On 2 July, 2021, Sandaruwan Gunathilake, a Sri Lankan tech entrepreneur, woke up to a strange and worrying email. Sent by a user of Prognosis, a medical education app he’d co-founded, it alleged that an Indian startup had seemingly ripped off the app. The email contained visual evidence that showed how case studies from Prognosis, a clinical simulation game created by Gunathilake’s US-based company Medical Joyworks, had shown up, practically verbatim, on an Indian medical test-prep app called PrepLadder.

Gunathilake immediately swung into action and alerted his lean team of nine to investigate. Over the following weeks, their main focus was to find out two things:

First, what was the extent of this copyright infringement?

Second, what exactly is PrepLadder?

A shock to the system

Gunathilake didn’t have to look far. Across the Palk Strait in India, PrepLadder had made waves just a year ago when it was acquired by burgeoning edtech conglomerate Unacademy for $50 million. The acquisition was part of a pandemic-driven shopping spree, which saw Unacademy hoover up eight edtech startups between March 2020 and March 2021 in its quest to be a one-stop-shop for students preparing for India’s vast spectrum of rigorous competitive exams.

Founded in 2015, Unacademy recently secured a valuation of $3.44 billion, after raising a $440 million funding round in August. Its cap table consists of marquee backers such as SoftBank, Tiger Global, and Temasek.

PrepLadder is an important constellation in Unacademy’s galaxy of test-prep bets. The edtech unicorn prides itself on acquiring disruptive startups that rack up impressive user numbers quickly. PrepLadder, with over 100,000 paid and 800,000 free users, as of September, was a snug fit for Unacademy. As the first-of-its-kind medical test-prep app in the market, it enabled its deep-pocketed parent to service students appearing for some of India’s toughest centralized exams— NEET NEET National Eligibility cum Entrance Test NEET is an all India pre-medical entrance test for students who wish to pursue undergraduate medical (MBBS) and FMGE FMGE Foreign Medical Graduates Examination Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) is a qualifying medical exam conducted by the National Board of Examination (NBE) in India .

PrepLadder’s main attraction is a revolving set of “superstar” doctors, who either teach on the platform or contribute useful content. Indian edtech, though, is a brutally competitive space right now. There is a constant need to innovate and corner more of the market before a younger, more agile competitor steals the limelight. PrepLadder found its sharp new edge in a new feature—All Things Clinical.

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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