Topmytest carves a niche in online mentoring model

Topmytest – What with the out-of-the-box digital mentoring model, the Goa-based Topmytest hopes to stand out in the test prep horizon of India, writes Apurva. P in Your Story. The bootstrapped startup provides personalised methods of preparing for MBA entrance exams, including podcasts by industry experts, noted the report.

Let’s face it: test prep classes can be a little boring and tedious, Apurva writes. They can invoke the typical classroom atmosphere, and moreover, they lack the personal touch – a slow student may find it difficult to keep up with the rest of the class, while someone who is quicker at grasping concepts may find it unchallenging and monotonous.

Genesis

Sucharita Banerjee and Vivek Sankaran, who worked at T.I.M.E., Goa, as Regional Marketing Head and director of the franchise, respectively, realised there was a need for a mentoring ecosystem for students, and learning takes place in an atmosphere where they are treated as adults. This led to the birth of Goa-based online learning platform Topmytest in January 2018 with a focus on leveraging the change in technology to connect mentors and learners on a ‘self-learning’ model.

“In online self-learning modules, there is a chance that your doubt will be clarified promptly. Students get personal attention, and an instant connects with the faculty online. We have evaluated various options available with the student before starting self-learning modules,” Sucharita tells Apurva.

Working with MBA aspirants

Topmytest targets graduate aspiring to do an MBA in India or abroad, 95% of them being in the age group of 22 to 26 years. While they are spread all across the country, the lion’s share of them are from metros such as  Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, and Tier II cities in Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand noted the report.

“We started by promoting our courses through various study groups on WhatsApp and Facebook. We started with a group discussion and personal interview module and then launched the ‘Ultimate LRDI (Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation)’ course in February, the ‘MBA Prep Talk’ series in June and the ‘Ultra Practical QA’ course in August,” explains Sucharita. The classes are usually recorded sessions sent to students, with each video being about 20-30 minutes. For every course, Topmytest provides around 500-600 videos.

Though students can take their own time to complete viewing the videos, Topmytest can keep track of whether they access the videos and practise the questions. The team calls up the students and follows up as well. Students can also have their doubts cleared by posting them on the platform. Topmytest clears them within 48 hours. What is more, Topmytest helps coach students on preparing their CVs, profiling themselves and making them ready for the corporate world. As a part of the personality development course, it conducts mock one-on-one interviews with students. After coaching, the MBA aspirants are tested on their skills and what they have learnt so far by a set of mentors from outside. Topmytest also hosts MBA Prep Talk series- a weekly podcast where mentors from different educational institutions and MBA schools are invited to share their opinion on the corporate scene. Till date, it has released 19 podcasts; the report pointed out.

The A team

Sucharita Banerjee has an MBA from TIAS Business School, Tilburg University, The Netherlands, and Vivek Sankaran has an MBA from IIT KGP. Before their stint at T.I.M.E. Goa, Vivek worked in GE Capital and HSBC Bank in the areas of data analytics, portfolio management and merchant alliances. Apart from the founders, Topmytest has five mentors- instructors from the industry–on its platform working on a consulting role. Though Topmytest’s primary source of revenue is from online courses, the team is also trying to monetise the test prep section by tying up with B-schools and with entities to provide corporate e-learning programs.

Unlike its competitors like CL and TIME, which charge a fixed amount for all their courses, Topmytest charges based on the subject per se. “Students, therefore, have the flexibility to choose the subjects they want to be coached in,” adds Sucharita. This is because Topmytest believes that a student need not learn all subjects for MBA preparation. For a course, Topmytest takes an average fee of Rs 5,000-Rs 6,000.

Testing the waters

The team was clear from the start that it did not want to create an online version of the physical test prep. This meant it had to create content from scratch and generate customer interest from nothing. Vivek worked with a couple of Facebook groups to understand the dynamics of online test prep. The team then became part of online groups where its initial promotion took place. Topmytest started with 25 students, who had written the CAT exams. Sucharita says they have a 95 per cent success rate with almost all students getting into top colleges in India. The company has close to 100 paying customers and has become operationally break even with monthly revenue growth of around 25 per cent.

Growth Path

As per the study by Business Wire, the online education market in India is set to grow at a CAGR of 20.02% during the period 2017-2021. Recently, the Education Technology sector in India got its first start-up unicorn in Byju’s, which has raised $244 million. Edtech start-ups such as Byju’s and QuickLearn also create their content. Bootstrapped so far, Topmytest is looking at funding to include more courses in government exams and invest in sales and marketing. It has plans to set up marketing offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bangalore in the future. It wants to expand on its podcast material, for which it requires more affiliations and funding. The team has plans to get around 150 mentors on board by the end of 2019, added the report.

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