Abhay Saboo’s quick math for CoLearn’s edtech gains

Original post by THE KEN

The startup world in Indonesia shows a new trend that is quite different from the last few years. EdTech is one type of category that is increasingly in demand by investors and customers. As a new player, CoLearn has succeeded in overtaking other competitors who first entered this market.

CoLearn, one of AC Ventures‘ portfolio companies, launched its math tutoring app in August 2020, bang in the middle of the pandemic. CoLearn has its own Unique Selling Point (USP) compared to the other EdTech players who came earlier, such as Brainly, Ruangguru, and Zenius. Its growth formula is a mix of doubt-solving and live tutoring classes.

In his interview with THE KEN, CoLearn’s Co-Founder and CEO Abhay Saboo shares his views on the current landscape of the Edtech world. Including the outlook for this industry in the future and what CoLearn will do. He also talked about his reasons for getting into the world of education.

Saboo, born to Indian parents, moved to Indonesia with his family at the young age of three. He grew up in Semarang and Salatiga, two neighboring small cities in Central Java, where his father worked in the textile industry. A Harvard graduate, he’s built a company before CoLearn—pharmacy chain Viva Health, which has scaled to almost 150 outlets since its inception in 2012. Saboo handed over the reins to a senior management team in 2018.

He then realized his strong interest in education. Since being in junior high school, Saboo has tutored several subjects. The idea to establish CoLearn was formed.

“With healthcare, sometimes you’re dealing with folks when it’s too late in their life. With education, their whole future is there in front of them, and you can change the course of their life,” said Saboo to THE KEN.

In the very beginning, CoLearn’s business model was offline-online, where they saw an opportunity. There are about 40,000 tutoring centers across Indonesia.

“There is a massive opportunity to increase the quality of tutoring centers. If you organize them well, then you can increase their standard. You can have some element of technology, some element of offline, right? And you can make their centers look better, like OYO for tutoring centers, or RedDoorz and Zenrooms, if you will,” said Saboo.

While many people predict this change in teaching and learning behavior will be a permanent change, Saboo sees that after-school tutoring would be a permanent change. This business model then changed to the online realm.

“Because once families are used to learning from home, even if schools reopen, they would say it makes no sense for the kids to go to school for all these long hours, come home, and go back to school again for tutoring,” added Saboo.

For CoLearn, they don’t think that recorded content is the future. CoLearn thinks that live classes and AI-powered help are the future.

Fundamentally, Indonesia has a motivation and confidence problem. Saboo believes that we have to replicate offline behavior in an online setting if we want to make kids study. CoLearn has been through that offline experience, so they had some cues on how to replicate that in an online setting.

One of the most important elements for these kids who are not motivated is to make learning fun for them, making it a two-way conversation.

The other thing is cohorts. “Cohorts is the future, and it’s not in content. It’s a community. It drives discipline, it drives consistency,” explained Saboo to THE KEN.

The services offered by CoLearn are more segmented than other competitors, such as Ruangguru or Zenius. When the competitor offers various consumer needs in education (positioning itself as a super-app), CoLearn is staying focused on STEM.

“One might argue how useful math is in day-to-day life, but it’s about the problem-solving skills that you learn, which you don’t even realize you pick up. It has to go through that problem-solving process, critical thinking, you can apply that to any situation in life,” explained Saboo. From its positioning and differentiation, Saboo’s optimistic about bringing CoLearn into the competition in the EdTech space.

“The way I think about competition is, when you’re in a basketball game, you’ve got to look at the basket, right? From the corner of your eye, you can look if someone’s about to tackle you or block you or steal the ball, but you’ve got to be focused on the basket. Otherwise, you can’t score. For us, it’s all about what is the problem that Indonesian parents have? What students have? And how are we going to solve that?” said Saboo.

To read more, visit The Ken here.

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