Welcome Back Guy’s , Today this is Aother Inspiring Story of Ashutosh Kumar from TestBook.com . Testbook.com is a online based study platform which provides Online Leraning experience for students . As last time I shared the success story of Annkur Aggarwal co-founder of PriceBaba. So, let’s start Interview of Ashutosh Kumar –
Q1.Tell us something about Testbook.com and the team behind it? What has been your driving force? Where does the idea come from and how did it get implemented?
It was day 1 at IIT Bombay in 2007. I (Ashutosh) was new to the city. I met Narendra in room no. 17, Hostel – 2 and found out that he was going to be my roommate for the next 3 years. In the early days, we were both studious kids. But slowly, our interests diverged and we found ourselves drifting more towards the enticing world of entrepreneurship. We knew we had the skills and we had a burning desire to solve some real world problems, not just hypothetical stuff in our books. In our final 2-3 years at IIT, we experimented with several ideas and finally went live with a startup, named “excelmentors.com” in our fifth year there. We ran the education startup for a year, and along the way experienced the highs and lows, and even the highs in the lows of the startup journey. The more we explored the problems facing the education space, the closer we came to the realization that ExcelMentors was not the platform to solve the bigger issues facing the system. We understood that data plays a huge role in learning and being from IITians, we must leverage technology to drive this market demand.
So in June 2013, we founded our brainchild out of our tiny home-office. Testbook.com was the EdTech startup that we envisioned would be the saviour of the Indian education system. Since we were talking about an EdTechcompany and not simply another Education Startup, we went looking for tech guys with very strong profiles. We needed core members who had the same passion as us – to hack the Gordian Knot that was the learning space. We connected with Yadvendra, B.tech and M.tech in Computer Science from IIT Delhi; a good friend of mine from my IIT JEE preparation days in Kota. He left his cushy job at Oracle to join us in our dream and with him came Abhishek, his batchmate, and hostel mate. Abhishek was working with Adobe at the time.
To round out our Content and Design needs, we got on board Praveen and Manoj, both from IIT Bombay. They both had prior entrepreneurial and corporate experience, and were once again friends of ours from the same wing in our hostel. So by the end of 2013, we were a strong team of 6 co-founders and were ready to launch our first product. And boy did we dream big! Our first project was the analytics-heavy testing platform for GATE exam in Jan, 2014.
Q2.Tell us something about your childhood, growing up, and your family. Did you have any entrepreneurial influences early in your life?
I come from a business-oriented family. My dad runs a real estate and construction business in a small town. Prior to that he had experimented with many other businesses as well. But my grandfather was a professor and he pushed for me and my brothers to study and take up good professions. They even sent us out to study so that we don’t get influenced by negative elements of our small town. But there is no changing our blood, is there?
I remember a small incident from my childhood. I must have been in 2nd or 3rd standard when I used to save up money to buy toffees from shops in the summer vacation. Instead of eating them like a normal kid, I used to sell them in the neighborhood to friends my age at an inflated price. This was my first business venture. Once I found a group of like-minded individuals and the right environment during college, I took to entrepreneurship like fish to water.
Q3. Do you think your TestBook self business job is better than having a 10 to 5 job? How many hours a day do you work, and what is your daily schedule like?
It’s not a job to me; it’s a passion. There is an eagerness to solve the problems that plague education in the country. Even if I work continuously for 48 hrs, it never crosses my mind that I’ve been working. Things like who I’m working for and why I’m doing it don’t matter. All that matters is the bigger picture, that I hold like a photograph in my memory.
These days life is like we had experienced during our IIT JEE preparation time. The only difference is, earlier we had three things to do – ‘Eat, Sleep and Study’ – and now it’s ‘Eat, Sleep and Work’.
Coming back to your question, working hours vary day to day but on a regular day, 100 % of the time not spent sleeping or eating, is dedicated to work.
Here is a look at my daily schedule:
Get up at around 8-9 am → Sit and think for an hour about the goings-on of the startup (both wrong and right) → Make a to do list for the day → Get ready for the office → Reach office at around 11 am → Reach office only to come across an unexpected but exciting challenge or problem → Get to work on these → Realize it’s 6-7 pm → Start working on things off my to do list → Not realize it’s 9pm → Not realize it’s 11 pm → Finish up work for the day and glance at my watch → It’s already 2-3 am → Get back home and sleep → Repeat.
Q4. What were some of the worst reactions you got from people around you when you started up.
It was the people closest to me, my family who reacted the worst. They were expecting that I would take up an engineering job after passing out from IIT. But once you’ve chosen your path, there is no amount of nay-saying that can change your mind. I chose to become an entrepreneur. I wanted a journey that was the off the same beaten path.
Q5. Who are your biggest competitors? What is your competitive advantage?
The alarming truth about the internet space is that anyone can replicate your work given time and maybe even make a better product. The only thing that matters is your pace. If you can outdistance everyone behind you, you can give yourself some breathing space to be pioneers.
Our metrics speak for themselves in this regard. We gained 1.55 lakhs users in just 16 months. These users are not just numbers to us. These very users solved over 75 lakhs questions on our platform pushing themselves to be better and making us proud in the process. It is a drop in the ocean but a start nonetheless.
Our numbers, whether they seem small or big to you, may be a matter of perception but they are far far ahead of the metrics of other testing platforms. Our primary area of focus currently is the market of postgraduate competitive exams conducted in India. In this niche, we are the only venturers, with no other established online player.
Q6. What parts of your work at TestBook’s do you find most challenging? What do find most enjoyable?
It’s not a typical 9 – 5 job in a corporate company. In a startup each and every second is challenging and interesting because everything is new and nobody comes with decades of experience to your company in the initial days. You are always experimenting with something or the other, twisting it this way and that to crack that successful move. Everything depends on you, and everything is a personal victory. So personally, I enjoy each and every moment.
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Q7.What is your Future plan to take on next level for TestBook.com ?
Testbook started with the biggest dream there is. To fix education in the country and the world. Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
We have a vision to bring a one-stop personalised learning experience to students wherever they may be, no matter what their educational or financial background. Even the remotest corner of the globe would not remain inaccessible. Where there is internet penetration, we want to be there. And we want to do it on the strength of rich quality content and our innovative platform.
Q8. Any advice for the Young Entrepreneurs out there?
- Your team is your most important asset. Not the Idea nor your equity. Both these things will never be as big as you imagine them to be. But your team ends up being the most valuable resource you can ever imagine.
- You can not be stubborn. Be open-minded and listen to what everyone has to say. Change your strategy where it benefits the company, without getting your ego in the way.
- Lastly, being an entrepreneur is not about making money. Money goes as easily as it comes. It’s about leaving a legacy. It’s about solving some big and real problems while you’re still here on this planet. Doing something significant.