Gaurav Goel of Toprankers, Discusses the Power of Digital Learning
StartupTalky presents Recap’22. This is a series of interviews in which we conduct in-depth discussions with founders & industry leaders to understand their growth in 2022 and their predictions for the future.
EdTech, or educational technology, is helping to transform the education sector in India in several ways. Some of the ways in which EdTech is helping to improve education in India include accessibility, personalized learning, cost-effectiveness, and skill development.
Many players are entering the Edtech industry and attempting to solve various problems associated with India’s learning system. Overall, EdTech is helping to improve the quality and accessibility of education in India and is playing a crucial role in addressing some of the major challenges faced by the education sector in the country.
According to Statista, the online education market is expected to reach $166.60 billion in revenue by 2023, and show an annual growth rate of 9.37% over the period of 2023–2027, leading to a projected market volume of $238.40 billion by 2027.
For this Interview, we invited, Gaurav Goel, Co-founder, and CEO of Toprankers, and we talked about the growth, challenges, insights, and future opportunities in the ed-tech industry.
StartupTalky: Gaurav, what does your company do? What was the motivation/vision with which you started?
Gaurav: Toprankers is a Bhopal headquartered digital learning platform that enables students to prepare for unconventional careers via holistic guidance and support. The platform offers simulated tests and comprehensive study materials for all candidates appearing for examinations in the field of law, management, design, and other prominent verticals.
Incepted in 2016, Toprankers today is the country’s most preferred digital counseling & preparation platform for careers beyond engineering & medicine. The vision behind the initiative was to provide students with end-to-end assistance in their journey of new-age career courses. To date, Toprankers has successfully enabled more than 3 lakh students to pursue and thrive in the careers of their choice.
StartupTalky: What is/are the USPs of your products?
Gaurav: Our extensive portfolio of career products and services is strategically framed to address the end-to-end requirements of students who are opting for unconventional career options. Be it our hybrid learning model or virtual parent-teacher meetings, we leave no stone unturned to ensure an inclusive learning experience for students. We also boast a team of highly proficient and experienced teachers who excel in passing on their comprehensive knowledge to students in an engaging way.
StartupTalky: How has the ed-tech industry changed in recent years, and how has your company adapted to these changes?
Gaurav: The digital learning space has witnessed a substantial transformation after the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. With schools being shut for more than a year, the pandemic resulted in a multifold growth of digital learning in India and also compelled students, teachers, and parents, to learn about numerous digital tools and adapt to a remote learning environment.
While the offline mode of learning is back in the post-Covid-era, the digital learning space has permanently changed the education landscape in the last couple of years. Toprankers in this regard has unveiled hybrid classrooms for students to help them leverage the best of both online and offline modes of learning.
Besides offering state-of-the-art career products and services, we have adopted a 360-degree approach to mentor our students to help them reach the pinnacle of success.
StartupTalky: How do you stay up to date on the latest trends and developments in your industry?
Gaurav: For this, our highly experienced and dedicated team ensures that it stays in constant touch with our esteemed customers for their suggestions. We also lay emphasis on understanding the evolving requirements of students and parents and the changing dynamics of the education segment in India.
Furthermore, we regularly participate in education-oriented events across the country and network with industry veterans to garner a detailed understanding of the latest trends.
StartupTalky: What key metrics do you track to check the company’s growth and performance?
Gaurav: To assess the development and performance of our organization, we keep a consistent check on our revenue, growth in the number of students, and the performance of students in prominent, non-conventional tests among others. We also regularly gauge the performance of all our employees and make necessary course corrections to mitigate any bottlenecks.
StartupTalky: What were the most significant challenges your company faced in the past year and how did you overcome them?
Gaurav: The year 2022 has been an inspiration for us. A noteworthy accomplishment for us was to raise a Series A round of funding of $4 million with a renowned VC firm ”Sixth Sense Ventures” which augmented our growth initiatives.
However, for the startup ecosystem as a whole, this year has been a bumpy ride and we too witnessed our fair share of challenges. However, we firmly focused on finding the best solutions for those challenges which enabled us to mitigate them and continue with our success journey.
Here are some challenges that we struggled with in 2022:
- Transitioning from online learning segment to hybrid solutions.
- To ensure a quality learning experience for students in the ever-evolving education sector.
- Since we are headquartered in a tier 2 city like Bhopal, finding and absorbing the right talent also came as a significant challenge for us.
- Another major challenge that we witnessed in the year was creating awareness about non-conventional career options like Law, Management, and Design. These disciplines have low acceptance in India and overcoming the mindset toward deeply rooted domain subjects was the biggest hurdle
- Lastly, ensuring encouraging growth in this competitive and dynamic market is a challenge in itself.
We resolved these challenges by taking necessary course corrections and accomplishing the following milestones:
- We successfully registered more than five million users and secured a Series A
funding of $4 million from the renowned investment firm ”Sixth Sense Ventures.”
- We also expanded our presence and now boast more than 300 employees across the country of which 48 percent are females.
- Students of LegalEdge by Toprankers have achieved top ranks including AIR 1, 2,3,8, and 10 for the CLAT UG exam. Bhopal-based student Piyush Gupta, AIR 8 secured Rank 1 in Madhya Pradesh while our students also outperformed in the recently conducted AILET 2023 exam securing top ranks including AIR 1,2,9 for the AILET UG exam and AIR 8,9,15 for the AILET PG exam.
- Due to the unprecedented dedication of our team, we garnered exceptional results across all brands. For instance, 12 students qualified in Rajasthan Judicial Services (RJS) in 2022 from our brand Judiciary Gold.
- For Creative Edge, one of our students bagged the highest rank in Madhya Pradesh in JEE B.Arch Exam 2022 and emerged as the regional topper for the state of Madhya Pradesh with a 99.96% percentile.
- Over the years we have been successful in preparing 3 lakh candidates for modern careers.
- Recently a substantial number of students (50+) from our platform secured more than 250 marks in the CUET PG examination.
StartupTalky: What are the different strategies you use for marketing? Tell us about any growth hack which you pulled off.
Gaurav: We at Toprankers have forayed into new domains with our hybrid learning model known as Toprankers Classrooms from where we offer a hybrid mode of learning to students.
We have significantly invested in a high-touch model of learning and are focussing on enhancing student success & mentoring teams. We are also leveraging virtual parent-teacher meetings, boot camps, and much more to boost the confidence of our students and their parents in the online learning domain.
Toprankers ranks among one of the few Edtech companies in the country whose students boast of AIR 1,2,3 in prominent competitive exams in fields such as law, management, etc. Furthermore, our proficient marketing team consistently works on fortifying this position of trust with effective communication and building communities with social media.
StartupTalky: What opportunities do you see for future growth in your industry in India and the world? What kind of difference in market behavior have you seen within states in India?
Gaurav: As per the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20, released by the Union Ministry of Education, popular undergraduate-level programs like BTech (Bachelor of Technology) and BE (Bachelor of Engineering) have noticed a drop of 13.32 percent in enrolments in the last few years. The drop in enrolments is more substantial in postgraduate level programs like MTech, with 33.68 percent of students pulling out of the course.
The survey also demonstrated that about 93.49 lakh students are registered in arts courses at the country’s undergraduate level, making it the most popular course against the science stream.
This indicates that in the coming years, non-conventional career options like Law,
Management and Design will witness rapid acceptance across India.
Talking about the digital learning segment, unlike conventional pedagogy, technology has allowed students to have a unique learning approach, including animations and experiential learning.
The rapid integration of technological applications in the educational sector will make learning more collaborative in the coming times while making students focus on the core of the online content delivered to them. With this, It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that digital learning is the future of education.
StartupTalky: What lessons did your team learn in the past year and how will these inform your future plans and strategies?
Gaurav: Some of the primary learnings that we gained from the last year include:
- Strengthening our student-first approach and including their valuable suggestions in our decision-making.
- Improving our communication with the consumers to facilitate them with the right career discovery options.
- Enhancing consumer engagement with a student-first approach.
- Upgrading our technological infrastructure.
- Finding the right marketing mix to amplify our reach & consumer engagement.
In the coming times, we will emphasize these learnings for robust growth and
transformation of the digital learning space in India.
StartupTalky: How do you plan to expand the Customers, product, and team base in the future?
Gaurav: As learning today is not restricted to physical classrooms, we will deploy a 360-degree approach to educating students including career guidance, end-to-end assistance, personalized learning experiences, and much more in the coming times. To achieve this, our team will take the following initiatives:
- Strengthen the presence of Toprankers’ Classrooms across the country by delivering hybrid learning solutions and maximizing our reach.
- Developing strategic and effective career products to enhance the success rate of students.
- Strengthening our position as an Edtech with outstanding results for the prominent CUET which will play a leading role in transforming the Indian education landscape. In our first endeavor itself, we have delivered over 50 toppers in this test and will continue to reinforce our position in the coming years.
Gaurav: For students and individuals who wish to embark on the journey of entrepreneurship, we would recommend the following:
- Be more resilient
- Make data your priority
- Don’t doubt yourself
- Comprehensively understand the customer and the market segment
- Pick a niche
We thank Gaurav Goel for spending his valuable time and sharing his learnings with all of us.