An online social platform connecting students and educators that is dedicated for personalized peer-to-peer learning.
Pitch us on your solution
"Online Sohopathi" is an online educational platform that works as a swiss-army-knife for providing personal one-to-one learning service. The initiative is all about creating a virtual community of students and high quality educators, where everyone can help each other personally like classmates (Sohopathi).
The heart of this online platform is an interactive question-answer forum and information, designed to provide instant academic support and information for students through high-caliber teachers, similar to the concept of Quora/StackExchange. The most unique and attractive feature of this platform exists is in the form of a mentor-appointment-system. This system enables students to interact personally with any expert teacher online(voice/video call) or offline(face-to-face) for personalized academic/ career related assistance, by paying a reasonable amount of service fee.
Unlike other e-learning platforms, this platform creates a direct bridge for personal engagement between students and educators where students can get complete personal academic care sitting at home.
What is the problem you are solving?
Personal engagement between teachers and students is one of the most important criteria for ensuring Quality Education, a prominent SDG Goal. The current educational infrastructure of Bangladesh does not ensure this at all, especially from secondary upto tertiary level. There are almost 7 million students in our country that fall into the mentioned education group and more than 60% of this population are completely deprived of any personal interaction with expert teachers for solving academic problems throughout their whole learning lifespan.
The apparent reasons for this problem are: Lack of Quality Educators in same frequency throughout Bangladesh, High Cost and Time Consuming Service from Current Service Providers (Coaching Centers and Private Tutors), Inadequate Use of Social Media and E-Learning Platforms for 1-to-1 learning experience.
As a result of such demographic and economic imbalance, there is a considerable gap between students who have the privilege to engage personally with expert teachers and underprivileged ones in terms of academic learning, access to information and career guideline.
"Online Sohopathi" is working directly for ensuring complete personalized peer-to-peer learning for all students in order to improve the quality of education and reduce inequalities among the different educational communities of Bangladesh.
Who are you serving?
The target group of "Online Sohopathi" is basically a vast population of Bangladesh aged between 15-25, pursuing academic education or professional skills and have access to internet through any electronic device. This comprises of more than 4 million people and almost 70% of the internet users in Bangladesh. Currently, we are working with students from secondary upto higher secondary level for initial piloting and revenue generation.
We are working very closely with our customers for understanding their needs and pain points. We have already conducted survey on more than 30 students, 30 guardians and 20 mentors in order to analyze the problem domain, feature list and pricing model for the service. Based on their feedback, we have designed our solution in such a way that the whole solution reduces time and cost to a much affordable margin.
Students get their much needed instant academic help from anywhere from a huge pool of mentors The mentors are also happy to serve here as they get an opportunity of self-branding and it enables them to get directly connected with more potential students. Finally, the guardians are also highly likely to accept this platform because they can track the service of the mentors directly online which ensures accountability.
What is your solution?
Our online platform has the following key features and benefits:
1) Q/A Forum- There is a crowdsourced Q/A forum just like Quora at the heart of the platform where students can ask any time of academic or career related questions for free. Expert mentors will always be connected here for answering the queries. Just like any other social platform, anyone can both ask/answer to questions based on his problems and expertise. This is a 24/7 service meant for students to get instant help on any academic problem that they might get stuck with.
2) Information Hub- A separate Blog and Library section for accessing all types of important academic suggestions, circulars, notices etc. This part is also free and the content is collected from expert mentors.
3) Mentor Hiring Service- This is the most attractive and paid service in our platform. As we mentioned before, students can ask questions and there are mentors who are there to answer their queries directly. Through this mentor hiring service in our platform, students can directly hire the mentors who answered to their questions for proper understanding of any topic/subject or getting any sort of guideline/suggestion. So, students and mentors can interact with each other 1-to-1 by online and also offline. For online teaching, the interaction between mentors and students are done through direct voice/video live call and a digital whiteboard(currently with Google Docs). These online 1-to-1 sessions will be completely recorded as well in the backend. In terms of offline service, student and mentor interact physically to their convenient location.
4) Leaderboard and Gamification- In order to make the whole process sustainable, we have integrated gamification in the whole platform. Each mentor gets points for answering the questions in the website and contributing in the information hub. They also get points for completing any 1-to-1 mentoring session. Based on these points, the mentor gets different types of privileges (ex- increase in hourly payment, choosing convenient location/subject for teaching, performance bonus) etc. The point system is also integrated in the student side similarly for asking good quality questions, interacting 1-to-1 with mentors and any other contribution in the platform.
Basically, our web based platform works just like Facebook for Students and Uber for Mentors. This is a completely new and epoch making concept in terms of Bangladesh, as we are aiming to bring the complete private tutor service online and at everyone's doorstep.
Select only the most relevant.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Dhaka, Bangladesh
In which sector would you categorize your solution?
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
"Online Sohopathi" is basically building the future of education everywhere. Due to the popularity of current social media platforms (e.g.- Facebook, Instagram), our solution also similarizes the concept of social media for serving the students' needs. The solution creates some unique value propositions in each segment of service seekers (student/guradian) and service providers (mentors).
In terms of the students, "Online Sohopathi" should be the one-stop platform for instant on demand problem solving where they can get personal learning service from a big pool of experts, unlike any other platforms/service-providers. This also gives him a reliable platform for accessing any academic/career information unlike other social media platforms where information is too much scattered.
In terms of the guardians, "Online Sohopathi" provides them with the ultimate trustworthy platform where he/she can track his/her child's 1-to-1 learning session with the mentors directly through an online monitoring system that we are providing them. This ensures that mentors are accountable and the social safety factor in private tuition and coaching center is completely resolved.
Finally, in terms of the service providers(mentors), the incentive based leaderboard system integrated in the platform gives him optimum opportunity of self branding to a huge portion of students, unlike any other service providing platform. It also reduces his time of delivering service by a huge extent since he does not need to be physically present to provide his 1-to-1 teaching service.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
The current educational infrastructure of Bangladesh does not ensure equal opportunities for students of different demographics. "Online Sohopathi" aims to create a level playing field among all students through the help of technology.
There are many students of Bangladesh especially in rural/suburb areas who do not have any sort of access to quality educators and important academic information instantly.E-learning platforms in Bangladesh has reduced this problem to an extent by providing generalized content for all, but the gravity of this issue is still intense because none of these platforms are based on personalization of content and personal student-teacher engagement. As a result,many meritorious students lag behind compared to students in urban areas.
"Online Sohopathi" is already starting to change the dynamics in small scale, in terms of reducing inequality among the education communities. Over the last 1 year, we have served more than 1,000 students with our peer-to-peer learning service who did not have the privilege of any home tutors,through some small pilot projects. Among them. 350 of them were university admission seekers. A staggering percentage (81 percent) of them got admitted in private universities successfully and most of them accredit their success to "Online Sohopathi".They were mightily pleased with the on demand problem solving process through our Q/A Forum and 20% of them were regular customers of our 1-to-1 personalized mentoring service until admission test. Therefore, the outcome of these pilot projects give us proper indication that our solution is addressing the problem in the best possible manner.
Select the key characteristics of the population in Bangladesh your solution serves.
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
"Online Sohopathi" is in the MVP Stage in terms of product development. During the last 6 months, we have running several pilot projects and campaigns to test out our business model and user adoption process . We are currently serving almost 5,000 students through our platform from class 9 to class 12. Among them, almost 6% have converted to using our paid features. The number is increasing day by day. By the end of 2020, we aim to serve more than 100,000 students with a conversion rate of 15%. In the upcoming 5 year timespan, we aim to serve 6 million people with a conversion rate of at least 55% from secondary upto tertiary level. Based on the information provided above, we are hopeful of achieving product market fit by the end of 2022.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
The service that we are offering has more demand in rural/sub-urban areas. So,our target is to reach out to 12 districts outside Dhaka within the next 1 year through mass level campaign and workshops.Our expected target is to reach out to at least 10,000 students and guardians directly. Another of our immediate goals is to increase the number of mentors 4,000 within 1 year. These mentors will serve the students on three categories- regular, on demand,seasonal. In terms of product development, our plan is to launch the second iteration of our website by December 2019, in collaboration with a government portal. Based on the feedback of the second iteration,we will make further possible iterations and hope to reach at least 15% conversion rate through the reiterated platform.
Our long term goal is to integrate and collaborate with the government schools/colleges so that students who do not have access to smartphones can also avail our service. We also have a plan to cover all the 64 districts of Bangladesh through campaign and workshop by the next 3 years. Within the next 5 years, our aim is to reach 6 million users in our platform along with a network of 300,000 verified mentors.We have limited our operations to secondary and higher secondary level only, but our aim is to extend our operations to undergraduate level as well within the next 3 years. The technology stack will also be upgraded rapidly as we will introduce AR/VR and machine learning in order to improve the interactive learning experience.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
We are facing the biggest challenges in the following sectors:
Cultural: Online peer-to-peer learning is completely a new and epoch making concept for Bangladesh. People are more used to coaching center and home tutors for peer-to-peer learning traditionally. So, the biggest obstacle for us is to make our customers accustomed and convince them to actually pay for our services.
Marketing: Our service is completely based on the sharing economy like Uber/Pathao. So, an optimum balance between students (demand) and mentors (supply) needs to be maintained. This requires huge amount of marketing in mass level. Unlike most other businesses, our marketing has to be two-fold and designed separately for mentors and students. One of the biggest issues in terms of marketing is to maintain an optimal service charge per mentoring session that both student and mentor side should be comfortable with. This is also a highly important issue to consider for setting up our marketing policy.
Financial: We have been active in the market for more than 1 year and we have been operating completely without any outside investment. So, basically we have surviving by bootstrapping so far. This is a huge dent in our progress to scale up, as we need to hire specialized manpower in technical, marketing and design sector, which requires a lot of budget. In order to onboard service seekers and service providers, we also need to burn a big amount cash for campaigns and workshops. So, raising funds and investments is one of the biggest obstacles.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
We are planning to overcome the barriers with the following set of strategies and action plans:
1. According to our market and customer research results, we have found out that awareness needs to be increased by a big margin among guardians and students in order to convince them to use our platform for availing online teaching services, as it is a completely new concept. So, we are planning to conduct workshops and special campaigns in different districts of Bangladesh to increase the awareness.
2. We are looking to design our marketing policy in such a way that the supply and demand is balanced through a self-referral system. So, whenever new mentors register, we offer them special royalty for onboarding 2-3 students with him. We follow the same policy for new student registration and this process is really effective in balancing the supply and demand. Our leaderboard system in the platform is a perfect solution for balancing the optimal service fee per mentoring session. We have designed the gamification process through the leaderboard in such a way that discounts (for students)/hourly salary raise(for mentors)occurs only due to his positive contribution to our platform and reaching a certain amount of points.
3. In order to maintain the operating expenses, we are already supporting ourselves through technical freelancing jobs and conducting paid skill development workshops. We have started generating revenue but as we are in a very early stage. So, we have already connected with some potential angel investors for taking our product to the next stage.
Select an option below:For-Profit
How many people work on your solution team?
"Online Sohopathi" started with a team of 3 people back in the beginning of 2018. Now, we are a big team of 15 with 7 admins working in administration and 8 executives working in management sector. We also have a pool of 40 unpaid interns (university students) and 33 campus ambassadors (school/college students) whom we use for publicity, marketing and survey purpose.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
One and half year
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Team "Online Sohopathi" started its journey on January 2018. In this 1 and half year journey, "Online Sohopathi" has matured from idea stage to MVP stage. As our core team consists of students, it was hard for us to invest a big amount and hence we could not operate at a large scale. However, since the inception of "Online Sohopathi", we have survived without any outside investment. We had a strong technical team from the very beginning. Our very first version of the website was launched within just 3 months without the help of any outside developers. Besides, we invested a lot of time in building up a solid management team. We have a very good idea about the market as we have already done numerous feature, adoption and pricing survey on our users and campus ambassadors.
We also put a lot of effort in collaborating with other stakeholders which is a must for scaling up. Collaboration has been a huge success for us as we recently established a successful partnership with A2I and ICT Division of Bangladesh on Project "Konnect". We are also working together with "10 Minute School" and "Roar Media" on two different campaigns, for publicity and outreach. Finally, we have also been successful to generate some revenue and capture dedicated users which is the most important KPI for any early stage business entity. So,it is clearly visible that we have ticked all of the major boxes as an early stage startup with our limited investment, infrastructure and marketing resources.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
"Online Sohopathi" has very recently signed an MoU with A2I Educational Innovation Department on the Project "Konnect", which is a one-stop educational service hub for the adolescents of Bangladesh. Our platform will be directly integrated with this government portal and it will be open to all government schools and colleges. The integrated website will be released on January 2, 2019. Initially, we are going to integrate the free question-answer part with the "Konnect" portal. Gradually, we will also introduce the personalized 1-to-1 mentoring system through this portal as well and onboard teachers and students parallely from the government institutions.
We are also in talks with a potential partnership with Grameenphone, since we have been selected and incubated in the "Grameenphone Pre-Accelerator 2019" Program. We are planning to expand our services through their huge customer channels.
What is your business model?
Our business model is pretty simple and straightforward. For each 1-to-1 mentoring session online or offline, we charge a service fee from the students. We take 20% commission just like Uber from that fee and give the rest to the mentors. So, each 1-to-1 mentoring service provided through the platform is basically a revenue generating source, just like a Uber ride.
As our platform is designed like a social media, we have also integrated potential stakeholders (book publishers, private educational institutions) in our platform for advertisement. This is in small scale currently but we will extend it soon as our network expands.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
In order to reach financial sustainability, we will use any type of fund or investment for our marketing team and technical team basically. We need huge funds for marketing and as we are still in MVP stage, we want to spend a big budget hiring skilled manpower for making a well-furnished product.
Shadman Majid Online Sohopathi