Sunday, September 26, 2010

iProf: A device which resolves e-learning problems

If you ever dreamt of a magic lamp which could fold your entire classroom, lecture notes, tuition classes and the examination centre into a small carry-pack, your genie would be named iProf. For Rs. 15,000 (about US $ 315), this e-learning device provides subject-specific video lectures from top faculty, brain-teasers, customised practice tests, et al on a seven-inch touch screen. Play, pause or rewind your lectures and exams, till you master the subject, without as much as stepping out of your easy chair.

"iProf addresses three major problems that plague e-learning," says Sanjay Purohit, founder and CEO, iProf Learning Solutions. "These problems are: Low computer penetration, content piracy and broadband connectivity. Besides, there is always shortage of good quality professors. We have created an infrastructure solution which is easily scalable, enabling access to high quality education that solves all the issues," he says, emphasising that there is a huge scope in growth for e-learning, especially in Tier II and Tier III cities in India.

A dream venture of Sanjay Purohit and Nitin Kaushik, iProf project was started with a capital investment of Rs. 20 crore (Rs. 200 million) in March this year. What differentiate this tablet from Amazon kindle or Indian infibeam is its target audience. "Students who cannot access some of the best professors and teachers can view and review the lectures and tutorials on this device," says Purohit. "Also, modules can be downloaded without Internet and thus a student can save up to 60-70% as compared to attending a classroom lectures."

Purohit says at Rs. 14,990, the device is positioned as a supplementary learning module which aids in giving the students a platform to revise what they’ve learnt at training. According to Kaushik, Chief Operating Officer at iProf, Brilliant Tutorials, Pune-based Future Vista and Mumbai-based Sinhal Classes have been developing content for iProf. "E-learning has not caught pace in India due to limited Internet connectivity. Through our tablets, students can access lectures any time, any place."

While the tablet manufacturing and technology process is outsourced, iProf sells devices to students through its own distribution channel that comprises company-owned stores called iStudy zones. An aspirant can buy iProf tablet and download the IIT-JEE content within these zone at a high speed. With wi-fi capabilities, iStudy zones also hold doubt-clearing sessions through video conferencing.

With fresh course material on CAT, medical and CA lined up, iProf looks at expanding to 100 iStudy zones by the year end from its current tally of 30 to make self study simple for aspirants. The targets are impressive: $20 million within the first year of operation and $100 million in the third year. Thus, while franchisee module tops the priority of iProf dons, reaching out to aspiring students from various studying centres is close on the wish-list. Professionals beneficiaries like Ankit Barua have all the support for these targets. "iProf proved to be a blessing for me when I didn’t have time to attend classes due to my job. Now, I can refer to any subject, any time and keep pace with the course material."

Source: The Economic Times, September 26, 2010
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