Karanvir Singh's journey building India's largest vernacular test preparation platform
At the helm of India's largest vernacular test preparation app called Pariksha is Karanvir Singh, its founder and CEO, an alumnus of Symbiosis University. In our conversation with Karan, we learned about how Pariksha came to be and how the ride has been so far. He also touched upon the plans he has for the company moving forward.
Karan founded three other ventures prior to Pariksha
Before starting Pariksha, Karan founded three other companies and one of them was The Learning Mantra. While preparing for the civil services exam, he observed that good quality preparation material for these exams was not easily accessible around the country. He saw his first business opportunity in the education technology sector.
The Learning Mantra was Karan's first ed-tech start-up
Karan started The Learning Mantra to make high-grade test preparation resources available to aspirants across the country. He was invited to judge IIM Ahmedabad's annual business plan competition called Masterplan. At the competition, he met now-Pariksha's co-founder Utkarsh Bagri who was participating in Masterplan. Karan, his brother Vikram Singh Shekhawat, Utkarsh Bagri, and Deepak Choudhary conceptualized an ed-tech platform focused on test preparation.
Pariksha was co-founded by Karan, his brother, and two IITians
In 2015, Karanvir Singh Shekhawat and Vikram Singh Shekhawat, an alumnus of Symbiosis University, co-founded Pariksha with IIT Kanpur graduates Utkarsh Bagri and Deepak Choudhary. Until 2018, Pariksha implemented Software as a Service (SaaS) through a B2B model. The service is used by institutions for campus recruitment training for classroom students. Karan says that today, the B2B model isn't the focus, although it's available.
Since 2018, Pariksha helps students prepare for state government exams
Since May 2018, the company has pivoted its energies toward vernacular state government job exam preparation. For this, Pariksha relies on a B2C business model. Karan explains that the majority of students appearing for state government job exams are from tier-2 and tier-3 towns of India. Such aspirants are mobile-first internet users who haven't used a computer extensively at home or at school.
Pariksha's mentoring and preparation resources level the playing field: Karan
Karan points out that most state government job exams are now transitioning online. Ironically, the aspirants attempt possibly the most important exam of their lives on a computer with an unfamiliar interface. Not to mention, financially well-off aspirants have the competitive advantage of access to better preparation material and mentorship.
Pariksha is making an impact eradicating inequality
That is where Pariksha's offerings in vernacular languages fill in the gap. The two large problems that Pariksha is trying to solve are the problems of accessibility and affordability of good test preparation. We are trying to eradicate inequality, says Karan.
Pariksha's mock test UI replicates that of the actual exam
Karan says that the mock tests on Pariksha mimic the user interface and experience of the actual exam, so that candidates can develop a familiarity with the method of navigating between questions, bookmarking, and answering them. He also hopes to bridge the gap for aspirants with limited access to high-grade preparation material and mentorship.
Karan explains how content for exam preparation is developed
Karan compares Pariksha's exam preparation content partnership model to Coursera's. He says that partnering with the best brick-and-mortar test preparation institutions in a state gives Pariksha access to great teaching pedagogy and content with proven efficacy.
Karan says Pariksha received initial funding from friends and family
Speaking about the funding Pariksha received, Karan says that early capital came from friends and family. His university mate Dr. Ganesh Nikam was Pariksha's first external investor. Initial-stage angel investors included Accenture's former managing director Aqueel Merchant, FDC India's CEO Ameya Chandavarkar, and Venture Catalysts led by Apoorva Ranjan Sharma. Recently, the company raised its pre-Series A investment round from Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund.
Pariksha in talks to raise $10 million from foreign investors
Notably, the company has raised $3 million so far amid growing interest from institutional investors. Karan reveals that talks for the next $10 million round are underway. The round could see participation from Venture Capital (VC) firms based in Europe and Singapore, he added.
It's essential to nail the product-market fit to attract investment
Advising young entrepreneurs about attracting investors to their start-ups, Karan emphasizes that Angel and VC investment is all risk capital. The start-up is just selling the investors a dream without any collateral. However, if a start-up builds a great team, finds a large market, nails its Product-Market Fit (PMF), demonstrates traction, and has a great story, Karan believes securing investment would be relatively easier.
Pariksha will grow deeper and wider in near future: Karan
Explaining his plans for Pariksha in the near future, Karan says that the company will penetrate deeper into its captive market, and will go wider, attempting to offer preparation material for more state government exams. Karan says that in the long run, Pariksha would consider expanding to international markets, starting with Bangladesh which has a government job recruitment process that resembles the Indian system.