Q. What was the idea behind starting CrackVerbal?
A. Our biggest motivation in starting CrackVerbal and scaling it up has remained the same: how do we act as a bridge between exceptional faculty who love to mentor and extraordinary achievers who want to be mentored. Growing up in a smaller city in India, I understand how lack of proper counselling can adversely impact smart and talented students from reaching their goals.I was good at standardized tests and was a mentor to my classmates while I was in college. So I decided to teach as a hobby and was associated with various test prep companies as a part-time faculty.
Soon, I was able to create a brand for myself so students directly reached out to me to help them. Eventually, Shreekala (the co-founder of CrackVerbal) and I decided to found CrackVerbal, with a vision to create a new benchmark in the test prep industry through knowledge, excellence, and effectiveness.
Q. How do you look at the growth potential in this sector?
A. Compared to 10 – 15 years ago, people now have more confidence, and they want to aspire for more – whether it is to work outside India or to apply for a B-school which is ranked very high, and probably charges in the vicinity of 30 lakhs to a crore. As the confidence and aspiration levels keep rising, the higher education industry will also parallelly keep growing.
Q. Where do you see yourself when compared with other organisations in this sector?
A. Organisations in this sector can be broadly distributed in 2 categories: (a) Test prep companies that offer online options, such as Kaplan and ManhattanPrepand (b) Online forums, such as GMATClub and Beatthegmat.
Among other online prep companies, not only is our course priced lower as we have the advantage of the cost arbitrage, but we are the only company that offers unlimited on-phone support during India business hours. We see a lot of students who like the fact that we are small and hungry – and it shows in the way we are more than just a bunch of training videos.
Large test prep forums have enough and more content available on their sites, so self-preparation becomes a viable option for the serious candidates who can focus on their own. Unfortunately, most of them have not invested in IP – either on questions or on techniques/strategies. We have spent many years in developing high quality proprietary content through a team of in-house experts with many decades of experience in GMAT/GRE preparation.
As we also help students with their MBA / MS application process, many of these students come back to us after they have taken the test so we have a great feedback loop. Moreover, we have our own online forum that has had over a million visits and 1000s of registered CrackVerbal students. This allows us to get to know the top issues impacting students preparing for such tests.
Q. What are the key trends you are observing in the Indian educations sector?
A. There are two major factors influencing higher education in India:
1. One major trend is the shift from classroom to online. More and more people are consuming video content, as people want more of online learning.
2. Previously, the larger metropolitan cities like Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad were the hubs for higher education. Now, smaller cities like Manipal, Vellore, or Coimbatore have almost equal access to higher education.
Q. How is the demand for Indian students in foreign universities?
A. More and more Indians have risen to very high positions in well-known companies. With people like Satya Nadella rising to CXO level positions, people understand that there is a certain DNA to an Indian student—he is typically smart, hardworking, and has that hunger to do well. Foreign universities are really looking for students with these qualities.
On the other hand, because there is a deluge of people applying from India, there is a competition among the people applying. So you can no longer just be smart and hardworking; you need to be able to differentiate yourself.
Q. What are your future plans?
A. Our future plans broadly come under two categories:
1. Because of the fact that people are starting to prefer learning online, be it on theirmobile phones, tablets, or laptops, we are aiming at getting our products across in a way that is convenient for them to learn.
2. We are also looking at expanding our footprint in India by launching centres in other higher-education intensive cities such as Hyderabad, Pune, and NCR.