and qualifications, and they also have the option of opting for home or online tuition. Additionally, students can book an individual class or group classes and in some cases, if the tutors agrees, they can also avail ‘a good discount’ for group classes. They can look up the tutor’s reviews and ratings to ensure that they make the best pick.
The second option, Post Your Tuition Need (PYTN) allows students to broadcast their preferred learning requirements to all relevant tutors and accordingly the interested tutors respond.
Tutors who sign up on the platform are subjected to a stringent five-step vetting process following which they are onboarded as certified tutors. During the vetting process their qualifications, background and proficiency is thoroughly checked. Once tutors become GuruQ certified, their increased profile visibility helps them get more students and stand out amongst the crowd. GuruQ also offers tutors additional ways to promote themselves on GuruQ. They get to enhance their knowledge and skills with GuruQ’s Academic Board as well as get promoted to becoming a trainer for imparting and enhancing the skills to other tutors.
Tutors charge per hour as per a rate that suits them. Out of this amount GuruQ, keeps only X % and the rest is paid to the tutors. All payments are made online and on time.
And, which classes, subjects, boards, entrance exams is GuruQ suitable for?
GuruQ has been created for the masses. We cater to students, right from the kindergarten level to class 12 of the CBSE, ICSE and IB Boards. Unlike some of our competitors, we are not partial to students of one particular stream as our offerings are for students of Humanities, Commerce and Science stream. We cater to students who wish to learn a variety of foreign languages like German, Spanish, Russian, Italian and Chinese. We offer tuition to students who wish to crack tough competitive exams like CLAT, NEET, JEE Main and Advanced and other government exams. We also cater to those students who wish to go abroad and have to attain excellent scores in entrance exams so as to be able to be accepted into prestigious colleges and universities around the world.
There is a lot of learning content through videos and other formats available on internet including the famous Khan Academy. Do you look at this as a good initiation for students who then turn serious and sign up with platforms like you or you feel both are independent of each other?
Content-based platforms are helpful in providing students with clarity about a particular concept. For example, a particular student maybe unable to grasp a particular concept in Algebra so he might look up a number of concept/ content platforms. However, even after he has viewed the content/video, there is no guarantee that his doubts have been successfully cleared. However, a platform like GuruQ provides an actual tutor who is present to provide one-on-one learning to a student and not only clear basic doubts but also to provide additional supplemental learning to his/her students.
At the end of the day, content-based platforms that use video or other formats are limited as they are a one way medium of transmitting educational information which is just not enough. They are supportive and complementary mediums but they cannot replace an actual tutor that GuruQ provides. An online tutoring platform like ours is definitely a level higher than content-based platforms when it comes to elevating a student’s learning experience via impactful and personalized tutoring.
As an industry, online tutoring is still making itself felt. What do you make of competition in this ed-tech industry?
In the online tutoring field there a few niche players that provide mainly educational courses to students. Even then they cater to students of only a particular standard and stream. At GuruQ, we do not provide educational courses, we provide an actual tutor who is proficient in his subject matter. Because what students actually need are quality tutors that are reliable and accountable. They need tutors who can customize lessons to cater to their individual IQs and learning styles. We envisioned and created a platform ( and now an app) that enables a student to book a tutor in just a few minutes like any other e-commerce platform. Education is of prime importance and we set out to remove all obstacles that came in the way of hiring only the best and most able tutors. I really have not come across any other player in our Indian ed-tech industry that is providing quality tutors to students and offering all the features and functionalities that we provide.
Competition is good, it means that we are on the right path. At the end of the day, I do see a few people trying to emulate GuruQ here and there, and even in terms of branding and other things. But competition must always be taken as a positive reinforcement that what we are doing at GuruQ is actually worth doing and therefore, other people want to get into it. We view competition more as motivating factor to achieve more and do better. We don’t see it as a negative thing at all because we are confident in what GuruQ has to offer and it will take any competitor a really long time to even reach our level. So, there is no real fear but ofcourse our true competition is ourselves. We want to do better than what we have been doing, we wish to far exceed our own set expectations and that is the only competition we really believe in.
A personal question, what made you to come into this space and how do you see your journey of last a few years?
While I was studying overseas I realized that there was a glaring difference between the education being received overseas and the education being provided in India. Indian students are sharp and bright but the education they receive is primarily traditional, bookish and outdated. Their peers overseas are reaping the benefits of a tech- driven education that involves the predominant use of a digital platform combined with the latest methodologies. Besides this disadvantage, there is a disproportionate student-teacher ratio in schools which makes it impossible for a teacher to personalized and individual attention to every student. To solve this issue, students often avail of tuition and so I decided to create a single, simplified and cohesive platform that would enable students to avail of the best tutors. GuruQ assembles at one place the best tutors and puts them through a stringent five step vetting process. Once onboard they are equipped with the latest teaching methodologies and they are kept updated with international approaches to contribute to better teaching. Students can now connect with the most proficient tutors as the tutors can gain recognition, increase their visibility, manage time effectively, increase their earnings and be constantly mentored by the GuruQ Academic Board in order to unearth their true potential.
In terms of new expansion, diversification and future plans, what is happening?
2020 is going to be a milestone year for us and we have just launched our app to reach a wider audience. This year we will also expand to 8-10 Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in North India as we feel that students in those cities should be able to avail of top-quality tutors as well. In 2021, we will also expand to 8-10 Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in South India. Though we already have a pan India online presence, we will be able to offer the benefits of quality home tutors to pan India students by 2021. We will cater to the regional languages of both North India and South India to enhance our mass appeal and serve our target masses better. Also, this year we are going in for a second round of funding, the funds received will be used for research and development, technological innovation and talent acquisition. Besides this, we are venturing into corporate training as we have the most proficient and skilled tutors who we will leverage to impart vital communication skills to corporate employees and thereby help their confidence levels soar.
Anylearnings, you want to share with parents, students and even those who are looking for opportunities and livelihood from tutoring?
From my personal experience, I have witnessed how it was initially difficult for parents to move away from the traditional mode of seeking tutors based on word-of-mouth recommendations. But once they began to discover and enjoy the benefits of availing credible and vetted tutors via our edtech platform, there was no looking back for them. The convenience of finding the perfect tutor at one’s fingertips combined with the our vast offerings has won us the trust and faith of an ever-growing number of students. Parents and guardians now rest assured that their children are receiving premium quality education in a safe learning environment. Our tutors are undeniably one of the most-prized pillars of GuruQ, so for them joining our platform has been the most rewarding decision. We are an equal opportunity employer that believes in taking care of our employees so that they in turn will take care of our consumer base. GuruQ provides the perfect employment opportunity to those who are passionate about teaching, we help tutors hone their skills, increase their visibility and help them reach the zenith of their potential by getting them mentored by our Academic Board. This coupled with great flexibility of schedules and handsome, on-time earnings is what has helped us see a steady surge in the number of tutors registering on our platform.