How this startup saw opportunity in Maths and cashed in on it
The Indian education sector is projected to touch $ 40 billion by 2017. School education in India contributes 38.1 per cent of the market size in this sector. With new ways of learnings, innovations and newer technologies, many opportunities and avenues have arisen out of this sector. One such startup cashing in on this opportunity is CueMath.
Starting CueMath, founder Manan Khurma took up the much dreaded subject of Mathematics and found out new and interesting ways of teaching it to students. CueMath, which came to the fore in 2013, today has over 2,000 centres across India and is continuing to grow. Franchise India interacted with Manan Khurma and explored the various medians of his startup.
What inspired you to start Cuemath. Please share your inception story.
We believe that if the child learns to think from principles, the child can rationally analyse any new situation and figure out the best way to deal with it. Thus, we see math not just as a subject but as a way of life, a mental framework.
Towards the end of 2013, we built the first prototype of the learning system which involved building worksheets, tab-based learning activities, puzzle cards, and related stuff. After a trial session, we followed a deeply research-oriented methodology.
We recruited a few women in the Delhi / NCR region to run a pilot project after the prototype was built. These ladies started running home-based Cuemath centers and within a few weeks we got a spectacular response where many teachers joined us and parents sought Cuemath as an after-school math learning solution for their children. Now, we have more than 2,000 Cuemath centres running across the country.
Is this your first entrepreneurial venture? Share your entrepreneurial journey with us.
Prior to Cuemath, I founded Locus Education, a JEE test-prep venture. Over 6 years, I taught more than 10,000 students in multiple centres across the country. I extensively explored blended-learning models to suit the potential of every child. I also associated with Pearson and McGraw and wrote mathematics books.
In my 10 years of teaching, I realised what an important role math can play in shaping the future of children and how a solid foundation can only be built when children are young. All these learnings prompted me to begin Cuemath.
What is the targeted age group of children you have designed your Math program for?
The program is designed for kids of grade LKG to 8th. A solid foundation should be built from the start and that was our major aim to design this program for children of these ages.
Tell us about your business model.
The unique aspects of Cuemath are its product and its distribution model. The product is a multi-format, tech-enabled learning system for K8 math. The distribution model involves individuals (mostly well-educated women) setting up home-based math learning centres and using Cuemath’s learning system to deliver world-class math learning to kids in their localities.
What is the current outreach of your startup? Do you have well-defined plans for scaling up? Share your expansion plans.
Currently we have 2000+ centres teaching 8000+ children across the nation. We have a strong presence in Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune. We have plans to scale the model quickly and rigorously across India so that every child has access to the world-class product that we are delivering. The future looks very promising.
Do you have any corporate or education tie-ups? Elaborate?
Yes. We have recently launched our Cuemath Affiliate Program and School Cuemath Quiz which has led to us collaborating with corporates like Hamleys and Crosswords; and with elite schools like Army Public School and Christ School. In the near future we have plans to associate with many more corporates and education institutes.
What is the role of technology in supporting your modern learning format of Math? What is the potential of your product for the coming generation of children?
Technology is an integral part of our model. Cuemath’s multi-format tech enabled learning system strives to provide holistic math learning to the kids. The best part about our product is that it is continuously evolving, which means its potential is infinite! If the future of technology is virtual reality or bot, we will take our system there. The future of technology is the future of Cuemath’s learning system.
Have you raised funds or are in the process of doing so? Have you set a mark which you want to exceed while raising funds? How are you utilising these funds?
We recently raised $4 million in Series A funding from Sequoia Capital. Prior to this, we received our angel round of funding from Unitus Seed Fund. We are fortunate to have received the support of some of the best venture capital funds out there.
We are utilising these funds in the best possible manner by investing in the constant development of our product and in helping our teachers turn their centres into world-class learning institutes.
What is the kind of investment you had to put in? How has your ROI been?
I have put my life into this venture. It is something that is very close to my heart. And I would rather measure the ROI in terms of the lives we are changing - across two very distinct demographics.
On the one hand, we have thousands of students falling more and more in love with math every day. We have heard literally mind-blowing stories of how students who used to hate math have now become the biggest champions at math. This kind of impact is what drives our team.
On the other hand, many women who have chosen to become Cuemath teachers are now financially independent, earning significant incomes through a home-based occupation which is very meaningful, has immense impact and gives them great pleasure.
Share your franchising model with us. What are the benefits that you give your franchisee and what are the terms laid down for them? Also, what do you look for in a franchisee?
The way this program is designed requires Cuemath Centres to be in place to deliver the best education experience to the children. Our intensive selection process allows only a few of the thousands who apply to become Cuemath Teachers. We look for well-qualified married women; who are looking for an opportunity to work from home and who have the time that we require from every teacher in our network.
After selection, Cuemath Teachers undergo a rigorous training process – which they need to pass before they are certified to run home-based math learning centres. Even after, we continue to provide training and support to help them turn their centres into world-class learning institutes.
They are equivalent to our partners and are an important part of our unique model.
Is the conceptualisation and mechanism of your startup a broader vision for the future of the edtech industry?
Cuemath was started with the mission to make kids great at math from a very young age. And the broader vision is simple: to build the world’s best math learning program; one so good that it is the default choice of every parent. The tech based learning-by-doing approach that we are following is something that can definitely be aligned with the future of the edtech industry.
How have the consumers responded to your startup? Have you been able to attain your goal of new age learning?
The feedback we have received about our product has been spectacular. We can tell a number of stories about children who didn’t like math earlier now loving it. Parents are extremely happy to send their kids to the Cuemath Program. Even teachers are amazed by how easily our product facilitates teaching young minds. The results of the children enrolled in the Cuemath Program have substantially improved.
How do you see the future of the education industry in India?
The future of the education industry in India depends a lot on how well we optimise the potential of technology. The major challenge I believe we face right now is how to make education accessible to the masses. If we can overcome that, I believe the future of the education industry in India is very promising.