Educomp’s Success with Online Lessons
Avi Verma, 10 years old but looking small for his age and seated on the last bench of the class, is sketching a germinating seed. He is trying hard to keep pace with other students as they are bombarded with strange terms: cotyledon, embryo and photosynthesis.
Then his teacher, Suchita Joon, shows a three-dimensional seed on a large plasma screen. At the click of a mouse, the seed germinates and grows a root and a shoot. In a pop quiz, Joon gets quick responses from students who almost out-shout each other. Verma, sitting next to the huge bag full of books he lugs to school everyday, hesitates to raise his hand. But, he says, he understands.The wired classroom in the privately-owned Bal Bharti Public School in Delhi is a far cry from most classrooms in India—chalk and blackboards, benches and desks. Its upgrade and modernization, and of those in poor schools, are the reasons behind the success of billionaire Shantanu Prakash, owner of publicly-listed Educomp Solutions Ltd.His company fills a market need, selling online lessons, as well as the hardware to run them, to schools. In a fiercely competitive education system, these modules sell well for their ability to help students who learn in different ways, including backbenchers such as Verma.
Prakash’s company has wired classrooms in 655 private schools. More importantly, it has won lucrative contracts from eight state governments for various computer-related activities in schools.
Prakash says his learning systems are useful in poor state-run schools which are short of teachers. “Government schools sometimes don’t have teachers at all, so students sit in front of the computer and learn,” said Prakash, whose company earned 33-35% of its revenue in 2007-08 from contracts with state governments to wire-up their schools.