Here’s bringing you another good news from the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Pakistan. Plan9’s current startup incubated under the umbrella of Ilm Ideas 2 and LCE’s alumni Nearpeer raises investment from Ali Aziz, Founder and CEO at Shopistan. Ammar Ali Ayub and Shahrukh Swati, co-founder of Nearpeer and students of LUMS, being the core strength behind the startup were extremely happy with this investment. Ammar said: “Half a million students graduate from university annually in Pakistan but not enough jobs are created to absorb all of them. My team always had a motto; instead of becoming a burden on an overburdened economy of Pakistan, we are going to create opportunities within our economy by introducing more jobs. Before even graduating from LUMS, we had created new opportunities for almost 22 people. Now this partnership with Shopistan will help us further this motto as we’ll be expanding into more universities and markets at an accelerated rate.”
The problem that the masterminds behind the startup identified was that most of the students are not satisfied with the lecture delivered to them in Universities during 90 minutes and they seek complementary resources to fill the gap. While there is plenty video material available online, however, it is all scattered and does not match the difficulty level of the student. Moreover, it is way too time consuming to find the right fit. While addressing the problem, Shahrukh said: “As a student at College and university level, I always felt the gaps in the education system. Monotonous classes, little complementary resources outside the classroom, and irrelevant and scattered online resources used to make the process difficult. Expensive MCAT/ECAT academies used be huge burden on my parents. In the era where things like booking a cab, and ordering the food has been made simpler, why can’t education process made easier too? I tried, and Thanks to Allah Almighty, I succeeded. With this technology partnership we’re going to introduce Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the education system and generate great content for markets of MCAT, ECAT, O/A’Levels, FSc, and similar markets in coming two years.”
While working on the University model, Nearpeer found the Messiah (Peers) in all this; the senior who had taken that particular course already and had the complete grip on the subject. Students often prefer group studies with seniors, where the seniors impart knowledge in just a few hours, what reading the book would have taken days. They leveraged on the fact that seniors have already gone through the exam paper and know the kind of questions being asked. Thus, keeping all this in mind they built a web portal based on the following core values:
- Courses will be specific to the institution they are made for e.g. business courses for LUMS
- Time efficiency
- Availability of courses anytime.
Interesting part is how the startup name was coined. Shahrukh went on a research scholarship to US where he was given the title of ‘Nearpeer Mentor’ for acting as a bridge between student and the teacher. When he came back he suggested the same name for startup and it seemed like a perfect fit.
Nearpeer has grown leaps and bounds. They have built their technology to the level that their videos are non-downloadable. First milestone achieved by Nearpeer was their partnership with SKANS CA FINAL. The co-founders convinced Mr. Atif Abidi at SKANS CA FINAL that they will be supporting the students from far-fetched areas of Pakistan as well as help the instructors increase their earning. Through Nearpeer they took it up as a challenge and lived up to their promise. One crash course was launched as a test case and it was sold to 200 students at a cost of Rs. 5000. Students came from diverse backgrounds including but not limited to Oman, Dubai, Qatar and Afghanistan.
When Nearpeer initially started back in November, 2015 they only had 1200 paying customers and 3000 users overall. Today they stand at a good figure of 2500 paying customers and approximately 6200 online users. They are currently offering 55 courses and almost 100 courses are in the pipeline for university verticle as well as 10+ CA full courses. They exist at LUMS, LSE and Chartered Accountants Market. Their immediate future goals include expanding into GIK, PIEAS, NUST, ITU and FAST. Another great achievement is that each user spends about 35 minutes on average on Nearpeer’s website. Lastly, they have customers coming in from not just Pakistan but all the different parts of the world (in Chartered Accountancy Market).
Through the investment they have raised, Nearpeer in future hopes to expand and tap the market of O-levels, A-levels, MCAT and ECAT with in-house production of content. After successfully making large number of sales, they have now decided to provide free courses to the university market. There are 2 reasons behind this:
- They have built a strong AI that will help them to understand the behavior of students; what time they study, what difficulty level they require etc. Through the data they collect from this, they hope to give back to the community by sharing the research with the upcoming educational institutes to provide quality courses accordingly.
- Nearpeer aims to reach out to the students of even cities like Multan, Bahawalpur, Sargodha etc. and provide them with quality education prevalent in urban societies like LUMS, GIK and NUST without any cost.
It is to be noted here that only University level courses will be free of cost, however Nearpeer will earn from other mediums including but not limited to O-Levels, A-Levels, MCAT and ECAT. Also, they have strategized their future execution in a way that helps instructors earn even higher and handsome amount of money for the courses they design. The best part about this investment is that it’s not just cash handed to the startup, rather it is a fruitful partnership where Ali Aziz has promised to mentor them and provide them the entire technical and operational support. Ali Aziz, being highly supportive of the startup culture said: “We are making an investor syndicate and this is our first investment in a startup. We are aiming to promote education and health in Pakistan’s ecosystem. Our main purpose is to help startups with their technology in order to enable them to focus on their business side and make the next round of raising investment easier for them.”
While raising investment is one good news, another opportunity just lies around the corner for them. They have been selected for ATX+PAK Exchange Program where they hope to expand into University of Texas and Texas State University. Dr. Umar Saif supporting the investor community said: “It is heartening to see investors putting faith in young entrepreneurs. One after another news of investment in a startup is the validation of the fact that this startup culture is growing and will reach heights of success in near future.”
We wish them the very best for their future. Keep shining!