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How Testbook is helping 5 mn students to ace govt job exams

With nearly 5 million monthly active users, edtech startup Testbook is a one stop solution for government job aspirants, offering a 360° learning experience. Ashutosh Kumar, CEO & Co-founder, Testbook shares how the company is helping students in Tier 2 and Tier 3 locations prepare for government exams, despite limited bandwidth and other infrastructure challenges

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Please share a brief background of how you started. Any significant achievements?

Ashutosh Kumar, CEO & Co-founder, Testbook

Testbook was initiated by a bunch of IITian in 2014. Manoj Munna, Praveen Agrawal, and Narendra Agrawal and I strongly believed that technology is the way forward to bring about massive transformation in education in India. We took this forward by forming a new age edtech startup,which developed a platform that empowers learning and preparation for government job entrance exams.

From where we started, today Testbook has an annual run rate of over 30 crore with nearly 5 million monthly active users. Over 12 million aspirants of government jobs are today solving around 3.5 billion questions through Testbook App.

In these tough times for students all over the country, Testbook has also launched the all-in-one “Testbook Pass” to support millions of students studying from home during corona lockdown to prepare for more than 100 government job exams sitting at home where we provide 100+ exams & 6500+ mock tests under single affordable subscription, starting from INR 149.

What have been your efforts to bridge the digital divide in India’s education scenario?
Digitisation of education in India is going to be key to the future educational system. It is surprising to see how technology has become smarter and is changing the overall educational framework of the country. It is also helping in researching the concept of collaborative learning where all minds can create a unique learning experience that extends beyond national boundaries. All universities and colleges have launched digital platforms to provide faster access to education online in order to bring social inclusion.

We intend to change the education landscape in India to a tech-driven, automated system where students can learn at their own pace with the help of technology. This will not be limited to tier 1 towns and metro cities, but will also be extended to tier 2 and tier 3 cities in order to help students learn better.

Since the Indian consumer is still a little averse of transacting online and also with the intention of removing constraints of internet bandwidth in tier 2 or slightly farther areas, we at Testbook innovated to solve this problem by launching a unique code-based offline voucher called the Testbook PASS. We provide subscription-based access to 200+ online courses and 6500+ mock tests at a much affordable price. Its distribution across smaller Tier 2 & Tier 3 towns is done through online learning centres, offline Institutes, cyber cafes and bookstores. Testbook has a feature that the students can view their videos online as well as offline on the platform. Testbook even distributes relevant government exam mock tests, practise sets, question banks in the form of books to reach remote places through our distribution partners- S Chand publishers. These students are introduced to the world of online education through these books which have a simple QR code to access a lot of free content relevant to their preparation on the Testbook platform.

What are your key technology products and solutions for the education sector?
Testbook is a one-stop solution for the government job aspirants which gives a 360° learning experience by providing live online coaching with the planned curriculum through top-notch faculty its target audience is 16 – 26 years. These are the core learning cycle years. India’s higher education segment is expected to increase to INR 2,44,824 crore by 2025. We ranked 34 among the 100 countries in the English Proficiency Index 2019. Testbook being in the edtech sector has very dynamic products and solutions as compared to other players in the market.

We have three major solutions for the education sector as detailed below:
Testbook Pass:This is a special membership pass that unlocks all the tests and courses under all the exams available on Testbook. With Testbook Pass, one can take unlimited tests and enrol for unlimited courses. He / she can focus on exam preparation without worrying about which test series to purchase. Testbook had made its online courses completely free in the beginning of the lockdown which received an overwhelming response and a very high rate of engagement. Students bought more than 6.7 lakh courses for free in just 11 days.

Testbook Select: This helps one get complete coaching at home with Interactive live classes, a personal coach and doubt clearing sessions which enable 360° learning. In Testbook Select one has three different sections live classes which aid in learning important concepts with tips and tricks by top faculties, personal coach where a personal mentor increases your chances of selection and doubt clearing which gets your doubts resolved on the highest priority.

Teacher Training Programme: Our Teacher Training Program is a 3-month completely free training for using modern teaching methodologies and questions creation techniques, which when added to anyone’s knowledge, opens up new job opportunities as a successful teacher or Subject Matter Expert. This is available only to registered Testbook users.

Your focus on tech innovation.
Online learning is becoming a part of mainstream education and is a very important part of learning today. AI-based tools are providing options of adaptive learning or even keeping personalised tracks, making data available to a teacher to keep a better track that one can do in a physical class.
● Testbook learning solution gives any aspirant an edge in exam preparation by providing in-depth analysis on 24 data points which drastically improves scores. Personal attention is not just created by assigning a mentor but also by creating personalised learning paths by giving individualised recommendations based on strengths and weakness analysis, comparative analysis of aspirants with lakhs of aspirants on our platform. The personalised recommendations are given by using Machine Learning and recommendation engines on a huge data set and by assigning mentors to each student, who not only guides intuitively but by data-driven approach.
● Technology has been created to provide seamless video lecture streaming and mock test practice even without the internet which become very powerful value propositions to students preparing at our platform from smaller towns of India
● Govt. exam aspirants prepare simultaneously for 8-10 exams. Testbook innovated with Testbook pass which gives access to 150+ exams under one pass unlike offline solutions where an aspirant needs to pay for every exam preparation separately.

How are you helping students in Tier 2/3 locations prepare for government exams despite limited bandwidth and other infrastructure challenges?
The government has said that government exams will be conducted in 12 Indian languages to begin with, and gradually other languages in the 8th schedule of the Constitution will also be included. Students preparing from the Tier II and III cities in India are usually faced with a lot of issues in terms of adopting all the technological aspects and staying ahead with the changing times. Due to lack of technological assistance,they grapple with online courses and live lectures. Almost 70 per cent of our user base comes from Tier 2 and 3 cities. We have built blended acquisition channels (Online + Offline) to reach out to aspirants in tier 2 and 3 cities, wherein, we work with multiple partners in smaller towns.

We observed that students from smaller towns were not showing much interest despite major exams moving to online platforms. So, we came up with the idea of giving out vouchers just the way telecom companies give out pre-paid cards at a very affordable cost. The pass works like a recharge voucher that students could buy for cash and use on the website or App to give their tests which help these students to learn in a better way. We have also introduced offline learning technology to help students who are at Tier 2/3 locations. The student can download videos at night when they get better speeds and learn offline on the Testbook app in the morning.

How do you think the increasing adoption of technology in education, due to Covid, will also benefit students in the hinterlands of India?
In today’s world technological adoption is rapidly changing the educational environment and challenging students to adapt accordingly. With the Internet reaching the remote parts of India and regular use of smartphones even in the hinterlands becoming a reality, the students have started gaining access to the quality education which was once only reserved for the more developed parts of the country. The students from the hinterland will no longer have to travel miles from their homes to bigger cities in search of quality education to fulfill their dreams of getting a government job. The new-age education platforms like Testbook not only offer best in class teachers, live coaching and deep performance analysis to help students prepare with much more awareness than classroom coaching but are also aided by virtual assistants and personal coaches to give the best user experience to students at a much smaller percentage of cost. Due to such adoption studying for competitive exams has become easier for the students in Tier 2 and 3 cities.

How has the Covid crisis changed the market dynamics for edtech startups like Testbook?
Due to the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid, the edtech industry was under tremendous pressure to deliver efficient online solutions for learning and development for the entire nation’s youth. Though we are seeing a gradual phase-wise opening up of economic activity, the education sector will probably be the last to be permitted to open up. This means, online learning and technological advances in that direction will continue to be important and entrusted with a huge responsibility edtech companies will benefit from the mass adoption of online learning but will also have to focus on faster and better delivery of cost-effective solutions across the board.

The past five to six months have been very challenging for the whole world. In the Government job preparation category, we have seen some changes with many examinations getting cancelled.Some things have been coming back to normalcy since May 2020 which has led to 80 percent growth in the last three months. Students’ engagement has also improved a lot. Our course enrollment has gone up by 200 percent and study hours by 86 percent currently.

Your views / any other significant factor.
Adoption of technology to keep going normally in a contactless world has advantages as well as costs. One cannot happen without the other. All stakeholders will have to carefully weigh the cost-benefit ratios and accordingly decide on balancing both. Government jobs will be in focus going forward. In a competitive world, preparing for these will be a must in order to have an assurance of stability for those entering the job market in future. Testbook has been addressing the massive gap prevalent in the online public sector job preparation space and filling the gap of personalised learning and dynamic assessment present in offline coaching through a full-stack learning portal remotely accessible to 12 million registered users to prepare for employment from anywhere in the country.

While striving for improvements, we have produced a 7 percent success rate as compared to the national average of 1 percent.
Some of the significant challenges we encountered were getting Tier 2 and Tier 3 students to adopt technological innovations where we learnt that the smaller town users are mobile-first users and building multilingual mobile-oriented content is necessary. Other challenges were around creating affordability and that the paying capacity of our audience is very low, so we strived to create low-cost and free solutions. The Subscription Model works best in these scenarios.

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