Category Archives: India

EdTech News from India.

Skyfi Labs

HEDLINE: Skyfi Labs raises Venture Round from Spark Capital and Chennai Angels

Skyfi Labs, a Bangalore-based edtech startup targeting engineering students with products and services, raised an undisclosed amount from Spark Capital and Chennai Angels.

The funding will be used to expand the service to over 1,000 new colleges, increase and refine the course offerings and enhance back-end technology.

Continue reading

Indian MOOC

First Indian MOOC will launch in October 2013

Indian MOOC

It’s not as if India has to start with a blank slate into online education. There is the existing National Programme of Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), a repository of videos created by academics and open for everyone to watch and learn with. We have also heard that schools in K-12 have embraced Open Educational Resources (OER) for a while now and then there is the low cost Aakash tablet.

The country now wants to deepen its efforts in the field of higher education by launching its first free and open online courses later this year. According to an article in The Economic Times these courses will be designed as MOOCs, the first three in the field of computer science are expected for October of this year.

As Indian students are particularly drawn to the engineering and science subjects whether they study in India or as international students, to start off with computer science definitely makes sense.

We have heard quite impressive numbers of people enrolled in MOOCs mostly from the big three in the U.S., namely Coursera, EDx and udacity, so an estimated impact on 100,000 to 150,000 students per year in India doesn’t sound exaggerated taken India’s young population into account.

The first Indian MOOC is a cooperation of academia and industry, seven IITs who are working together to design the course.

Of course, they’re are still at the planning stage and we don’t know how well the MOOCs are going to be the designed neither how they will be received from the student side, but the people involved seem to have taken a closer look at their U.S. counterparts and what’s going well and what not in those programs.

So the big promise is naturally that now both students from rural and metropolitan areas will have equal access to high quality education. The Indian MOOCs will also offer certificates through proctored exams for a “minimal fee” right from the start. Something that took the U.S. some months to figure, but seems the way to go.

One point I find interesting about the Indian MOOC initiative is that they try to win mentors on a voluntary basis. Certainly, an estimated 500 mentors in addition to the professors sounds dwarfish compared with the 100,000-150,000 students. It could, however, be an interesting starting point in the ongoing discussion around high dropout rates for online only MOOCs in addition to initiatives like peer learning and student groups that we’ve seen so far.

Another interesting point is the focus of bridging the gap between quality education and the skills the job market demand from students.

The MOOC initiative is a stringent advancement of India’s existing National Programme of Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), particularly with regard to the planned certificates.

As a side note: Indian edtech startup WizIQ, one of the online education platforms that we covered from early on here on EDUKWEST, also moves towards becoming an online course provider similar to US-based Udemy.

The site offers a growing selection of self paced online courses and WizIQ partnered with IIT Delhi to introduce an online program with certification. This Monday Jason R. Levine and some of his fellow ESL instructor colleagues launched a MOOC for English language teachers with currently over 2000 enrolled participants.


Picture License AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by hdzimmermann

Indian edupreneurs

Pearson and Village Capital want to invest up to $75k in Indian Edupreneurs

Indian edupreneurs

The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund and Village Capital are currently looking for up to 16 Indian edupreneurs who would like to participate in a 12 week incubator program from September to November 2013.

The aim of the incubator program is to help those education entrepreneurs build their business and to improve their investability.

As in every incubator program the teams will get access to in-person and remote training by experts and mentors. Each month there is going to be a 3-4 days conference style workshop supplemented with webinars and other online communication. The first two workshops focus on the team and business model, the final workshop is going to deal with the financial aspects around fund raising.

The twist is that after each workshop the teams have to pitch and rate each others performance after six criteria:

  1. Customer discovery/development
  2. Team-building
  3. Product refinement
  4. Financials
  5. Scaling and impact
  6. Exit strategy

After the final ranking on the Investors’ Demo Day, the top two startups are going to receive up to $75k each. Pearson Affordable Learning Fund provides $100k, Village Capital $50k.

Of course, the projects pitched should fit the general theme of providing children of low-income families with good education opportunities.

“We are thrilled to bring this programme to entrepreneurs striving to develop businesses that enhance outcomes and access for low-income learners in India. We’ve seen a lack of early support and risk capital in the low-cost education space and we are pleased to take the lead in creating a robust ecosystem for impact-oriented edupreneurs and incubate innovative models of education to dramatically improve learning at scale.”

says Katelyn Donnelly, Executive Director at Pearson Affordable Learning Fund.

Unfortunately, this program has some barriers that might single out promising edupreneurs from the start. First of all, applicants need to cover the travel expenses for at least one team member as every workshop is going to take place in another Indian city, namely Hyderabad, Delhi and Bangalore. On top of that they also need to pay a $250 nominal program fee.

Other points include that non-funded startups are preferred (more equity for Pearson and Village Capital), plans to raise at least $500k in the next two years and only for-profit concepts are eligible for seed funding.

Applications to the incubator program are open until mid-August. The selected startups and winners are going to be announced end of November.


Picture License AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by ILRI

Aakash 2

Aakash 2 unveiled – Price now at $21 for Students

Aakash 2

A year ago the highly anticipated Aakash tablet was officially announced. Though the promise of a $35 price tag did not become a reality back then the pricing at $50 still was way below the iPad and other Android tablets that were on the market in October 2011 (but no one remembers them).

Yesterday, the Aakash 2 was officially announced. This time Datawind made sure that there is no discussion about the pricing. The Aakash 2 is the cheapest tablet on the market. According to an article on Quartz even China can’t compete with the $40 price of the Aakash 2 retail version. And it gets better, students will be able to purchase the tablet for $20.

There are even plans to hand out the Aakash for free to primary schools. Right now, all textbooks for primary schools in India are based on a public domain curriculum. The shipping of the printed textbooks costs the government about $13 per year per student. If those printed books were replaced by e-books for the Aakash each device could be recouped over the projected three-year life span of the tablet.

On top of that students would get access to the other benefits of working with a tablet and eventually the Internet for the same price of the current printed textbooks.

Now, we all know that the story of the Aakash has been a rocky one, so far. Lots of problems with the hardware, late or no delivery yet the Indian government and Datawind seem to be determined to make this experiment work.

The specs of the Aakash 2 include a 7-inch touch panel, 1GHz Cortex-A8 processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of Flash storage, Android 4.0.3, built-in WiFi and a front-facing VGA camera according to Engadget.

The article on Quartz goes into some more detail on how low cost tablets like the Aakash might end up disrupting the PC market and end up being handed out for free to consumers. I don’t agree entirely with the idea that those ultra cheap (or free) devices will become our main devices at home or at work but it makes an interesting read, nevertheless.

Source: Quartz | Engadget

Voicetab and Tata DOCOMO launch Tutor on Mobile

As the name of the service suggests, people in India now can easily connect with a tutor via their mobile phones. According to the press release Tutor on Mobile (TOM), a partnership between the Indian startup Voicetab and the mobile carrier Tata DOCOMO, is India’s first knowledge marketplace. Something WizIQ may disagree with, though the technology used is totally different.

Whereas WizIQ uses the Internet and a Flash based virtual classroom, Tutor on Mobile is based on mobile phones, SMS and phone conference calls hence a technology that is far more available than Internet access.

The marketplace itself features educational content and easy learning mechanisms and it is layed out to be used “on the move”. Similar to web based learning marketplaces like Udemy or Learnable, Tutor on Mobile offers a variety of different learning materials and options like videos, texts, images, live interactions, podcasts,  IVR (interactive voice response) and IVVR (interactive voice and video response). Depending on the mobile phone and its capabilities the learner will receive the matching content accordingly. Another main feature are the “Knowledge Conference Calls” with the experts who provide the different courses.

The partnership with Tata DOCOMO, one of the major mobile carriers in India, is of course a great push for the two year old startup. DOCOMO is also planning to expand its m-learning offers in the coming years to provide education even in the most remote places of India. Quoting GurinderSingh Sandhu, Head Corporate Marketing of Tata Teleservices Limited

We at Tata DOCOMO have been at the forefront of launching initiatives that re-define the way Indians lead their lives and this initiative is yet another addition to our ever expanding portfolio on M-learning! Our mission is to take learning to the inner reaches of the nation and the service marks the beginning of the many Mobile Learning initiatives that we hope to undertake. The service liberates from a classroom session to a complete mobile way of learning a language and we hope our subscribers will reap the benefits of the application in the days to come.

The sign up process for learners is done via a free SMS with the text “TOM” send to 5333300 which will send back the link for the sign up. There is also a matching web portal where the learners can see previews of the different courses offered by the currently 60 experts on the platform. Also, as a promotional offer, the first month of learning with Tutor on Mobile will be free of charge. From the second month on the service will cost Rs 15 for all the educational content, calls with experts are charged extra.

Experts who would like to offer their services on the TOM platform can also sign up via the Tata DOCOMO portal.