Quizzing as the means to teach. That is what Sachin Ravi and Raghav Chakravarthy, founders of Bengaluru-based Walnut Knowledge Solutions, believe in and that is why they have set up QShala, a so-called online curiosity platform. Qshala wants thousands of Indian parents to convince their kids to sign up for the online quiz competitions conducted by them using third-party platforms like Kahoot, a learning platform to create and score quizzes.
“The market is very much focused on the problems for the now,” Sachin Ravi tells indianexpress.com in an interview. “There are so many solutions available right now for studies but there is really no guarantee that a child’s life is sorted 10 years from now. The only thing you can guarantee is the mindset and the thought process or the skills that you have as an individual. And these are the basic life skills which we think are important.”
Ravi and Chakravarthy first met while studying at Symbiosis Law School, Pune and both started QShala in 2014. The idea to start QShala came from the founder’s common love for quiz competitions during school and college days. “We quickly realised that there are a lot of learnings that kids can inculcate if they use an innovative and fun quiz-based format,” Ravi explains. “We wanted to see how we can take those learnings and make it into a curriculum in a programme,” he elaborates the reason for creating the QShala programme.”
For the first five years, Ravi and his team focused all their efforts on making QShala learning workshops visible in the offline market and for that they worked directly with the leading schools across India. This year, with the trend clearly moving to online classes, the QShala quizzes are being conducted online.
But Ravi says the online quizzes are making kids a bit more open and interested in what is happening around them. “When I am conducting a class physically with 30 to 35 children, most participative children are the ones who thrive. In a Zoom call, every child has an option to directly communicate with them via chat,” he said.
But does the company choose the topics and questions that will be a part of QShala quiz? Ravi says he has recruited people whose main job is to curate the experience of curiosity of the child in the QShala programme. They are basically facilitators, and these people don’t come from an educational background. They could be engineers, architects, or economists. At the same time, Ravi’s 32-member team also has full and part-time teachers.
The courses range from personal skills, career skills, public speaking skills, literary skills and fantasy skills. The whole idea is to make these quizzes interactive, so that a kid participates and learns beyond the textbooks. “We have put together this curriculum after a lot of research and a lot of digging and finding out what are the kinds of skills that kids need to pick up. The idea is how do you make it engaging so that the child has an incentive and context to listen to you. That’s something that we’ve cracked because of the style of quizzing and storytelling that we use,” he says.
The ongoing pandemic has radically changed the edtech market in India, and Ravi’s QShala has also benefited. Although not a free platform, Ravi says to support an existing business model he needs to charge a subscription fee for conducting quizzes. It’s exactly like how Netflix works. A single workshop costs Rs 499, or in case you want to attend nine workshops, the price goes up to Rs 4,499. There’s a yearly plan as well, where you have to pay Rs 9999 which includes 30 workshops.
Ravi says there is a growing number of young parents who want their child to engage in new learning experiences that’s very hard to find in schools. “It might be a small number percentage in the country but still a massive number given the size of India,” he says. “I genuinely believe that in the near future this kind of skills and this kind of engagement is going to be very mainstream.”
But Ravi knows the main target for the QShala programme is not just kids but their parents as well. After all, they are the ones who should be fine with the child spending time with the quizzing platform. To get a taste of how the platform works and what their child learns while attending through engaging quiz programmes, Ravi and his team decided to conduct hour-long quick tournaments via Zoom. Since March this year, every Sunday, Qshala has been conducting free quizzes for families. Inspired by Bournvita Quiz Contest, weekly Qshala quiz contest has proved to be a massive success.
Although QShala has moved away from the B2B model, Ravi says the company’s relationship with schools does help them acquire new customers. “If you ask me, what makes us different from any other edtech company, is that our relationship with schools. At the end of the day, you need to go to places where children congregate the most and that happens to be a school even on this day,” he adds.
Ravi is aware that the spike in internet reach during the coronavirus pandemic could be a historic disruptive event for the edtech startups like them. But he believes that to make QShala a global platform all three parties need to be involved — the child should feel like he wants to spend time on the platform, the parents should agree with the child signing up for the quizzes and the stakeholders should push towards product excellence. “Our ambitions are global. We’re not in there. We want to get there soon enough,” he says.