“If you have a math question, I’m 99% sure it exists in our database,” says Tanushree Nagori. We’re inside a giant boardroom, with off-white walls and rows of tables, which double up as writing surfaces. Nagori draws on the table between us, explaining where her fledgling online venture—Doubtnut—lies within India’s edtech landscape, which is projected to be worth $1.96 billion by 2021.

“I guess you’d put us in this quadrant,” she says, pointing to a white space between “local language” and “concepts + doubts”. 

Nagori's visual explanation of India's edtech landscape (Picture credit: Olina Banerji/The Ken)

Nagori founded Doubtnut with husband Aditya Shankar in late 2016. Offered as an app, a website and even a WhatsApp helpline as of 2019, Doubtnut is an online platform which primarily offers students 24×7 help with math doubts. It caters to students all the way from class 6 to aspiring engineers sitting for public exams, allowing them to upload pictures of questions from books and receive a video solution within minutes. Like a Google for math queries.

“No one was paying attention to the urgency of doubts. We wanted to resolve doubts in a way that would break the Byju’s price point,” says Nagori. Byju’s—which offers online videos and course material on tablets—charges upto Rs 2.5 lakh ($3500) a year, which makes it financially unviable for a large section of the Indian population. Doubtnut, while yet to arrive at an exact price point, is experimenting with granular pricing for modular products. Say, Rs 399 ($5.6)to unlock a month’s worth of doubt-solving videos.

Of all the use cases to build edtech products, doubts are perhaps the stickiest and most compelling. If not tackled on the spot, they fester into what Nagori labels ‘learning gaps’. While Byju’s prides itself on creating a multi-step, learning journey, Doubtnut’s approach is to provide the necessary pit-stops. But has spinning an engagement model of just solving doubts really taken off?

Like a rocketship, Nagori claims. 

Doubtnut says it receives 200,000 mathematics doubts every day. It has 7 million monthly active users, with over a quarter of these using the platform daily. Till date, Doubtnut has raised around $3.3 million from marquee investors such as WaterBridge, Sequoia and Omidyar Network*.

But Doubtnut isn’t alone. Its main competitor in India—Brainly—fields questions from over 15 million users every month. Unlike Doubtnut, which is programmed to send pre-recorded explainer videos to students, Brainly is an international peer-to-peer question-answer platform, a la Quora.

“We realised that students turn to their community of friends, parents and teachers if they’re stuck on a question,” says Michal Borkowski, Brainly’s Poland-born co-founder. This is the experience, he adds, that Brainly’s trying to replicate online. 

Market Potential

One in every four Indian students are enrolled in private, after-school tuitions.

AUTHOR

Olina Banerji

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

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