How We Developed And Launched A Platform To Find Tutors And Online Classes

Launch An Online Classes Platform
About The Company
Coming Up With The Idea
Building The Product
Launching The Business
Growing The Business
Revenue + Financials
Lessons Learned
Recommended Tools
Books & Resources
Advice For Founders
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
$1,000
revenue/mo
4
Founders
8
Employees
product
MillionCenters by...
from New Delhi, Delhi, India
started June 2019
$1,000
revenue/mo
4
Founders
8
Employees
340K
alexa rank
300
followers
1.73K
followers
Discover what tools Shasta reccommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Shasta reccommends to grow your business!
Listen to the audio version of this story!

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello and good day to Starter Story readers, my name is Surinder Singh, and I am the founder of social learning app MillionCenters.

MillionCenters is a hyperlocal TUTOR/COACHING-CENTER connecting platform that helps you find the most suitable tutor near you in addition to virtual live classes in all fields of learning be it academics, fitness, yoga, professional courses, and hobby-related learnings.

Our focus is on building a bridge connecting learners with their choice of tutors/coaches. The platform aims to enable users to learn in a fun way and as we believe learning is a lifelong process, you don't need multiple apps, Millioncenters aspires to be the one-stop platform for all learning needs of an individual.

Our SaaS product follows a freemium service model providing multiple subscription packages for our customers such as Coaching Institutes, Home tutors, Hobby teachers for Art, Dance, Music, We have reached 50,000 plus downloads and growing in double digits growth rate month-over-month in terms of learners and tutors registered on our platform.

We see ourselves as technology enablers, fresh data serving broad category options, job opportunities, and career growth, providing flexibility to centers on how to market the courses, SMM, and events, creating a digital network for learners.

how-we-developed-and-launched-a-platform-to-find-tutors-and-online-classes

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I have known my co-founder team for over 10 years and we stayed in touch with each other throughout our professional career years, whenever we used to meet we always discussed solving a big enough problem that would impact social behavior change.

Never take your eyes off the important measurement indicators for your business, like metrics such as daily active users, customer acquisition costs, churn rate, etc.

India being a very academia centric not much attention is paid to other skills, talents, or hobbies when it comes to learning and this is what we are trying to change, this is how brainstorming over the prototype of MillionCenters started and it just kept growing.

In their professional careers, our founding team members have solid management, engineering, and technical background with 15 plus years of working experience in business consultancy, product development, and digital marketing, so it was natural that our business would be connected to technology.

Most importantly our founding team has higher education qualifications in Management and software engineering so we have spent a lot of time living in the education sector and had time to evaluate its strong and weak points and also created that inner strength required to revolutionize the learning system.

Although I had already had some entrepreneurship experience building an e-commerce software solutions but nothing with EdTech so it took a while to convert the idea on paper into an actual money-making business model but eventually we got our prototype released and we largely got a positive response on that and from then on we never looked back and just kept building the product. β€œA river cuts through the rock not because of its power but because of its perseverance ”

how-we-developed-and-launched-a-platform-to-find-tutors-and-online-classes

It was exciting and fun and since we all had a good mix of business, finance, and marketing background it just gelled well for our product. We partnered with photographers, bloggers, freelance digital journalists, hiring agencies, etc to help us with various stages of research and marketing groundwork. We initially had a very flexible organization structure, with each person wearing multiple hats.

how-we-developed-and-launched-a-platform-to-find-tutors-and-online-classes

We were passionate about solving the problem at hand, we had the dedication and the relevant domain expertise and the timing was perfect if we look at the advancements in cloud computing, digitization progress, increasing internet usage and mobile app downloads data. One thing that must not be left out is the money part. We got funds from friends and family to get this thing started and hire the required talent to work with us.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

After pre-existing multiple source market report analysis and local market survey carried out by our team through various offline and online channels in the tuition coaching center and tutor subsector, we saw a considerable gap existing between private tuition and teaching centers seeking students and learners looking for coaching centers in many different learning avenues be it fitness, dancing, music, scholastic learning, arts, photography, etc.

The existing process is quite unstructured and tedious, whereby learners rely on channels like Google search, FB groups, newspapers, flyers, most trust word of mouth. Often delaying the enrolment or not taking initiative to find and join. Further to that, they are often faced with service quality and communications issues with the centers.

Moreover, many of these centers cannot equip them with technology and we started almost like an aggregator but with added features for listing learning centers (helping offline centers move to the online world). Enable easy search and connect through the web platform, through which we managed to get 1000s of tutors, trainers, and coaching centers listed.

Further, the platform enabled a direct connection and easy communication between a learner and a provider, through a lead management module. Delivering the service in entirety to our customers as that came out as the biggest gap in our EdTech initial survey and sector reports from Google, KPMG, Barclays, and holonIQ when we were conducting a market study.

how-we-developed-and-launched-a-platform-to-find-tutors-and-online-classes

Our initial product looked very different from what it is today. We have slowly added and updated the product features.

how-we-developed-and-launched-a-platform-to-find-tutors-and-online-classes

how-we-developed-and-launched-a-platform-to-find-tutors-and-online-classes

Describe the process of launching the business.

The platform was launched as a web platform initially for the Tuition sector users, to solve the gap finding and connecting with quality providers, further focus on the highest level of user experience and satisfaction enabled us to gain high traction on organic listings and increased user activity on the platform. We chose the Tuition segment as the primary focus initially due to large high-quality market data available for the segment and positive response from the segment tutors and centers. We used the existing market data sets on yellow pages like platforms to reach out to these centers and introduce our product.

To provide users with good quality trainers we added various review or verification criteria such as the legality of the establishment, experience in the field, service quality levels, existing customer feedback, and many other parameters to identify tutors or centers that would be on-boarded to the platform.

Marketplace solutions are tough in that they need to balance both sides of the demand and supply, but we got around this by focusing on the tougher issues that must be prioritized to make the product equally useful to both sides and we never forgot the ground rule of market-place, always make the supply side appear bigger and better and then create the demand.

With a clear focus on enhancing the user experience with enough traction we built and launched the mobile app to provide ease for our users and bring in stickiness.

As we kept learning from what our users wanted and continued launching more features and functionality basis the voice of users (we have started turning into our customers), using our platform both web and app for a variety of applications like promotion, lead management, conducting live classes, effective communications and connecting with the community.

At MillionCenters we believe IT is up to us to actively promote our own stories, messaging and not fall victim to having others tell it. To enforce customer loyalty and trust it is imperative that we persistently reiterate who you are and periodically inform our customers as to the state of progress on our side.

Challenges: Apart from mindset change towards technology solutions, sometimes we face trust hurdles from our customers which we try to build by educating and training them.

The difficult part about launching a product with a limited team and a limited budget is the founder must personally keep track of all the various moving parts and make sure no task de-rails or impacts product launch date.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

As mentioned, we are in a constant endeavor to provide the best user experience and learn from our users, which has enabled us to gain high organic user engagement.

In terms of marketing and PR activities, we have been using digital marketing channels now in the most optimized way to target our user groups and within our budget.

We tend to focus on a 360-degree media campaign to promote services through online and offline channels including newspapers, television, radio, internet advertising and seminars, flyers, contests, quizzes, social media such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. These channels also work well for the learners' side but for tutors on-boarding, we rely on dedicated digital marketing by creating a social community and word of mouth advertising.

We prefer to use the TTL (Through The Line) approach in our marketing strategy. Some methods are ATL only and some are BTL only (but much more common to see a BTL (below the line-only marketing campaign in practice as we focus on a targeted audience due to budget crunch).

how-we-developed-and-launched-a-platform-to-find-tutors-and-online-classes

We have occasional press releases for a milestone or special event that we need to talk about, we also approach freelance journalists and bloggers to write for us. We are using influencer marketing on social media channels.

In a true sense what has worked is the focus on delivering customer/user excellence through our app and web platform, which is helping us gain more and more organic users and helping us retain them through our customer service, ease of use, marketing and branding awareness on helping these providers grow. As it is their growth and success which is defining our growth strategy.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We define MillionCenters as a community-driven platform which is delivering experiences for users (learners & trainers) for connecting, enhancing skills, improving knowledge, and bringing in quality delivery through management modules.

The model is very much like that of a freemium social platform, where you bring on Users for free and then aim at nudging the target group to make automated purchases. In such a model, the scalability is of the highest level, which results in habit-forming products, with fewer investments on operational overheads of direct sales

Our broad category support such as tuitions, fitness, child-care, and hobbies gives us a large target market to cover and there are other factors such as demographics, digitalization, and technical advances that help us have higher growth potential. Besides, we have an aggressive geography expansion roadmap to target markets outside India.

Today we are in a revenue-generating stage and have started closing sales in our primary product on online identity and marketplace, which will be followed by other streams of revenue in near future, with the new product feature of live classes launch in June having good appreciation amongst our users and with steady growth in sales we aim to breakeven on Opex by Q4

Our app is being marketed on Google Adwords, Youtube, and other channels like FB, Instagram, etc, with a focus on direct interest-based content execution to deliver ASO (App Store Optimization) to get organic downloads as well. The quality of our app usage behavior and direct context to user needs is helping us attain a customer acquisition rate of USD 1.

In terms of generic growth numbers we have:

  • Downloads: 44,710
  • Active Devices: 3,303
  • Website Traffic: 5,200
  • Total Listings: 18,940
  • Seeker Counts: 27,375
  • Avg Time Spent (Web): 2.14 (mm:ss)
  • Avg Time Spent (App): 3.47(mm:ss)

Next 90 days plan

  • Operations and Support streamlining
  • Investor Engagements
  • International Launch Readiness tasks
  • Product Improvements
  • Produce New modules

Our roadmap for the next 3 years requires the firm to grow 8 times in terms of human resources and expand geographically to 2nd tier Indian cities and ASEAN countries. The primary focus would be to work on revenue growths and sales, improving traction, brand marketing, fundraising, and geographic expansion.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

To release a software product in the market the three key ingredients are The right team, the right product pricing, and a good client service delivery setup.

Never take your eyes off the important measurement indicators for your business, like metrics such as daily active users, customer acquisition costs, churn rate, etc.

Another important point to remember is market analysis and pricing of products must be continuously updated. Always keeping our users to the center of every new development, marketing campaign, and pricing strategy has helped us continuously improve the value proposition of MillionCenters for our customers.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

MillionCenters as a platform is available through our website, Andriod, and iOS.

For managing various aspects of the business, performance, and marketing promotions we leverage many platforms/tools such as:

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Some of the books that I have read and would recommend other founders to read are listed below, I haven't read all of them but definitely on my TO-READ list.

From time to time I also read from other resources such as articles from Medium, Startup School, blogs by famous venture capitalists like Brad Feld.com.

One of the most interesting books that have helped me define the product is Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal. The book provides a good view of the success of our digital age brands like FB, Instagram, etc, and has helped us launch a few modules which have helped gain more user engagement and stickiness with our platform.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Entrepreneurship is about getting started and never stopping, with clear conviction to continuously keep learning, adapting, learning from mistakes, not being let down by failures and this road is long and requires a 200% effort to be successful and a whole lot of patience.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

During the COVID pandemic lockdown phase, we had to adjust a lot of factors such as facilitating working from home, providing connectivity to all our employees, and one of the decisions that were made was to freeze hiring so at the moment we are not hiring.

Where can we go to learn more?

Readers could find more information about our services and products on almost all the famous digital social media sites as mentioned below. We also run a YouTube channel for our platform

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Shasta Pakdhane,   Founder of MillionCenters by Better Thought Solutions LLP

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