Elearnmarkets is India’s premier online education provider that includes a wide range of courses in its portfolio along with video content and webinars in multiple languages to reach the diversity. The Kolkata-based start-up was founded back in 2015 by Vivek Bajaj , Vineet Patawari and Vinay Pagaria.
As we know about the booming EdTech sector in India today, Elearnmarkets is one company established to take financial education to the next level, both in India- supporting the ‘Atmanirbhar India’ initiative by PM Narendra Modi and abroad as well.
About Vineet Patawari: A CA and an IIM(Indore) alumnus, cofounded elearnmarkets.com and is in charge of this excellent educational finance portal as the Director. He is also an alumnus of St. Xavier’s and has been a visiting faculty in some of the premier educational institutes like St. Xavier’s – Kolkata, IISWBM, ISBM, Bhawanipur College, IMI Kolkata.
- What can you tell me about Elearnmarkets? What was the idea behind it?
“Elearnmarkets is a financial market training platform where we have 100+ market experts who are training people on various aspects of stock markets and related aspects such as mutual funds and other financial products. So, it is a platform wherein we help students and the experts to come together enabling the students to learn from professional experts. This is an industry which is extremely practical and you need to learn from people who are actual traders and investors.”
- What is the USP/competitive advantage of Elearnmarkets over other financial ed-tech start-ups?
“First of all, in the space where we are operating, there are very few people who are functioning in a structured way. This industry is extremely fragmented and there are individuals who are training people. These people are mostly not extremely tech-savvy and they don’t have the required infrastructure to reach out to the remotest corner of the country which we have created for them and the other thing is that this industry overall, the financial markets, there is always a lack of trust. There have been scams and all other problems related to finance in the past, so people generally don’t have big faith in financial planners or market experts who can train them because there always have been vested interests.”
“What Elearnmarkets has done is bring in credibility into the system- the fintech ecosystem through due diligence of every trainer before we onboard them to the company and then we have revenue sharing with them, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone. At Elearnmarkets, we try to keep the prices as reasonable as possible, so that it is accessible and economical for every buyer and every student who want to benefit from our services.”
“This is one aspect and the second aspect is ‘students’ who want to get a job or who want to learn about markets or finance as a whole. For them we have certifications which are from the highest authority in the field of financial markets. So, Elearnmarkets is affiliated with NSE as its certification partner along with MCX and NCDEX, all of them are providing certifications for the courses which we have created and posted on our platform Elearnmarkets.com.”
- Would like to throw some light on the start-up scenario of the country?
“The year 2020 was a very unique year in itself where a lot of the technology-based start-ups were going up when all the other start-ups that were not leveraging technology as a business tool were going down. The reason behind this being that everyone was at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the following lockdowns, people were turning digital. So specially for all the EdTech start-ups and the Fintech start-ups, because the stock markets were open throughout and were not even closed for a single day during the pandemic, people were sitting at home and trading, and a huge surge in the new accounts opening happened because everything went online and people are opening Demat accounts to try out trading. So we at Elearnmarkets were at the juncture as a platform that serves as both EdTech as well as Fin-tech and we created another platform called StockEdge.
StockEdge is a self-research tool for people who want to invest in stock markets or want to research on the stocks or the mutual funds where they want to invest their money in.”
“We were able to 3x our numbers as before the lockdown we started with around 30,000 new users onboarding Elearmarkets per month and now we are onboarding almost 90,000 users every month.”
“In terms of the start-up scenario overall, I feel that we are the best of the times and that people are accepting. The biggest thing in my opinion is not the availability of funding but the juncture where people are actually accepting your product. EdTech has penetrated your home in multiple ways as your kids are learning, you are learning online. This is going to change the landscape of the entire digital start-ups which we have in our country and they will grow much faster from here-on. As we are sitting in Kolkata where the product-based start-ups are almost not there, it’s far below cities like Bangalore, Gurugram or any other city. However, I think that we, sitting here in a place like Kolkata have an advantage of having the right quality manpower in terms of dedication towards work. Elearnmarkets have a workforce of over 150 employees and each one of them is highly dedicated towards whatever role they play in the company. So, that is the advantage of a city like Kolkata.”
- How would you categorise COVID-19 as your catalyst for upscaling the business?
“COVID-19 has been our catalyst for sure because everyone was sitting at home and Stock Markets were open. People wished to learn and invest because everything else was going down and Stock Markets were going up. Everyone was having this feeling of missing out that we are not able to latch on the excitement which was building up in the financial markets because of this unannounced change. Therefore, there was a huge surge from the pockets which were earlier not at all exposed to such expenses. For example, the Tier-III cities, the smaller towns and the women. If you look at our records of new users onboarded, you will be pretty surprised that around 25% of them were women. So that was another healthy trend which was emerging in the financial markets during and after COVID-19. So, as I was saying that earlier these categories of users were completely away from markets and now, they are also taking their first step entering the markets and that’s purely I think how COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst in bringing this change.”
- How has technology enabled you to scale up your venture in pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 times?
“I think what has happened is that the onset of COVID-19 and the penetration of Reliance Jio almost happened at a similar time frame. Now what Jio has done is, made high speed internet available in each and every part of the country and the cost has gone down significantly. Also, I think bandwidths and networks are the most important input for any Education-Technology start-up because your video content needs to stream really nicely and efficiently for people to have a good learning experience and that was made possible because of the high-speed internet penetration which is happening in our country. We also made sure that we have the best of the technology which is scaled-up and provides the best video experience to our users. We integrate a lot of learning tools, StockEdge. So, it is deeply integrated within our learning management system also and people always get real time data analytics while they are learning and we made a very good mix of self-based courses as well as live interactive courses, so users have always had a choice of choosing from the various formats. Obviously, technology has a big role and once the acceptance came from the people because of COVID-19, it became a perfect combination.”
“This is a cultural change which is coming into our country and I think EdTech and specially India is at the forefront of EdTech revolution. The biggest Ed-Techs are emerging from India and I think this trend will continue.”
- Do you get any funding’s from global investors?
“No! we are going bootstrap so far and we had a small fund raise from some marque investors such as Mr. Ramesh Damani who is an ace market investor, he has also invested in Elearnmarkets and then there are a couple of other individuals. So, we bided half a million funding in 2018 and post that we are break-even and we are going bootstrapped since then.”
- What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
“So, I went to IIM Indore in the year 2006 and my MBA got completed in 2008. This was the year when we were in college and apparently when CAT went online and I always had this intention of doing something in the education field. Before this time, I never thought of doing anything online, only since this CAT went online that became a trigger for thinking, why not do something online because now people will start studying online on the internet. But unfortunately, it was a little too early and I started a venture called “Fireup” which was online CAT preparation founded in 2008.”
“I think that this trend will stay even if the colleges and schools open, for student’s extra studies or anything as a part of skill development. People will always turn to online I think because see I will give you an example, we make best of the trainers available and those trainers specially in financial markets used to charge a very-very high amount earlier because they used to teach 20 people in a seminar mode. Now, we are doing that online at a time where there are 500 people coming and we are charging a sum of 300rs. The trainer is getting similar revenue but the student is paying only 1% of that what he was paying earlier. So, it is a win-win situation for everyone.”
- Who has been the inspiration of your life and what were your key takeaways from them?
“You know in terms of inspiration, I would not say financial EdTech or anything like that because I as an entrepreneur, want to be a segment agnostic whether it is fintech, ed-tech or anything which comes up. The whole idea is to know there are areas where people have friction points and I want to reduce those friction points. As I told you earlier, financial market trading was available but in a very remote pocket at a very high cost and we want to facilitate access to everyone in the country. So, that’s the kind of model I am hoping to build Elearmarkets on. Now talking about inspiration, rather than individuals, I take a lot of inspiration from the books which I read. I love to read extensively and from the individuals who have written those books. Recently I read about Blitzscaling, there is this book by Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn.”
- Would you like to share your thoughts on work life balance for entrepreneurs in general?
“See, I personally believe that this workaholism is a lie. You need to maintain a work-life balance because as an entrepreneur when you grow from a 10 people team to a bigger team, you cannot spend all your time in firefighting or doing things by your own because you need to make decisions. So, I believe you should always have a balance to life where you are reading, where you are thinking about things which will take you to the next stage and if you are keeping too busy to think about future then actually there is a problem! You know, you cannot do things that will actually help you to scale up, so you should have a very good work-life balance and to do that you should have segregated time compartments. So that’s something I definitely believe.”
- What are some of your key priorities for your people?
“Actually, what we look for is a ‘fit to our culture’. So I’ll give you an example, the biggest thing that we look is whether this person will fit into our culture or not and also the culture in my thing is clearly defined that I want people who are dedicated but not very aggressive. We want people who are not extremely aggressive but very-very dedicated and sincere because even if they are not the brightest people or the people with the X factor, they will come to that place. But if they are extremely aggressive, they will probably disturb our culture which is more of a friendly, family kind of an environment. So fit to the culture is my answer.”
- Your last piece of advice for a young individual aspiring to become an entrepreneur in the present day and age and for the future to come after COVID-19?
“I personally believe that it is ‘Perseverance’! Once you are into something, you need to stick out your neck and be there for some time because to build anything valuable, it takes time. Don’t get blinded by the glamour and by the fund raise news everywhere in the country and that kind of environment which is building up. For some it might happen faster and for some it might happen slower but if you are there it will happen to you, this is number one. Number two, you have to be consistently a learning machine because environment changes every day, people change and if you need to manage people you need to consistently learn.”
‘Till the time your learning curve is steeper than your organization’s growth curve, you will be able to sustain.’