Ekta Grover is the founder of B2B Enterprise EdTech company, Shunya that works on intelligent classroom learning management. Shunya is an intelligent classroom learning management system that plugs into any K12 LMS systems to diagnose, remediate learning gaps in a content-agnostic(BYOC) manner and powers classroom analytics to change the way teachers understand & act on distinctive learning needs. Ekta was in conversation with Susparsha Gaikwad, Assistant Editor at incubees.com.
INCUBEES: Tell us about your product or services?
Ekta: Shunya is an intelligent classroom learning management system that plugs into any K12 LMS systems to diagnose, remediate learning gaps in a content-agnostic (BYOC) manner and powers classroom analytics to change the way teachers understand & act on distinctive learning needs
Shunya’s flagship product is subjective auto-grading, which given any handwritten assignment and a model answer/ rubric – we auto-grade the sheets with Artificial intelligence, saving time, powering operational efficiency & benchmarking teaching quality & hyper-personalized student learning feedback to power data-driven classroom conversations.
INCUBEES: What makes your product/services unique and what competition do you see in India and globally?
Ekta: Reliable & detailed assessments are a keystone for improving learning outcomes. But the process to grade assessments across the globe is a draining process, and the problem only applies to the use of the old school, physical notebooks/assessments. Our goal as a company is to move from corrections to conversations. And one of the ways to do this is to power advanced analytics on personalized student feedback on microlearning gaps & distinctive needs.
A few companies focus on assessment, with their own proprietary content, and a few that do MCQ auto-grading, which doesn’t reflect the full range of assessments, esp. In the higher grades, with a BYOC.
We do the full range of service, right from getting the assignment in our system through our own LMS (or integrating with their own LMS, in a simple to use API interface), OCR & handwriting recognition, and then correcting the same with Machine learning against a model answer/ rubric.
Our key thought is that by understanding the student data(via intelligent deep tech) that flows in these systems, we can front-load the “outcomes” with non-linear productivity gains for schools (a 10x better product) – which solves their core problems.
As tech & computing becomes cheaper & cheaper & human capital more intensive, along with the uneven quality of teachers (and the perennial shortage of trained teachers) – schools will have to leverage Tech to anchor predictable learning outcomes, and also look at long term horizon – all of which opens up, the moment we take things digital.
INCUBEES: What are the challenges you see in the market at this point in time?
Ekta: The current Deep tech investment in this area has two parts – OCR & NLP, both of which are hard problems. For a school to benefit from the same, they need to look at the long term, short term & mid-term investment (much like how we look at how Google helps us navigate the web, information & services and is an infra on which everything else is built on) – each with its range of real quantifiable benefits.
Our flagship assessment product is much like the digital K12 Infra, or the Google of k12 – and for this, we need schools who are tech-first and willing to open up to the possibilities of machine-assisted Diagnosis, remediation, continuous performance improvement, and classroom analytics to power assistive hyper-personalized learning, right in their own schools.
INCUBEES: Tell us about your team and what inspires them?
Ekta: The sheer magnitude of what we are trying to build !! To build this product, we have had schools participate to give the physical hardcopy assessment data that our algorithms can learn from. When one of the largest shipment of 2560 kg shipment arrived in our Bangalore office, the data that had to be physically scanned, it both amazed the team and the inspired them with awe, about the realness of our vision & the commitment.
INCUBEES: Where do you see your product/service reaching in the next five years?
Ekta: We see schools doing away with their correcting their physical assessments manually, and leveraging computing to do so, so that teacher’s time & mentorship can actually go on places where machines can’t fail – to actually help inspire & remediate.
This would power our vision of “from corrections to Conversations” – and powering large-scale assessments. In fact in a post-COVID world with long-term learning gaps – having these systems would help identify structural micro concept gaps.
INCUBEES: Do you have plans to raise funding to grow your business or allow your business to organically grow?
Ekta: We currently have over a healthy pipeline of 150+ pilots, over 106+ of which are inbound sourced. As a company, we will raise to support this growth.
INCUBEES: What are the challenges you face as a startup?
Ekta: Any startup ahead of its time, esp. when creating a new market, faces the same issues of PMF, market discovery, and finding early adopters at scale. This gets compounded in the B2B enterprise market, esp. With a deep Tech company like ours, where there needs to be an insane amount of clarity of what we want to build. Building a B2B EdTech company in COVID is especially hard because the mind share of schools has been extremely fragmented on the survival – and that just doesn’t mean fee enrollment, but entire change management. And that is where we come in and help. Our hope is that most schools will trust us with the value prop to focus on delivering value and then grooming the market.