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Education is far too important a sector to aggressively oversell, says Achin Bhattacharyya

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Published: April 8, 2019 12:41:56 AM

At Notebook, we offer the most engaging videos that will help a student develop interest in a particular topic. Apart from lesson videos, we also offer crisp recap videos for all topics, which not only summarise a lesson but also highlight the main takeaways.

Interview, Achin Bhattacharyya, Notebook, news, industryAchin Bhattacharyya, Founder & CEO, Notebook

Notebook is a mobile-first product that combines video and text content to deliver education according to school curricula. “The format we use is augmented storytelling. It consists of a relatable narrative style of explaining a topic through an instructor on screen where the language lies somewhere in between theatrical monologue and classroom lecture,” says Achin Bhattacharyya, founder & CEO of Notebook. How it works is that syllabi across CBSE, ICSE and state boards are broken down into topics and sub-topics, and every sub-topic is then converted into a script for the video. This, Bhattacharyya says in an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, makes it easy for kids to learn, and retain knowledge. Excerpts:

There are dozens of edtech platforms in India. What makes Notebook unique?
As clichéd as it might sound, it is only the quality of content that sets Notebook apart from the current offerings in edtech in India. At Notebook, we offer the most engaging videos that will help a student develop interest in a particular topic. Apart from lesson videos, we also offer crisp recap videos for all topics, which not only summarise a lesson but also highlight the main takeaways. This is followed up with Q&A videos, where the teacher answers the most important questions.
Besides videos, we have exhaustive notes on each topic, where we have tried to strike a balance between internalised knowledge and exam-readiness by giving well-researched and curated content.

At Notebook, we have taken perfection to the highest levels. We have not cut any corners. The brief to the team was simple: Let’s do something together that we will be proud of forever. We can proudly say that we are not merely ahead in terms of quality, we are ahead by a decade or more.

To access your solutions, what all does a schoolchild need?
Notebook was built on the principle of inclusion. Seeing how prices of edtech products have become a barrier to adoption for many parents, we decided to not provide Notebook as a preloaded device like some others are doing, which would essentially mean charging the parent the price of a device and only offering a hefty one-time annual subscription fee. Instead, we chose the path of online streaming with the option of monthly subscription to make it accessible and affordable to a much larger audience. This would need the student to have access to an internet-capable device-not necessarily an expensive smartphone or a laptop, but even a basic feature phone that can access the internet. Also, we are engaging with some schools for them to have free access to Notebook content on their library computers.

What is your ‘storytelling’ format? Is it proven to deliver measurable results?
Augmented storytelling is the format we have used. It consists of a relatable narrative style of explaining a topic through a human instructor on screen where the language lies somewhere in between theatrical monologue and a classroom lecture. This narrative is supported with visual cues as opposed to animation. It employs a sequence of high-quality hand-drawn illustrations and other artwork to invite students to use their imagination to fill up the gaps between the images. This activates the parts of the brain responsible for reasoning as opposed to just rote-learning or memory. We have tested this format across some students and a large percentage has shown remarkable improvement in engagement levels-internalising the concepts far better than a class lecture. It is like watching a good movie-you would remember a ‘Titanic’ or a ‘Sholay’ because of the relatable narrative that forces you to suspend your disbelief. We have seen that this format coaxes the students into abandoning scepticism and getting engaged with the story being told on the screen.

Using Notebook courses is free as of now. How do you make money?
We offer a 30-day free trial period with unlimited content access, post which the subscribers need to avail of a paid monthly or annual subscription for single or multiple subjects depending on the plan they choose. Monthly and subject-wise subscription is a complete game-changer in the edtech sector and only reflects our self-belief in the quality of our content, which is way ahead of our peers in terms of both engagement and coverage. We respect students’ right to opt out if we are not able to fulfil their expectations, or to choose only a particular subject they want. We have laid out an entire buffet and you may choose what you want.
Considering that edtech is a sunrise sector in India, where more than 99% of the market is still untapped, commercial scalability is the last challenge we live with. Here the issue is not on the demand-side, but more on the supply-side where we need to ensure that we deliver content which is the best, and which provides value for parents’ hard-earned money.

Have you tied-up with individual schools for promoting your courses?
We have tied up with a forum that has more than 2,000 school principals as their members, but the objective for this tie-up was more to seek active feedback. Unlike other products/services, we believe education is far too important a sector to aggressively oversell. More than selling, we believe in creating awareness and then allowing the content to speak for itself, which holds sufficient merit. We believe that word-of-mouth publicity is still the best form of publicity in student community, and that will happen only when students are genuinely satisfied and benefit. Unlike many other brands, our request to parents and students will be to benchmark us against any other digital content available in this space.

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