FlipClass: Study mates
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Vineet Dwivedi, 35, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, worked with Pearson Publishing, India, for three years before he started FlipClass in June 2013. He headed digital marketing for TutorVista, the Indian online tutoring start-up that had been acquired by Pearson. FlipClass isn’t Dwivedi’s first attempt at entrepreneurship. He had earlier launched two start-ups, both of which were acquired.
Dwivedi inducted former colleagues and friends, Ashis Roy, Ashutosh Seth and Sharad Lal, as co-founders a few months after FlipClass started. This was to ensure the technology, marketing and operational aspects were not neglected while he focused on the academic content and structure for the platform.
Most entrepreneurs today are driven by an experience that leads to a business idea, aiming to fill a market gap. In the case of Dwivedi, the pain point was the search for a good math tutor for his son, studying in class V. He looked for tutors online, even called telephone search services, such as Justdial and Askme, for assistance. None of the tutors he interviewed for the position lived up to expectations. Most were good at marketing themselves but had poor teaching skills.
Starting June 2013, Dwivedi and his team worked for six months to develop the technology platform. Once it was in place, they began market research, polls and surveys.
On the basis of queries that parents posted on other sites, the team made a list of needs and expectations, pricing issues, etc. They spoke to tutors as well. To verify the capabilities of tutors, FlipClass developed a four-stage process of tutor appraisal, which includes an application (with details like name, qualification, proof of identity, etc.), assessment of knowledge of the subject to be taught, behaviour and social skills, and a final interview. After they qualify, tutors register on the platform.
FlipClass also provides training and assistance to tutors by helping them prepare sample papers, and giving them extra material on study topics they may not be well versed with.
The tutors charge Rs.300-500 per class, depending upon which class they are teaching; special courses are custom- priced. The company charges the tutors a monthly commission of 20-25% of their earnings.
At present FlipClass operates in Bangalore, and only provides one-on-one tuition. It is in the process of creating educational content for a few classes, which tutors and parents of registered students can initially access free of charge. They are also looking to scale up and provide content for specialized and competitive examinations.
Just last month, FlipClass managed to raise Rs.1.5 crore in funding from LetsVenture, an online fund-raising platform.
After a tutor is assigned to a student, FlipClass monitors the relationship, checking details like class timings, quality of teaching, etc. At present, it is working to include algorithms that will allow parents to have more access to the account and keep tabs on the performance of children. The company also has tutors with special teaching skills to engage with students who are physically or mentally challenged.
They peg the Indian tuition market at $10 billion (around Rs.60,000 crore). They do not have a Plan B because Plan A looks like a winner.