A fast growing digital education company that is focused on providing eLearning solutions to schools and students in India, eSense is precisely an attempt to contribute in the process of learning by making it effective and engaging in innovative ways. Business2Business got into an exclusive conversation with Harshil Gala, Director, eSense to understand his vision of going beyond the chalk & talk method and a lot more:
How was the idea born: Sharing on what inspired you to start eSense, Harshil shares, “eSense is a digital education and education technology company started in 2009 which is a 100% subsidiary of Navneet education limited. eSense was envisaged by Navneet as they knew it was time for India’s digital revolution in education to begin. Being pioneers in the education industry, Navneet knew that they have the potential to make trends in the education system and can revolutionize it. Thus, eSense was born, making animated content for state board schools of Maharashtra and Gujarat. In the beginning, it was Mr. Amit Gala, our CEO, who gave it shape and direction and still continues to do so. My journey started in taking eSense to the market.” He adds, “Selling anything to schools is never easy, let alone software, but taking the challenge, it became very clear to me that this is the only way forward. The digital revolution was beginning and we were at the front lines. Soon, eSense explored further into education technologies, fueled by demands from clients and partners. Today we have a massive bank of digital content and technologies, that not only help teach, but all artificially assess, analysis, manage and train students, teachers and schools. Personally, for me, being in touch with the market, gives you the pulse and trends, which directs me for the next steps in my company.”
The team: Harshil shares, “eSense was started with 10 employees, and now we have over 300 professionals working in content, sales and tech. We have teams in Ahmedabad for Gujarat state board and Mumbai for Maharashtra state board. The content team consists of authors, SMEs, and animators, while the sales team consists of the hardest working and driven individuals. We also have multiple tech stacks in-house along with expert partners.”
The platform: “Our 1st platform is called TOPClass, which is primarily a teaching aid for teachers in the classroom. It is based entirely on the textbook and has become the teachers best friend. Similarly, we have developed an assessment platform for schools called TOPAssessment, which uses artificial intelligence to assess multiple students at the same time and gives individual feedback for schools and teachers to take action. “ He adds, “We also have a student product called TOPScorer. It is all a student will need for self-studying. It has the complete syllabus in animation, eBooks, assessments and analysis. The student will not need any external guidance with our product and will guarantee that he/she will never need to mug-up anything again. The biggest USP is that it is available online at TOPScorer.com as well as offline on a pen drive or SD card.”
USP’s and technologies in use: “eSense is the only company to offer complete syllabus coverage in animation format for not only English medium schools but also regional state board schools. eSense has been the only company to give timely content in years to syllabus change and our on-ground support in parallel,” shares Harshil. He adds, “For our B2B products we use technologies that are simple and easy to use. We always make sure that all our products should keep teachers in mind and not “super-tech” users. Due to our user-friendly UI, we have teachers reporting back that they can use our software every day! For our B2C product, we use the latest technologies available. From having a modern, responsive website, to the best material design app. For our offline offering, we keep in mind that the user can be from anywhere and using any device. For this we approach all products with a device and OS independent approach. Thus, you can use our product on Android, Windows as well as iOS.”
Indians Technophobia and Resistance to Change: Commenting on the same, Harshil shares, “It is not true. Indians have the fastest adoption rate of technology in the world. What most companies fail to identify, is that India is unique and a copy-paste from US will never work. From Uber to Amazon, all successful tech companies have worked in India only with customization to our market. Similarly, in education, customization of technology to the target market is very important. One cannot sell 4G required digital content to a village in India. It has to be tailor-made and user friendly.”
Traditional approaches versus technology-driven solutions: Discussing on why it is taking longer for the education industry to move from traditional approaches, Harshil shares, “Apart from a few Nay-sayers, the only reason for the relatively slow pace for technology adoption in schools is an opportunity. Schools just have too many things going against them. All schools want digital learning, but slow decision making, difficult PTAs and other external factors postpone the digitization of schools to a great extent, but the single most deterrent is finances. It is expensive to get all classrooms digitized and schools are not cash rich. This is the reason, we will see more and more funds being collected and spend on digitization of schools in the coming few years. “
Your contributions: Harshil shares, “Well apart from offering the lowest price available in the market, our biggest contribution has been in educating corporates and governments on digital classrooms and digital education for students and getting them to spend more and more on digitization as less on non-educational aspects of schools such as infrastructure, uniforms, etc. Slowly but steadily we are getting this concept to stick with many companies who have diverted a lot, if not all, of their CSR funds to digital classrooms via eSense.”
Current presence: “Currently eSense TOPClass is being used in over 3,000 schools, 10,000 classrooms and 1,00,000+ students. We have presence in every district of Maharashtra and Gujarat, evenly spread over urban and rural regions,” shares Harshil.
What makes eSense different: Harshil shares, “As far as the market is concerned, most of the other players are focused on concept based learning which just does not work in classrooms. No teacher will teach a concept and ask the child to learn the rest by themselves. Also, many eLearning companies, dump technology on schools which would be difficult to use even if you were from IIT. That model simply does not work. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many players sell ‘eLearning products’ but only offer few recorded lectures and PPTs. Students have good schools and teachers in the classrooms, they need more than a recording of a teacher. They need animations, Voice-overs, explanations and in-depth assessments, which no one else offers.”
Ed-Tech trends in 2017: “In 2017, the biggest change we would see is schools, students, parents, companies and governments thinking of eLearning as content or software and not hardware. Tablets, projectors, laptops are not eLearning, but mediums by which you can use eLearning. Once this thought is clear to all the stakeholders and they look for good content, eSense is the best solution for them,” shares Harshil.
Advice to entrepreneurs: “Study the market and make products for them. Do not make the products that you or your company is capable of making, but products that end users can use on a daily basis. Technology should be designed to make daily tasks more easy and efficient. An idea in a board room is only good for that board room. Go out, test, pivot, test, pivot, launch and keep updating. Your product is only as good as what the customer is willing to pay for it. Huge companies are built on a strong foundation, always make financial sense and think economies of scale. India is huge, the potential is huge. The education industry is a slow mover, don’t expect overnight miracles. The reward for patients is worth it.”