Super 30 democratised education. Its success even inspired a Bollywood film. One of its former students, who harbored the same dream as his teachers, is now leveraging technology to bring the merits of Super 30 to students across India and beyond.
Imbesat Ahmad rose from a humble background in Patna to complete his integrated master’s program in Physics from IIT Kharagpur in 2015. In the second year of his engineering, he decided to go back to his roots to teach students from underserved communities like him.
Eight years later in 2020, Mr. Ahmad launched his edtech startup Filo. Students were then attending their schools online from home, while edtech platforms were also delivering live classes similar to schools.
The buoyant investor sentiment around online education during Covid led to mushrooming of edtech companies which sought to replace neighborhood tutors and coaching classes by celebrity teachers in education hubs like Kota. But amid this, the student-teacher interaction was broken. The one-way communication failed to keep the students engaged.
It lacked personal touch and ignored the fact that hesitation, fear, lack of confidence, and vulnerability often come in the way of students’ learning in a digital classroom.
Filo borrowed from the ‘ethos of Super 30’ where teachers give undivided attention in all fairness. “It formed the basis for fair pricing and abundant time given to attend to students’ learning needs,” Mr Ahmad said, claiming that Filo users get one-on-one tutoring at a cost way lesser than that of neighbourhood tuition.
Mr. Ahmad, with his co-founders, Rohit Kumar and Shadman Anwer, invented the company’s proprietary technology which connects students with expert tutors, one-on-one, instantly within 60 seconds. Filo has technology patents in India and the United States.
“We’re the world’s only live instant tutoring platform, with a commitment to the spirit and goal of education for all. Our differentiated technology aims at getting rid of discrimination that happens on the grounds of learning acumen and socio-economic status,” he said.
“We don’t label students as excellent, very good or good. For us the only concern is fulfilling an individual student’s learning needs. And for that, Filo tutors are available round the clock,” Mr. Ahmad added.
Filo operates in 15 countries and services more than 100,000 learning sessions every day. With 60,000 tutors, the company has one of the largest tutor pools in the world. The Filo’s mobile app has recently been declared winner in the “Best For Personal Growth” category at the “Users’ Choice App Awards 2022” organised by Google Play.
Mr. Ahmad’s moment of reckoning came when he was teaching students from remote villages of Jammu & Kashmir. He recalls that one fine morning of 2018 when a student in his Physics lecture agonisingly said, “I’m able to solve what you teach in class, but I feel helpless when I solve practice problems myself at home. I wish you could be there with me when I’m home.”
He claims that his decade-long teaching experience has given him deep insights into students like this J&K child who couldn’t find a dedicated learning ecosystem at his place of stay. Propelled by the desire to “make self-study more effective”, Filo developed a homegrown technology which ensures that no student is ever left stranded when they encounter a problem while studying on their own.
Filo in Greek means a friend. “Physics has Greek letters to signify physical concepts. So I thought why not name the brand in Greek,” said Mr. Ahmad, who is a physicist himself.
“Only a friend goes above and beyond to wriggle you out of uncomfortable situations. In my teaching career, I realised that teachers have to be ‘that friend’ with their students,” he said.