By Manan Vyas
Saumya Sharma is differently abled and suffers from a hearing impairment. She does not let this fact define her, or limit her. When she set her sights on cracking the UPSC exam, challenges followed in quick succession. Traditional coaching centres were located far from home, and could not accommodate her appropriately. She turned to NeoStencil for help. An online coaching startup founded by IIT, IIM and AIIMS alumni, NeoStencil is a live learning platform that brings students face to face with some of India’s best tutors. Saumya enrolled herself for an online test series in the subject of Ethics, as well as the mock interview series. In the recently released UPSC results, Saumya bagged an awe-inspiring All India Rank 9.
India’s Civil Services Exam is legendary for its difficulty and low selection ratio. Over a million applicants annually apply for the preliminary exams, with just under a thousand seats up for grabs. However, accessibility to preparatory material has always been a challenge. India’s best coaching centres have been predominantly based in expensive metropolitan cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad, also known as ‘coaching capitals’.
Here is where NeoStencil attempts to stand apart. NeoStencil founder Kush Beejal takes pride in the fact that their platform has managed to empower aspirants from smaller towns. “Students from over 400 cities and small towns have accessed our online courses and half of them had annual parental income less than 3 lacs” Beejal noted in a recent interaction with Qrius
Given the hype around MOOCs, which have not lived up to everything they were slated to be, it is easy to be sceptical about NeoStencil, and dismiss it as just another online learning platform. When asked how NeoStencil was different from any other platform, Beejal counters by pointing at their track record, “Over 120 of the selected students have taken online classes with us. Of the top 100, 14 have taken classes with NeoStencil”.
What then, is the secret sauce that makes NeoStencil effective?
NeoStencil has managed to deliver a glitch-free, clean online learning experience. By itself, this does not make them unique – admittedly, others have managed to deliver this as well. However, they’ve cannily recognised the key lever of the industry. The coaching industry is top heavy – and top teachers have traditionally been available only in the metro cities. Access to top teachers was limited to a select few that could afford to move to these cities. Rent, fees, commute – the costs quickly add up. Lacking alternatives, many join a sub-par local institute and often ending up wasting time and money. NeoStencil appears to have recognised this.
Kush Beejal, CEO and co-Founder at NeoStencil, explains the model, “India’s best UPSC teachers use NeoStencil as a delivery platform. They create the online courses that are consumed by students in more than 400 cities. This enables a student in say Kishanganj district in Bihar to receive the same quality of education as a student in Delhi. This is a huge leveler”
Kush further points to the digital nature of the delivery, “Our research indicates that in a typical 3 month, on-premise course, students spend as many as 240 hours on commute. Fatigue from commute takes away additional productivity. These are additional hours that can be used effectively via the online route”
The online model will continue to have to its share of doubters. NeoStencil however, prefers to let its result do the talking. In the words of AIR 9, Saumya, “NeoStencil was extremely helpful for me in my exam preparation. Timely evaluation and feedback provided by S. Ansari sir were instrumental in my selection. Also, as major coaching areas are very far from my home, NeoStencil proved to be a boon for me and I could access the tests right from my home”.
Featured Image Credits: Unsplash
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