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This Kolkata-based Ed-tech Startup “Makes Learning Awesome” for 3 Lakh+ Students Through Their App

Vawsum is a school parent engagement app that enhances digital learning, communication and child safety. Schools can digitize notes, class updates and video tutorials by clicking the button to enhance students’ learning. In addition, real-time attendance updates, in app fees payments, school bus proximity notifications enhance child safety.

Vawsum focuses on learning progress and building stakeholder relationships, as opposed to traditional school ERP. It also makes the school ERP very simple to use. Vawsum Schools Pvt. Ltd. was founded on 12th May, 2016 by Aditya Maheswari, CEO & three other co-founders.

About the founders:
This startup has four co-founders:

Aditya Maheswari - Business Strategy and Finance
Aditya Maheswari – Business Strategy and Finance

Aditya Maheswari (Business Strategy and Finance): Aditya is an alumnus of Calcutta Boys’ School. He completed his graduation in Economics Honours from Presidency University Kolkata and MBA from Faculty of Management Studies (FMS) Delhi.

Following that he completed CFA (USA). Aditya has 6+ years of experience working with Hindustan Unilever. A Gold Medallist in School, Aditya had always wanted to make a difference in the field of education by incorporating technology. With that vision, he started Vawsum.

Sayantan Bhattacharjee - Marketing and Operations
Sayantan Bhattacharjee – Marketing and Operations

Sayantan Bhattacharjee (Marketing and Operations): Sayantan is an alumnus of Calcutta University and did his MBA from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai.

Sayantan did his schooling from various schools across India such as Indore Public School, Lilavati Bai Poddar High School Mumbai, St. Paul’s School Patna and completing from Calcutta Boys’ School. Prior to Vawsum, Sayantan has 8+ years of experience in Sales and Marketing, in organizations like Madura Coats, Avon Beauty Products and VLCC.

Gagan Maheswari - Technology
Gagan Maheswari – Technology

Gagan Maheswari (Technology): Gagan is an engineer from Birla Institute of Technology (BITS), Mesra.

Gagan did his schooling from Lincolns High School and BSF senior secondary residential school, Siliguri.

Prior to Vawsum, Gagan has worked with HP, Infosys and Samsung with 10+ years of experience in Healthcare, Internet Banking and Railway projects.

Kumar Jayant - New Products, GTM, Alliances
Kumar Jayant – New Products, GTM, Alliances

Kumar Jayant (New Products, GTM, Alliances):
Jayant is an MBA from FMS, Delhi. He has more than 13 years of experience in Product & Brand Management, Category Marketing, Digital and Performance Marketing across Pearson, Phillips Kohler, and Godfrey Philips India.

In his last role he led Brand Marketing at Pearson.

We are publishing an interview with Mr. Aditya:

Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
Teachers put in a lot of effort for the great future of a child. Similarly, a parent’s foremost desire is to ensure his excellent education. However, the most important stakeholders of a child’s journey still deprived of instant, media rich communication. Most still use diaries and notices. This results in delayed and times lost communication.

Additionally, research proves that a student learns and understands much faster through the medium of Audio-Visual. However, existing solutions are too costly. Also, simple updates of classwork, homework are missed at times.

Another issue is the Hardware free tracking. Hardware free tracking for private vehicles offering school shuttles and bus service Shuttles are not under school control and will not spend on hardware. To top it all, India still lags a lot when it comes to good network in all areas. A cohesive, unified effort to provide a single platform for all the problems combined is the only solution to a strong skilled India.

Q.: Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Vawsum’s journey started in 2015, while working in Hindustan Unilever. As a young parent, Aditya Maheswari wanted to be actively involved in my child’s education and upbringing, but his work left him with little time. He explored available options in the market and realized that they were either too expensive, or too complicated or simply ineffective. Vawsum was conceived out of this stubborn desire to be an active participant in every event, throughout my child’s education, with minimal time and cost investment.

Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Vawsum provides an inclusive solution for the holistic development of children. We believe that Learning can be made awesome for all sections of society, irrespective of pedagogy, economic, behavioral and geographic constraints by leveraging technology. This way, we are not limited to individual education boards like traditional Smart Classes.

We plan to not only solve the parent teacher communication problem but also provide for parents of students who do not own smartphones, as well as speak in regional languages. Apart from an elegant easy to use app, we provide vernacular language integration and SMS support. It even works on 2G networks and runs on low-end smartphones. It is the only truly inclusive solution in India for Parent teacher communication where parents with or without smartphones, from all walks of life, can be covered.

Vawsum offers OLA-UBER like zero hardware solution as GPS tracking device. Additionally, schools collect some unplanned fees which are not on the fees book. School can create such fees directly from app and parents can pay on the app.

Our Learning Management System helps in disseminating relevant, easy to understand and effective learning materials, freely curated from educational youtube channels and other sources to the students directly, augmenting their learning experience and providing a school management app that promises a world of equal opportunities for all. Now, Digital learning will not be limited to only few schools whose parents can afford it.

Our journey has been that of trial and error. Initially we had just started with a communication platform built for pre-schools. But we kept testing and trying out additional features through research and as per the client requirements and through this we were able to expand our horizons and target all educational institutes including, schools, colleges as well as coaching centres with a gamut of additional features packed with sophisticated UI and advanced technology.

Q.: What is your USP?
Innovation in Delivery: Vawsum App works on 2G connection as well with offline feature. It can be used in areas with poor networks as well and is independent of any hardware as well as zero down-time due to hardware. It supports SMS based communication and is thus, it fits for every school. Our on-ground team ensures complete hands on onboarding.

Innovation in Product: First product to offer a mobile platform to schools to engage admission seekers and Alumni Each parent who comes for admission enquiry gets unique credentials. Institute can then share unlimited highlights, features and unique attributes about themselves Increased engagement will lead to higher admissions. Each Alumni gets connected to the school using Vawsum. Now schools will know the current company, location, job and contact details of all its alumni Schools/colleges can use this network to increase corporate interface and drive job placements of students. This facilitates One-click “Fund raises” directly from inside the app.

Hardware free tracking for private vehicles offering school shuttles and bus service: Shuttles are not under school control and will not spend on hardware. Hence, Vawsum offers OLA-UBER like zero hardware solution. The shuttle driver just needs to “START TRIP” on mobile and the phone changes into a GPS tracking device. School and driver will get Over-speeding alerts ensuring safety. Parents and School can track the school bus live, parents will also get proximity alerts. No need to wait at bus stops.

Ad-Hoc fees collection: Schools collect some unplanned fees which are not on the fees book Collecting these is a huge hassle, inefficient and exposes children to danger School can create such fees directly from app and parents can pay on the app.

On-Ground Change Management Team: Our Success Story has been that of training and implementation. Our focus is that any institute that takes our mobile application is given complete details of our application so that admin, professors and students can use it. We have an on-ground service tea of about 100 members, who are regularly in contact with our customers to ensure that they are content and satisfied with our product.

Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
Vawsum’s journey started in 2015, while working in Hindustan Unilever. As a young parent, Aditya Maheswari wanted to be actively involved in my child’s education and upbringing, but his work left him with little time. He explored available options in the market and realized that they were either too expensive, or too complicated or simply ineffective. One of the most important assumptions was that the educational institutes as well as the parents want a groundbreaking solution to make the communication flow seamless so that they can be updated about their child’s progress throughout. All educational institutes are our target customers and we currently have 1000+ schools onboard with us.

Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
One of our biggest failure was the loss of our most prestigious client, St. Xavier’s College, Patna. We were still growing when Xavier’s became our client and we provided excellent service to them. They stuck to us for over a year without any complain, but one fine day they decided not to continue with our service. One of the learnings that we received from the loss of the client was that we always need to keep our ears on the ground and create a customer centric service model to avoid any such mishap in the future.

Q.: How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc. ? Explain your thought process.
We have a subscription based model:
• Vawsum enters into contracts with the School.
• Schools pays a monthly subscription charge for availing Vawsum for its stakeholders.
• This subscription charge is on a per student basis.
• Revenue is enhanced by sales of premium modules which focus on child security, parent’s convenience and school productivity.
• Offline SMS service is also available at an additional charge.
• Right now we are following only B2B as we are providing our software to Schools, soon we will launch new expansion from B2B to B2C.

Q.: How did you get your first customer?
We started out with just a prototype and hired interns all in distant areas to pitch and sell Vawsum. Our first client is one of the biggest franchisees in India, Eurokids, which one of the interns was able to sell without any brochures or proper description of the product. We were able to test and deliver our product on time and we started off a long-term relationship with them. We have come a long way since then and we are proud to say that they continue to be our clients even today.

Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
Vawsum has been bootstrapped by us.

Q.: Is there any interesting success story? If yes, please write about it. ?
The most valuable success story for us would be when we won the Startup Challenge at the International Convention of Maheshwari Global Convention 2019. We were awarded by the former Chef Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Devendra Fadnavis for ‘Best Startup’.

Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product/service leading to something bigger? If so, how?
We started off as an engagement app, and now it is just one of the solutions we provide to institutes along with file sharing, Teaching Assistant, bus tracking, ad-hoc fees collection, SMS integration, low network coverage, online exams as well as referral program and admission enquiry. So we would like to believe that our solution is a part of a much bigger and diverse project to the Ed-tech sector in India. We are also planning to launch Vawsum Competitions to encourage students to turn theory into practice.

This Kolkata-based Ed-tech Startup “Bakes Learning Awesome” for 3 Lakh+ Students Through Their App

Q.: Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? What is the current turnover? (From Launching till date total no. of visitors on website/persons registered/enquiries and enrollment). Please explain in details:
We have about 3 lakh+ downloads from 1000+ schools across the country and an annual turnover of 1.4 cr previous year.

Q.: What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup.
The most important factor to consider in this market, is the different pedagogy and economical background of the people in India. We provide an all-inclusive solution catering to the different classes of people in India, considering that most of the population do not own smartphones, speaks in regional languages, reside in the low network coverage areas and are not tech savvy. Our solution is catered to the bridge the gap between the rural and digital India. A cohesive, unified effort to provide a single platform for all the problems combined is the only solution to a strong skilled India.

Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
For us we realized fast that there are plenty of competitors selling the product online, however, the challenge for the schools is not the product but change management. Hence, we adopted for a Phygital model – where is we have a physical relationship management team to complement our digital product. Any company providing a communication platform is a threat to us. We consider our top competitors to be Uolo, Teno & Class Dojo. We also have a large unorganized market with local players. The market is still developing with many of our clients for the first time complementing a digital service with the physical diary.

Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
Vawsum has grown exponentially and currently has a very good stronghold in East India. We are planning to expand deeply into other territories of India, with concentration towards Delhi and NCR region. We also have a presence in Nepal and planning to further tap into Bangladesh and penetrate deeper into the Nepal market. Vawsum is on the cusp of inorganic growth, with the adaption of agent model, which will allow Vawsum multiply its physical presence by at least 4 times.

Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
All I want to tell the others are that aspire big, have a mission and do not give up. Perseverance and commitment will help you overcome all the boundaries.

Q.: Any other information you would like to share?
Few Achievements of Vawsum:
• Awarded by Shri. Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister Maharashtra at MGC 2019
● Recognised as a STARTUP by DIPP (GOI)
● Selected by Niti Aayog (GOI) to meet the French Delegation.
● Selected by the Prinicipal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India (AGNIi) for the Innovation Showcase
● National Finalists in TiE Hot Pitch
● National Finalists in TATA, IIM-C organised Social Ventures Competition

Vawsum has been covered by leading newspapers like The Telegraph, Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Navjyoti and television channels like Times Now

Thanks Aditya. Best wishes!

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