7 years ago, while a group of students were preparing for engineering entrance examination, they felt really hard and faced a problem for giving entrance examination. As a student they had to go to institutes to prepare entrance examination which were located only at Kathmandu. Students have to search for the institutes and move to Kathmandu for the preparation of the entrance examination. In terms of short duration courses, intitutes charge were really high as NRS 25K per candidate. While the country’s per capita income is only NRS 75K.
The entrance examination is not much different from the education that we get at college and even students could prepare for the examination while in college. So when they were working they thought why let’s not try to solve the problem? And a year ago we came up with a prototype and built MVP to test how students would use technology to prepare entrance examination. Here’s the short interview that we did with the Meroanswer team.
Where did your vision came from for starting a company and developing apps like meroanswer?
All of us were friends studying computer engineering at Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk Campus. We used to do freelancing projects. Then 2 years before graduating from campus we started a software development company called Phunka Technologies. We saw different problems in our country. They were not just problems, we took them as opportunity and started working to solve the problem trying to create sustainable business.
What was the most challenging part while going throughout this journey?
People are more aware of information technology nowadays and there has been steady growth in software / tech market of Nepal. The trend of using technology in sectors like schools, banking, health institutions , tourism, agriculture is the positive sign towards technological advancement.
The major challenge or hurdle for product based companies is that pushing their products to Niche market. It’s really hard to get first user to test products in the market. And we also found that the people who are maintaining their daily conventional routines don’t want to change and face the challenge of using technology. Some of them are thinking it as extra burden. Since skilled manpower are outsourced to outside Nepal, software sectors are facing challenges to get good technicians to fulfill their requirements at the moment.
As software industries are flourishing with new concepts and ideas in Nepal, there is no doubt the country will gear up as ICT-based nation in upcoming days.
Who are your target audience and how you reach out to them?
We have a huge market of 80,000 students enrolling in science faculty among which 30,000 prepare for engineering and medical entrance examination every year. The internet penetration and android phone users is increasing especially among young students. The market is also technologically active and ready to adopt new innovations and technology in the field of education is blooming in Nepal. Apart from that, we obtained 3000 users taking an average of 50 exams per day, 500 app downloads and generated a revenue of $200 per month from our MVP release 5 months before. We have a economic subscription model to access the system which is affordable for students. Considering the inaccessibility and unreliability on online payment system in Nepal, we have adopted direct sales and sales through nearby bookshops and stationaries that is easily accessible to students.
Target market variables:
- Demographic: Initially we are targeting students preparing entrance examination and in particular students preparing for medical and engineering entrance examination. This comprises of more than 30,000 students who go to institutes for entrance preparation and around 2% of the the 200,000 students who do premedical and pre engineering courses while at high school.
- Geographic: The students particularly go to medical and engineering entrance institutes. So geographically located at Kathmandu and go to these institutes everyday.
More than 35,000 students attend undergraduate entrance examination
What is the marketing strategy?
Based on data we analysed from different entrance institutes and students giving entrance examination at different level we found that:
- More than 10,000 students attend IOE undergraduate entrance examination.
- More than 15,000 students attend IOM undergraduate entrance examination.
- More than 5000 students attend undergraduate TU CSIT entrance examination.
- More than 5000 students attend undergraduate KU programs(medical, engineering and other faculties).
For students trying to prepare examinations, especially the entrance examinations that are based on multiple choice questions students have to rely on books. Books have following limitations:-
- Have wider range and buying one book won’t be sufficient.
- Have limited practice questions and doesn’t offer variety.
- Doesn’t give competitiveness of student and insights like time, speed, progress.
- Books are bulky and costs are really high.
- Taking books everywhere is not possible so utilization of time is a problem.
Besides, students study at institutes where students get to practice exams and get to know their competitiveness but they do have limitations as printed below:-
- They offer exam at certain time (say weekly) only.
- They do not offer variety of exams (I cannot practice engineering exams if I study at Medical Preparation center even though I aspire it).
- After studying chapters, practicing questions on that chapter and assessing self is a problem.
Even if we see from teachers perspectives, they have to go through huge paperworks to take test and assess students.
The solution is an online testing platform. When we talk of online testing platform based on multiple choice questions there are none in the context of Nepal.
We have begun at the right time with right approach, tying up with academicians fulfilling the academic and technical needs to bring up a system that students and teachers both can benefit.
In India, there are big players like testbook, cracku, toppr etc are already there in the domain. But in context of Nepal we have an untapped market.
For our premium users, we deliver a coupon (which is a unique key that needs to be entered into the system to unlock the premium features) online/physically.
Online payment is a problem in Nepal so, we have managed numbers of distribution centres from where interested students can buy coupons to get access to premium features.
What is the biggest hurdle that you faced or are still facing?
Main challenges for us is to create awareness about the benefit of the application and technology in education. Besides we also faced problems about the payment but problems are not just problems they are opportunity too so we came up with concept of coupon based exam like recharge cards. The rise of Mobile penetration and internet access made us more sanguine for the future of smart learning in Nepal.
Where do you see yourself in next 5 years?
We would love to see ourselves being a part of successful startup and working in more innovative idea.
What are the 3 latest trends that excites you the most?
- Wearable Devices
- Self Driving Car
What are you most excited about at the moment?
From the beginning, we targeted to acquire 20% of our total market. But we succeeded to 30% . This is a wow moment for us.
Any word or advice for all the startups out there who are trying to make it go viral like your apps?
There is no right time to start something new. The only thing is you should have maintained your execution plans for your initiative. And, startup is always an experiment on uncertainties. So, be ready for different experiments and pivoting of your idea.