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On Demand Businesses 101

Uber For Tutor: Disrupting Education

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The X Syndrome

We’ve been seeing the rise of this for quite a while for me to not gawk at its exponential growth – I’m talking about the X syndrome, as far as the sharing economy is concerned.

Sure, all startups needn’t follow this formula, but with no startup even coming remotely close to the industry giant’s valuation (Uber, now at a whopping $18 billion), it is no surprise that many aspiring entrepreneurs take it’s model to be the holy grail.

Uber for X has disrupted quite a few markets, and many companies like to comment: Yes, it’s exactly like Uber but for (insert service here). What they mean is simple. They create a technological platform that is mobile first, and match certain service providers with a hungry market, wherever they identify the demand. This can be done for getting your clothes washed, to your dog walked and if you’ve been following our blog, you’ll see stellar examples for this model in quite a few cases.

Most of these apps are aimed at the millennial generation, for millennials and by millennials. Bright and upcoming business-school graduates who have figured out that manpower can easily be compensated for by technology, and the fact that you don’t need to OWN anything at all – no tangible assets on ground, surely. Identifying the supply and matching it with appropriate demand is what these startups thrive on.

So, when we talk about disruption, we largely refer to industries that are stagnant – the transportation industry generally was, and so was the hotelier experience, which allowed for these new, bend-the-rules based businesses to wreak havoc.

The next target seems to the Educational Industry.

So what’s the story with Education? Do we really need an Uber for Tutors, per se? Let’s try and find out.

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Uber for Tutor, and Why?

The educational industry can be called stagnant, yes. Stagnant simply refers to the fact that there has been no innovation as far as the ‘model’ is concerned. There are institutions of all varieties, yes – public and private, with teachers that roam the hallways, locker rooms and the whole shebang. There are also many services that impart private tutoring, either in centralized facilities (coaching classes and the like for your exam prep) and then there are tutors themselves that will come to your abode and charge you by the lesson.

Education is also a lot to do with reputation, much like brand imagery. Reputed institutes, ivy leagues, alumni successes – there are a great many factors that go into the making of a good university, college or school. The cycle is quite self-sustaining once the image is in place – Harvard still boasts a weighty name despite the caliber of the student in consideration.

Education is also a key industry because it is the interim period between a carefree existence and typical employment – a degree from a good university can go far.

Of course, there are exceptions and we are becoming more flexible in terms of assessment – but that just reinforces the fact that the model has not been subjected to drastic change.

Tutoring, it can also be argued, stands distinct from the traditional, systemic approach the institutions follow. Often, tutors needn’t necessarily be reputed scholars in particular fields, or do not need to have extensive experience on the teaching front. They can be smart classmates, or a lone practitioner wishing to make a little money out of their teaching skills.

Tutoring and mentoring are also ancient practices arguably- the Greeks, the Romans and quite a few traditions had them, nurturing students that displayed amazing potential for learning. Tutoring can also be an immensely profitable profession, with hourly rates surging by the year. So one can say that an Uber for X model may well be applied here, connecting tutors with students that need the service.

This is especially pertinent since the revenue for tutoring is variable in its scale – tutors who have their own reputations and connections to reputed institutes may draw much more than others. With the pressure to excel weighing down heavily on students, parents can be open to paying that extra amount to squeeze excellence.

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Quite a few entrepreneurs have turned their eyes toward this, and we see a slew of ventures that can be potential disruptors in the industry. A few names, to shed light on the ventures are: Tutorz.com, TutorVista, Wyzant, Studyroom, TutorPanda, TutorPace, Tutorlinker, Tutorspree, Motuto.

Many of them utilize that precious resource called spare time, combine it with the technological finesse of scheduling apps and online platforms and dole out revenue models that charge per session or otherwise. However, such is the over-saturation in this market that we cannot identify a unicorn or anything like that – despite many, many attempts at the quick brand of disruption the on-demand economy is so famous for.

Some noteworthy attempts can be looked at, regardless. PeerUp perhaps embraces the spirit of sharing in the most wholehearted fashion. Targeted at students that need newer strategies, or the sharing of study plans that suit them in an otherwise cutthroat, competitive environment, this app is all about forming student communities for collaborative learning.

With class sizes also prone to growth over time, individual attention is hard to come by. Not every student succeeds at self-study. PeerUp is also personalized, since it operates on university-campus specific environments. The student enters his/her data, along with their courses, and PeerUp scans the network to find people who are free in order to match them.

Students can join existing ‘sessions’ and also request sessions to be held, which are then filled accordingly. Once requests are accepted, then a place can be fixed and the session can be in full swing. The environment is flexible, requiring no fixed criteria. Above that, a point system is put in place – points are earned by successful sessions, and then can be redeemed at local restaurants and other spaces which PeerUp has tie-ins with.

This is a system that seeks to work closely with universities, providing micro and macro analytics in order to help professors and academicians design syllabi and reinvent teaching methods for targeted growth – of course, success oriented. In fact, PeerUp’s targets are the universities themselves, where their mission underlines that they help universities get their value back in terms of successful students, building a better reputation for themselves and getting more admissions.

Getting universities on board will be a major challenge, admit founders Deptola and Deshmukh.

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