The Story of Level
Interview with Ashwitha and Suchitra, founders of Level — a tech startup that helps students connect with tutors in a unique model
Currently India is booming with start-ups in almost every sector. A significant one among these is LevelApp, which is on its way to revolutionise education in India. This new online teaching platform is into breaking the myth that you gotta be a professional if you wanna be a teacher, and is bringing students even closer to their tutors. E-Cell, NIT Rourkela recently had an interview with its founders, Ashwitha and Suchitra Reddy. Here is what they gotta tell about their creation:
Can you tell us more about Level? What is it?
Level is a learning platform where one can learn anything from anyone. What you do is book a session with tutor, and then you get to learn about the topic from them. You can find almost anything here, starting from sports, to academics and other curricular stuff. You can get your doubts clarified personally from your tutor. Its like having the tutor who taught you at your home, at your service anywhere.
What is the pain-point that you are trying to solve?
We feel we want personal atmosphere. It can be any person, be it a tutor, or a friend. The major advantage is that the tutors are not here for subjects; they are here for topics. So there is even more perfection. For example, if I know trigonometry very well I’ll most probably become a maths teacher in other organisations. But here I can be only a trigonometry teacher. It is also a major advantage for the users as they can learn more easily by going through the topics.
Also the entire thing is not restricted to academic skills. There are even people for sports and other co-curricular activities, because in today’s India, there is too much focus on developing the academic skills. People don’t tend to think of learning any other things other than academics. So we try to cover that here. We try to cover up every creative skills from greeting card making to pottery here.
Users pay in terms of minute. You see, if I have to learn a small topic, I have to first get a hourly, monthly or an yearly session. And that’s a major waste of money. Here I can book a tutor for a minute and save that money. For example, lets take the school students. If they have a doubt regarding a topic, they can book a tutor for some time, instead of getting into a monthly session.
As an advantage of being a tutor on this platform is I can set my own price per minute. Customisation to both student and teacher.
Whom do you target for this product? Who is the customer here?
The product here is not directed at a single fraction of the society. What we are trying to do is bring education to every nook and corner of India. Its not just for students, but also for other elders who are passionate about learning something new.
How did you tackle the burden of ‘Initial Funding’?
As per initial funding, we had to go for bootstrap. Later on we got mentor-ship from a US based company called mroads. As of now we function in their office, but for the rest we bootstrapped.
How did Level start? Would you walk us through your journey from square one till today?
Earlier when I was in college, I used to help my friends with their studies. So one of my friends said that if I were to charge them for it, I would have had a lot for myself by then. From that I got the basic idea.
Suchitra and I started with this idea for Level in our final year at college. Then, down the road, we got a team of like-minded people.
What were the most difficult times that you had in your startup journey? How did you get over them?
In business, every single day comes with its own risks. Things here are prone to change all of a sudden. Like, sometimes people tell they can’t work here anymore and wanted to resign. Other than that, finance itself is a big challenge. Apart from that, when we go to different networks we get a variety of inputs. Whether to incorporate them or not is also a big question sometimes.
It all depends upon your perspective. Like if getting 2 lakhs funding posed a challenge for me in the beginning, then it might not be a challenge for me today. The level of challenge depends on the time. Six months back what I felt was the biggest challenge, today with the conditions I’m in, I don’t feel that as a challenge.
Do you have any employees or is the core team managing everything?
Building a team is like building a culture. We mostly look for the talent and aggression. Most of them are young people. We also have been to colleges, and talked to the placement officers regarding this. We feel that if a person has that learning interest, then everyday we get something new to learn.
The entire system here is very flexible. We don’t have any hierarchy or levels here like most corporate houses do. We function mostly like a family. Also we don’t have any strict timings. No one is bothered about how much time you spend here. Sometimes we end up staying for 14–18 hours, sometimes it ends in 4 hours. Its more of a free-spirited culture.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Apart from going global, we plan to work towards improving it. We believe this idea should touch everyone and change their lives for the better. It’s like, instead of giving you money, if I teach you a skill and you are able to make money out of it, that makes a huge difference. I believe that learning can change ones life forever.
What motivates you to work every day for Level?
Even before Level or after Level, my passion is to be an entrepreneur. To be an entrepreneur was like a childhood dream for me. I was always passionate about becoming a completely independent woman, and for that I have always had my family’s support. They never bothered much about my marks. So I had sort of a perfect environment for learning.
What message would you give to the readers who aspire to start their own start-up like you did?
“The life of an entrepreneur is a very tedious one. You always have some doubt about the future of your company. But, its one that is worth it. Never give up on yourself. You just hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”