Pune Inc: Startup becomes edtech leader after unexpected insight from small Madhya Pradesh town – The Indian Express

June 1, 2022
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The focus of the coaching industry in India is on students preparing for entrance exams in medicine, engineering and chartered accountant courses, among others. But, what about those who aspire to be forest guards or teachers in state governments?
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According to a Pune-based startup Pariksha, state government job exam aspirants make up a population of 75 million and spend more than $2.3 billion annually on preparation. “Only 10 per cent, which is affluent, attends a coaching institute while the rest go to their nearest big cities, buy study material and prepare on their own,” says Karanvir Singh, CEO of Pariksha, who founded the company along with Vikram Singh, Utkarsh Bagri and Deepak Choudhary.
Since 2018, Pariksha has catered to 50 lakh aspirants across 16 states by offering a variety of preparatory courses and grown 100 per cent every year. Their products range from live courses and video courses to mock tests, online doubt-solving and content on current affairs in eight regional languages.
Launched with Singh’s investment of Rs 15 lakh and then, Rs 60 lakh capital from his senior at Symbiosis, Pariksha has raised $3 million in investment and is now discussing a $10 million round.
Yet, Pariksha’s entry into the field came out of serendipity. Launched in 2015 to provide a SaaS (software as a service) platform to engineering colleges for campus placement preparation, Pariksha changed track after Bagri was on a visit to Satna in Madhya Pradesh where “every second person he met was taking the patwari (land record officer in the state government) exam”. “We wondered if we were missing something,” says Singh.
Their research revealed unexpected insights. “Millions of young people from tier-3 and tier-4 towns do not appear for central or national level job exams. They are better versed in writing exams in vernacular languages and prefer securing a government job in their area,” says Singh.
“In the absence of industries or similar means of employment, state government jobs become a high priority for people in small towns and villages. For them, it is a matter of prestige,” he adds.
This market—which the startup terms as ‘Bharat market’ — has a high collective purchasing power, “as they are mostly debt-free and know where to spend money”. These were largely mobile users who did not have computers or laptops at home or school.

Pariksha functions by partnering with coaching institutes that have experience in the field. In Maharashtra, their partner is Pune-based Chanakya Mandal whose coaching is made available over mobile phones to candidates who cannot access it due to financial or other constraints. “Our partners would come to the studio set-up at the institutes and record the video on demand and have live classes. During the Covid-19 second wave, as mobility was restricted, we enabled them to record and broadcast live classes from wherever they were so that studies could continue,” says Singh.
With the $3 million it raised, the startup has demonstrated that it can grow its business across geographies and languages. Now, they have ventured into vernacular upskilling courses as well. “In five to 10 years, we hope to see Pariksha getting into other segments, from central government exam preparation to higher education. We would like to offer aspirants from ‘Bharat’ equal access to an outcome-based learning opportunity at a very affordable price point,” he says.
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