Interviews

Ayman Sadiq, Founder and CEO, Robi 10 minute School

Robi 10 Minute School is a platform that exists to provide students with a virtual world where they can get easy access to learning materials which can help them grow and prosper, free of cost. Ayman Sadiq is the Founder and CEO of the organization. Formerly a teacher at Mentors, the IBA graduate is now ready to develop his vision of creating an education platform which will put the needs of the country’s students first. Speaking to IBT, he detailed the story behind the inception of his startup and where he aims to take it.

What interested you in launching a startup based on the education sector?
Well, I was in a jittery situation at the beginning of my IBA life. The transition from a science background to commerce made me feel like a fish out of water. Failing in my attempt to understand accounting, I searched for online solutions for the books which eventually helped me score well in my courses. My progress was what inspired me to think about a generation that was lagging behind in their education due to numerous constraints in the current systems. I realized these students needed a helping hand.
Back then, I also used to teach at an institution called Mentors, and my increasing popularity as a teacher inspired me to go into teaching. I found out that there were around 13 lac candidates who stood for Higher Secondary Examination (HSC) in our country. However, only fifty thousand seats were offered in the public universities. I realized that a huge chunk of students coming from distinct geographical locations like Rangamati, Khagrachari and so on, were deprived of educational facilities. Financial limitations, being another hurdle, meant that their higher educational needs would remain unfulfilled.
All this led me to dream of an education system that would eliminate these constraints and help reach out to a significant part of the population by providing content over an online platform, giving them easy access to education, free of cost. This platform stands as 10minuteschool.com today.

Where did the investment for your endeavor come from?
Similar to the majority of startups, the initial investment for 10minuteschool.com came from my earnings from teaching students. Through this bootstrapping phase, the initial outline of the endeavor was built. Later on in 2016, after graduating from my university, we got our first sponsors. From then onwards we are being funded by Robi Axiata Limited while being supported by the ICT State Division.

“LATER ON IN 2016, AFTER GRADUATING FROM MY UNIVERSITY, WE GOT OUR FIRST SPONSORS. FROM THEN ONWARDS WE ARE BEING FUNDED BY ROBI AXIATA LIMITED WHILE BEING SUPPORTED BY THE ICT STATE DIVISION”

What can you tell us about your team?
We have a humongous core team of around fifty-two members working relentlessly towards reaching our goals and it is the never ending efforts of this team that keep it running. Apart from that, we have seventeen interns working with us and a pool of around thirty freelancing writers helping us out with the blog. Overall, it can be said that we have around a hundred people working for us, the most interesting fact being that they are all students. It was unexpected to have come this far with a team entirely consisting of students, but their efficiency is what stands behind our two and a half years of success.

What can you tell us about the achievements of 10minuteschool.com so far?
We’ve received numerous national and international awards over the last two years. Amongst the national ones, there is the BRAC Manthan Award, YSSE Impactful Project of the Year Award, the Swiss Embassy Award for Social Impact, DYDF Award for being a Youth Icon and the Slush Regional Winner award. International accolades include the Special Mention in the GIST Tech-I at Silicon Valley. However, our biggest achievement was winning the Best Innovation in the Education Category at the World Marketing Congress in Barcelona this year.
We also have three YouTube accounts for 10minuteschool.com. The first one being ’10 Minute School’ with a hundred and sixty thousand subscribers. Our second channel, ’10 Minute School LIVE’, is the fastest growing one amongst all three with a hundred and twenty thousand subscribers in less than a year. We will be receiving the Silver Play button for both these channels. The third one is my personal channel called ‘Ayman Sadiq’ which also has around seventy thousand subscribers. As a whole, we can proudly say that we stand second in Bangladesh as far as cumulative subscribers are concerned.

A part of the Robi 10 Minute School Team in Khulna, 2017

What is 10minuteschool.com doing to improve its social media presence?
At 10minuteschool.com we always keep the needs of our students at the core of our operations. I would like to mention, we have a set of brilliant communities handling four of our existing pages on Facebook.
Our ’10 Minute School Live’ group is one of the most active ones in the country right now with around 4 lac followers. We also have a live group for BBA and MBA recruitment tests and another group called ’10 Minute School English Language Club’.
A lot of people tell us about their needs in these groups. Initially, the teachers used to respond to the queries which then moved on to the moderators. Now, the system has been built is such a manner that the questions are being answered by the community itself. Since we have a minimal marketing budget, we don’t invest in ads on a big scale. Rather we post updates about our live classes in these groups and the community does the work by sharing the posts on their respective school or college pages. So, it can be said that creating the community was the biggest strategy behind the success of 10minuteschool.com so far.

What is the demand and supply of this kind of service in the market?
The demand is excessive at the moment. However, if you think from the target group perspective, we still haven’t been able to cater to their needs entirely. At the moment we are only catering to the needs of Class Eight and above, which leaves us with the unfulfilled demands of Class Seven and below. We do have plans to accommodate their needs in the future, but currently we are focusing on our existing modules.

What difficulties did you have to go through to bring 10minuteschool.com this far?
Initially, we had to face a lot of challenges from the inception to the implementation stage of the idea. We went to a web development firm for creating our website which ended up delivering nothing after six months of waiting. I figured since I was only a student back then, nobody took my work seriously, and I lost a lot of money in the process. Then, I finally realized I need technical knowledge to move forward. Thus I decided to learn web development myself by doing a few courses on HTML, Java Script, CSS, and WordPress. Therefore, it can be said that we had our fair share of ups and downs before we could launch 10minuteschool.com.

“AT THE MOMENT WE ARE ONLY CATERING TO THE NEEDS OF CLASS EIGHT AND ABOVE, WHICH LEAVES US WITH THE UNFULFILLED DEMANDS OF CLASS SEVEN AND BELOW. WE DO HAVE PLANS TO ACCOMMODATE THEIR NEEDS IN THE FUTURE, BUT CURRENTLY WE ARE FOCUSING ON OUR EXISTING MODULES”

What kind of analytics is 10minuteschool.com looking forward to?
Bangladesh right now consists of 1.7 lac educational institutions amongst which, we are connected to around eighteen thousand through digital labs. We have signed a tri-party agreement with Robi Axiata Limited and the ICT State division to create Sheikh Rasel digital laboratories in such educational institutions. Each lab consists of around seventeen computers with the infrastructural support being provided by the ICT State Division, internet support by Robi Axiata Limited and content by 10minuteschool.com. Our plan regarding our KPI is to get connected directly with these 1.7 lac institutions by the end of 2021.

In the era of startups, what makes 10minuteschool.com stand out amongst other similar start-ups?
First of all, we never had the intentions to make money out of our contents but help people. We also had a lot of investment opportunities that we decided not to take and even eliminated the sign-up barrier, to keep our content free of cost for everyone. I think these are the things that make 10minuteschool.com stand out amongst similar start-ups.

What is the biggest risk for your company at the moment?
There is no doubt that 10minuteschool.com is growing rapidly. We are making and delivering content in the fastest way possible. Hence, the biggest question marks arise from being able to maintain the long term sustainability of our operations. However, to ensure the longevity of our services we are working towards creating a long term sustainability plan with the ICT State Division and Robi Axiata Ltd.

Where do you foresee 10minuteschool.com to be in the next five years?
In the next five years, we envision 10minuteschool.com to be directly connected with 1.7 lac educational institutions all over Bangladesh. Our content being used by 4 lac students directly and also, other people who are outside the education system taking help from what we’ve created. Over the course of time, we even plan to provide the students with activities like learning arts and crafts, music and so on through our channels which will be needed to shape them as a proper human beings.

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