Zishaan Hayath co-founded Toppr along with Hemanth Goteti in 2013. Both of them were classmates at IIT Bombay. Zishaan talks about Data Driven as a way to build a great user base. They founded their first company Chaupati Bazaar which was acquired by Future Group. They were part of the executive team at Future group and wanted to do another startup. They froze on education as this was a large underserved market from a technology perspective. Zishaan talks about the 400 Million odd kids in schools acorss India which is larger than the entire population of the US. In-spite of so many kids, the education standards are relatively low and it may take a generation to train the teachers to be able to teach the students in the existing scenario. They figured out that the only way to do this and to create a big impact is through technology and they founded Toppr.
Toppr was set up in 2013 to help students all over India prepare for entrance exams without being financially burdened by it. The USP of Toppr is the way the platform has leveraged technology to complement the tutor based offline coaching of a student with a truly intuitive online platform that makes a student optimize the time spent on self-practice. Zishaan says that the entire concept was based on student feedback along with some assumptions to build something. Some students accepted, while some of them were wary of the concept but they kept iterating based on feedback and then evolved. The decision to evolve was on a weekly and monthly basis. Zishaan says that they have not changed anything drastic since their earlier version as 98% of their assumptions turned out to be correct and they were building additional components on top of the initial version based on feedback. He says that if he speaks with five people and all five people say that they will like the platform, it does not mean that all the other people will like it too and hence he says that he built his platform based on constant measurement.
They anticipated that offline coaching has an important role to play in the overall ecosystem and they embraced it at a very early stage instead of trying to fight it. Zishaan says that it was a good decision because lots of coaching institutes and schools today are using Toppr to help their students prepare for their entrance exams. Their goal is to empower these teachers with data about their class and about their individual students rather than replacing them. This partnership model is the way to go forward. They don’t do live classes, but will support one on one coaching on a need basis.
They tried all means of marketing to reach out to potential aspirants. Since the students do not have a buying capacity at such an early age, the messaging involved parents in the process thereby creating a new counselling process altogether. They began with Google Ads which created traffic. The students tried the assessment and liked it and referred it to their friends. Zishaan calls his marketing as Data Driven Marketing. He then utilized other channels of marketing such as Facebook, Email Marketing, SMS Marketing and all of them worked for him. When asked if there was something that did not work for him, he says that there are only a few worthy channels available and he takes decisions on going into one of the channels if it has worked for someone else. He says that this should work for him too and tracks the performance of the channel by using data. Every initiative is a continuous process of evaluation and he lists down what they want to measure in each initiative. He quotes a few metrics such as reach of the campaign, how many clicks, how many engaged students, how many converted students to name a few. Reflecting on things he could have done earlier, he feels the platform should have been more open to begin with as the students could access the free platform only with a signup without any friction.
Zishaan’s advice to early stage entrepreneurs – It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur in India. It’s easier to start a business and raise funds but still difficult to find a great team. So, focus on hiring the right people for the right role for the right time. Also, India is at the cusp of a mobile revolution and it’s important to make your business relevant in the mobile era. If you want to ride the mobile wave, act now.
Today, Toppr has over 150,000 students enrolled on the platform across India . They have a question bank of over 1,50,000 questions and around 1 Lakh questions are being practiced daily by students. They have grown from a 10 member team to over 100 members in a span of just 4 months. They raised their angel round from Powai Angels and now they have raised another round of funding from Helion Ventures and SAIF partners.