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Sumeet Mehta, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of LEAD School, has many ambitions. It isn’t until he spells them all out that you realise they all lead to one big goal. To put it simply, LEAD School—which recently raised a $100 million round and became a unicorn in the process—wants to be to Indian schools what Xerox is to photocopies.

This is a towering ambition given India has over 1.5 million schools. But LEAD is targeting a very specific section of Indian schools—the affordable private schools (APSes)—that a majority of Indians students attend. India’s 450,000-odd private schools serve  nearly nearly Central Square Foundation State of the Sector Report on Private Schools in India Read more half of all the country’s students, with ~70% of these students paying less than Rs 1,000 ($13) in monthly school fees.

Most of these schools, though, have  struggled struggled The Ken Lockdown lessons: India’s affordable private schools face a reckoning Read more to take classroom learning online. Many have relied heavily on internet tools like video calling service Zoom and instant messaging service WhatsApp to continue education in some form or another. LEAD’s ambition is to be the go-to solution to digitise APS classrooms.

The company is attempting to do this by tightly integrating content and technology, where all the requirements of executing a classroom session converge into a single solution. Over a Zoom call with The Ken, Mehta calls it “a double helix of the DNA, where one strand is technology and the other side is education”. Take its recently  launched launched LinkedIn Sumeet Mehta: Homework has now become intelligent with iHomework by LEAD. Read more iHomework solution, for instance. Aimed at teachers, iHomework automatically creates homework assignments for students and also assesses them, providing insights into student performance and lessening the burden of teachers.

According to a senior industry executive, APSes face high teacher attrition—upto as much as 40% in many schools, as administrative duties take up a lot of the teacher’s time interfering with actual teaching. Fluctuations in the available teacher capacity affect the learning in classrooms. LEAD wants to eliminate this uncertainty by providing ready-made lesson plans, worksheets, and syllabus plans to help teachers conduct classes seamlessly.

LEAD has rapidly grown, going from catering to 600 schools two years ago to nearly 5,000 currently. Over the next couple of years, it wants to double that number, hitting at least 10,000 schools in the country, says Mehta. And it’s spending money in spades in order to do so.

AUTHOR

Arpit Arora

Formerly a researcher at CivicDataLab and Pratham Books, Arpit tried to understand and unravel the Indian education system as a statistician. Now he's doing that as a writer at The Ken, reporting on India’s $180 billion education market.

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