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Lucknow-based NuShala is establishing a digital infrastructure for low-income schools.

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Lucknow-based NuShala is establishing a digital infrastructure for low-income schools.

NuShala, a Lucknow-based startup for Budget schools, grew out of SchoolDiaries, a learning management system (LMS) founded in March 2020 by entrepreneur Divyam Agrawal.

SchoolDiaries facilitated the re-opening of large budget schools and coaching centres following the nationwide lockdown. The product quickly grew to over 25 paying customers.

However, founder Divyam discovered a larger issue in the field of school education that needed to be addressed.

While B2C edtech players like BYJU’S, Vedantu, and Toppr made the most of the pandemic-led tailwinds in the K-12 category, and B2B operators like Classplus, Teachmint, and Winuall focused on digitising tutors and coaching classes, a massive chunk (with roughly 7 crore students) of the formal schooling system was left out. 

According to Divyam, “India has 4.25 lakh budget schools in Tier-II+ cities.” Over 95% of these schools do not use any technology and manually manage all of their data. The reasons for this range from the complexity of existing solutions to ineffective pricing and a negative user experience. This results in a loss of 500 million working hours for these school owners each year.”

NuShala founders

The problem it solves

SchoolDiaries ceased operations in January, and Divyam co-founded NuShala with co-founder Ratindra Nath Pande (formerly of MakeMyTrip). The company’s mission is to build the digital backbone for Bharat schools. NuShala, whose name derives from the Sanskrit word for ‘new structure,’ began operations in February and launched its beta product in June.

While the company’s departure from LMS undoubtedly altered its addressable market, it enabled the founders to develop a product in a segment ripe for disruption.

“We are targeting schools that are typically in theRs 1,500 per month fee bracket. We know that their paying power is less but it is a mass market where no such product exists today,” Divyam explains. 

It is a straightforward, affordable, and all-in-one solution that enables budget schools to embark on their digital transformation journey and automate their most basic functions, thereby saving significant costs, time, and manpower.

The core product offering

The platform combines a mobile application and an Android-based point-of-sale device (NuShala One) to enable schools to automate fee collection, expenses, salaries, timetables, student attendance, notices, and communication.

The IoT-led device is priced at Rs. 19,999 (zero-interest EMIs), and can be used to generate fee receipts and other documents. It is a single-step replacement for desktops, printers, ERP systems and payment machines put together. 

Divyam continues, “We considered a hardware solution because employees in low-income schools are not particularly fond of desktop computers and printers. They continue to manage the majority of their work via paper registers. Even the neighbourhood paanwala now uses technology, courtesy of BharatPe and Paytm, but these schools do not.”

NuShala device

While schools do have the option of availing just the NuShala app, the founder claims that the POS device has been a “very well-received product in most places”.

Bootstrapped currently, the startup is working with 11 beta users (schools) and has received inbound interest from more than 185 schools in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.

There’s interest from schools in Tamil Nadu and Kerala too, and NuShala is in the process of rolling out regional language interfaces and dashboards.

Divyam shares, “We haven’t publicly launched yet, but are shipping the pre-booked POS devices. We are confident that 25 percent of the schools that have made inquiries will become paid users as soon as we go live.”

Business model and growth plans

NuShala is a two-tiered service, with a free app and a premium subscription costing Rs 2,000 per month.

The latter plan includes additional features such as logo design, automatic reminders for late fees, salary and expense management, live class integrations, group chats, and customised student reports and analytics.

NuShala App

Besides the SaaS-based subscription and upfront device cost, NuShala also takes a cut of the fee payments processed by its platform. The startup is looking to onboard 5,000+ schools, and digitise the data of one million students over the next 12 months.

“There is a big gap in the market. Every player is focused on the high-paying schools. We are targeting the small ticket clients that are 85 percent of the market,” reveals the founder. 

NuShala currently has a five-person team that is unable to “act on the majority of requests” coming in from across the country. The startup is in discussions with several US-based angel investors and expects to raise its first round of funding by the end of 2021.

“We want to be focused on managing and digitising schools,” Divyam summarises. When we reach a point of saturation in that area, we will shift our focus to another area… merchandise, content, remote teaching, or something else.”

Source : Yourstory

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