If Startup is all about disrupting the normal pace of life, Epecate is trying to do the same in the field of education. Founded by Saurav Panda and Venkatesh, Epecate is a Bangalore-based startup which is using intelligent data analytics to make the life of students easy in making well-informed decisions related to their education. Startup Simba got in touch with this unique startup to know how they are trying to bring change in the Indian education system.
Tell us what Epecate is all about in a nutshell?
Epecate is creating an aggregated platform with intelligent data analytics capabilities for education. We are aggregating all college, university, practical/vocational course details and rank them based on various parameters. It will help the user to make a relevant, well-informed, near real-time, goal oriented decisions related to their education. Our goal is to make education more dynamic, need-based and result oriented.
How and when the idea about Epecate did come to your mind? What kind of challenges/problems you are trying to solve with Epecate?
Epecate was formed over a coffee discussion. Two of our team members were discussing the current scenario of education and realized how India really has a lack of relevant information regarding the educational decision making. Lots of websites are available who provide classified listings of educational institutes and that is where it stops as of now. Upon further researching, they found that there is real unequal access to education in India as well as total lack of information related to relevant educational options. Thus, Epecate was formed to provide an equal access to the relevant educational information.
It is a small company run by highly motivated young professionals who are together for the fun, passion and with the belief that they can bring change to education in India. Though changing the scenario is a highly ambitious job but they are up for the challenge, it seems.
Tell us about the founders of Epecate? What is their background and what were they busy with prior to launching Epecate?
The founders are highly skilled software professionals with combined experience of 30 years, serving in some of the biggest names in the industry such as IBM and Credit Suisse. They both left their job to follow their passion of research in technology and spend a year of self-funded research. Both have a passion for technology and to create an impactful education tech company in India.
In which year Epecate was launched? What is the current team size? What kind of products/services you provide? What is the current revenue size? Where are your offices located? Who are your target audience?
Absimpl was the company that was founded in 2014. Epecate is its business front that initiated in 2015.
Currently, Epecate has five member team and three mentors.
What is the revenue model of Epecate?
Epecate will be charging institutions a subscription fees for the virtual space, admission assistant and branding. Hiring assistance fees from employers.
How is Epecate different from other startups in India? What is the USP? Why would people look at your startup?
Epecate is the only education information platform that is trying to provide reliable education information to the aspiring students. It’s the only 4-way marketplace where the aim is to help students, institutions and employers by connecting the dots between education and employability.
How difficult was it for you to hire quality, skilled and talented people when you said you are hiring for a startup? What kind of talent you generally look for when you are hiring?
It was indeed very difficult to find talented, passionate and skillful people who are willing to work for an unknown startup. We generally look for passion, integrity and attitude to learning new things. Little short backs in skills can be overlooked if the potential employee has above-mentioned qualities.
How are you helping educational institutions and students with your platform? How do you use data analytics to solve the problem?
We’re bringing students, institutions and employers on one platform. Our analytics engine suggests students courses they should take which will make them employable with the employer registered with us. Thus, we are making sure of the relevance of the education for students from employer’s perspective. We’ll also assure at least five interviews for the students with our registered employers.
How has been the journey so far? What did you learn?
It was a fantastic journey with lots of excitement, ups, and downs. The most fundamental things we learned by running a startup is that one should always listen to instinct and have enough perseverance. There are times when the days are gloomy and nothings go the right way, but a true entrepreneur does not lose focus, he understands that these circumstances will change too. Believing in the idea and himself can be the biggest fuel for an entrepreneur. We know it’s easier said than done.
How tough has been the competition, with so many tech startups already operating in the country?
We are a team that believes in healthy competition. A strong competition is always welcomed as it encourages us to perform better and to be better than our past selves. Our true competition is with ourselves.
Did you receive any seed funding or raise money to go really big? Are you considering any such things?
We have been bootstrapping through family and friends. We are actively looking to raise funds. However, we want to raise fund such a way that does not harm our ethics and policies regarding helping students. The ultimate goal is to help students and to contribute Indian education system in a positive manner. Whatever funding we get keeping our mission intact, we’d welcome.
What were the initial hiccups you faced? How easy or tough was it for you?
Idea validation was our biggest hiccup so far. Our idea is not traditional business idea and is doesn’t guarantee scalable company, so it was really difficult to explain it to people. However, we’re really happy to see people like Vijay Shekhar, Founder of Paytm say nice words about us and encourage us.
What do you want to tell wannabe young entrepreneurs?We don’t want to give “Gyan” to young entrepreneurs since everyone is different; the situation they are facing is different. What we have done may not be applicable to others at all.
What do you feel about the current startup ecosystem in India? Where is it heading to?
Startup ecosystem in Bangalore is indeed very good. It’s one of the best ones in the world that we can compare with Boston and Silicon Valley. We can’t say about the rest of India though.
How supportive has been your family with the idea of launching a startup? What was your friend’s reaction?
The families and friends have been really very supportive for both co-founders. The noteworthy things are that both of their spouses wholeheartedly supported their idea of quitting jobs and do a yearlong self-funded research.
Do you think the Indian government is providing enough support to the startups? What else according to you the government can do to encourage startup growth in the country?
The government is doing its bit. If it’s enough or not that again depends upon individual cases. May be the government can make the process of starting a business a little bit easier. The financial sector can also contribute by enabling more startup friendly products and services to sustain in the long term.
What is your plan or strategy to sustain in the long run?
We are currently bootstrapping and we are hoping to start generating revenue from this year. Our core technology platform can also be used in other scenarios. We’ll be looking to license or sell it in future. We are also actively looking for venture capital to grow.
What are your marketing strategies to promote your company? What kind of branding activities you are doing?
We are very active on social media. Our digital marketing strategies include online content generation and a strong email marketing campaign. On the field, we’re keener on ground marketing that involves with meeting prospective partners and making them aware of our offering. We regularly host events and meetups. We partner with other organizations to arrange events.
Are you using any niche technology to solve technical problems, increase overall efficiency, customer engagement, boost sales etc.?
We are using MeteorJs, WebRTC and Python to build our core product.
What are your immediate plans to expand and grow? Are you looking for partners, investors to promote your startup?
We’re actively partnering with institutions. We are also partnering with education counsellors. We are welcoming any partner and investor whose interests align with our vision and mission.
Did you receive any kinds of awards or recognition so far? What has been your greatest achievement so far?
We are part of Karnataka Government’s vision 2020 Program for impacting education sector. We’ve been selected in IIIT Bangalore’s first ever startup accelerator program IMAX and we’ve been selected to be incubated in IIIT Bangalore’s innovation center. Our experience with IIT-B has been positive so far, we’ve met their expectation and they have been our first customer.
Do you participate in any events, seminars, conference? Name if any.
Epecate has been actively involved with three meet up groups as an organizer and sponsors one more meetup. These meetup groups regularly hold meetups. It has been part of IIIT Bangalore’s all events.
Where do you want to see Epecate 2 years from now?
Two years from now, Epecate would be one of the major information platforms in Indian education ecosystem. We’d be helping, at least, a million students with education decision making via insights we get from our data analytics and from our education mentors. We’d be also providing space to thousands of institutions for their community and representation on our platform. We’d be the only 4-way marketplace in Indian education system.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Building a passionate team without any external funding would be our greatest achievement so far.
What do you have to say about Startup Simba, being the first of its kind video blogging platform for startups?
We think it’s one of the great initiatives. It would certainly help startups to create awareness about their offering and be one of the platforms to reach out to the public.
Startup Information Sheet