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Friday, January 21, 2022

Pune Inc: How a Bengaluru startup is digitising city’s educational institutions

CollPoll is AI-powered campus automation, digital learning and analytics platform which has at present 15,000 students from Pune on its roll and is looking to add 30,000 more .

Written by Dipanita Nath | Pune |
Updated: December 23, 2021 8:16:30 pm
Hemant Sahal, founder and CEO of CollPoll

When the College of Engineering (COEP) and Dr DY Patil Pratishthan’s institutions in Pune looked for greater digitisation to make their campuses smarter, the solution came from a Bengaluru-based startup called CollPoll. Now, several other institutions in Pune are in discussions with CollPoll, which is looking to add 30,000 students in the city before April. At present, it has 15,000 students on its rolls.

“We are a web- and mobile-based AI-powered campus automation, digital learning and analytics platform that addresses the rising complexity, competition, and digital compliance of higher education institutions. We are working with institutions to help them digitise and make them meet the expectations of students and new learners. In Pune, we have seen a rise in terms of use of technology by educational institutions,” says Hemant Sahal, founder and CEO of CollPoll.

The pandemic changed the way institutions delivered education to students, with distance learning and online classes becoming buzzwords and mobile phones and laptops turning into new educational tools. While earlier an institution would bring in technology to ease administrative processes such as collecting fees, post-Covid, they began to shift to updating the academic activities in terms of online classes, online exams and supporting students online.

According to a report by RBSA Advisor, a transaction advisory firm specialising in valuation, investment banking and transaction services, India’s edtech is set to become a $30 billion industry in 10 years on the back of growing demand and strengthening business models. The change is clear in CollPoll’s data — the startup grew its business four times during the pandemic.

“Now, education institutions have also stabilised in terms of cash flow. They are looking for technology decisions that will update the whole infrastructure, operating systems and technology on the campus. Promoters and directors are ready to put money into the transformation, which was not happening earlier. The new education policy has added to the complexity since we are talking about multiple exit and entry points and multi-disciplinary education, among others,” says Sahal.

CollPoll’s solution enables admission management, curriculum and timetable management, examination management, placement management, campus workflow digitisation, fee management in cashless campuses and infrastructure and HR management.

Students can stay updated with campus news and events, academic discussions and communities and are given tools to collaborate and create a better learning environment. Faculty members and administrators have better resources to enable greater efficiency.

“CollPoll, which was registered in 2013, started with a solution for communication and collaboration. The idea was to break the information barrier on campuses, where teachers and parents were not connected. As we started working with more and more institutions, they started throwing more problems at us — how to send notifications and so on. That’s when we realised that we needed to go back and build the whole stack, the end-to-end platform. Over the last three years, we have built one of the most advanced operating software for education institutions, that is being used by some of the top education institutions in India such as OP Jindal Global University and Ashoka University.

The company has raised Rs 26 crore since its inception, with Prime Venture Partners, a well-known venture firm especially in SaS (software as service) space, among its investors. They work with more than a lakh students across India, from more than 50 institutions.

“We are about to add another 30,000 students before the end of the year,” says Sahal, adding that they will also be raising funds soon.

“Technology has a huge role to play in resurrecting our institutions. We need to hit the refresh button in education. You cannot expect today’s students, who are digital savvy, to run pillar to post and write applications and carry out outdated processes,” he adds.

The pandemic also revealed the digital divide in the country, with large numbers of students unable to access education for lack of smartphones and connectivity. “Some people do not have access to digital infrastructure and the answer is not in stopping digital transformation. We have to ask ourselves how to provide digital technology to those who do not have it. Fortunately, that is happening as access to the internet and smartphones and affordability of data are rising. We are going in the right direction and we have to double down there,” says Sahal.

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