Villgro recently announced investments in three fast-growing, early-stage enterprises in education and employability: Blackboard Radio, Madguy Labs and Promorph. The companies will get a seed funding of INR 25 Lac each, powered by Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, along with mentoring and strategic guidance from senior advisors and access to Villgro’s network of downstream investors, channel partners, and domain experts. All the three enterprises are trying to solve pressing issues in the education sector through scalable and sustainable models of business. These investments reflect Villgro's commitment to its mission of creating impactful, innovative, and successful enterprises.
Here is all that you need to know about the portfolio companies:
1. BLACKBOARD RADIO
Challenge: In India, not being proficient in English leads to students being under-confident and having fewer opportunities in higher studies & jobs. Students have poor English because: first, most parents & teachers cannot help their children with English as they are not comfortable speaking the language correctly, and second, personal language trainers/coachings are either unavailable or expensive.
Solution: Blackboard Radio uses AI & NLP to create conversation bots for children. Their conversation bots are chatbots but with an additional layer of animated graphics. These bots simulate a real-life conversation between a child & a virtual cartoon character. This technology is used to create adaptive daily 10-minute workouts for children where they play an activity by speaking to this conversation bot.
Impact: Blackboard Radio currently works with 1000+ students in a closed beta and plans on reaching out to 10,000 students by 2019.
2. MADGUY LABS
Challenge: A government job is considered quite prestigious in India, especially in lower income groups. Current options (Coaching Institutes) which offer courses for these exams are extremely costly due to their high fee and are unable to provide proper guidance & quality education. On the other hand, with all the government job exams being conducted online, these options fail to provide the adequate test-taking environment to the students, keeping in mind that most of them are from rural background. Moreover, there are 500+ government job exams but coaching options are only able to provide modules for a few mainstream exams. There is also a lack of online content for regional level exams which are conducted in vernacular languages.
Solution: The Automated Tool, together with Preparation Tracker helps students to prepare for multiple exams at a time, and then suggests ‘What & When’ to study; it also adapts to students’ learning style and suggests improvements. Job Eligibility Engine creates awareness regarding many unpopular exams, thus increasing chances of students to get a job in their region.
Impact: The platform enables students to study from the comfort of their homes and in their own regional languages at an affordable price. It reduces burden of high fees charged by the coaching centres and short term urban migration. It is most helpful for the students from rural and poor financial backgrounds with less or no access to a brick and mortar coaching centre.
Challenge: Currently there are 31 Million students enrolled in the government schools of India, but they face serious challenges in terms of quality education. Key reasons for this are not lack of support or funding by the government, but having access to real-time information about millions of schools which are spread across districts and states of the country, so that necessary steps can be taken every day towards improving the quality parameters & accountability of stakeholders.
Solution: Promorph has developed and successfully implemented a Smart & Intelligent system “EmpowerU” that leverages technology and analytics. It performs daily real-time monitoring & evaluation from each of the thousands of schools in a district using mobile application enabled with geo-fencing, which works even in rural schools that lack internet connectivity. An analytical web dashboard provides instant analysis & data-driven decision making through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and is Smart enough to perform actions based on in-built intelligence at the control room established in the district.
Impact:The project EmpowerU DISHA is successfully operational since July 2016 for the last 1 year and 8 months, and the impact has been unprecedented monitoring of 1,20,000 students and 6000 teachers every day!
Villgro’s next set of Education investments will be in the area of tech-enabled employability (skilling) innovations. If interested, apply here.