Emerging Entrepreneurs

Harnessing the power of data analytics in classroom assessments

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on September 17, 2018 Published on September 17, 2018

Anant Mani, CEO, Report Bee

Report Bee helps schools track the performance of students and teachers

Anant Mani says two books he read while in the final year of engineering were a turning point for him. One was by Lee Iacocca on Chrysler and the other by Akio Morita about Making in Japan and the Sony story. “While my passion towards engineering was high, especially mathematics and engineering, I believed that building organisations and companies is far more impactful for society and the livelihood of people,” says Anant. All the years that he was working in companies, including in a Chennai-based start-up, Anant says he was always interested in becoming an entrepreneur. But he did not want to do something because it was a fad, but because he had to be connected with it at a fundamental level. A four-minute Hans Rosling that he watched, says Anant, helped him identify his interests, which were towards data analytics and data visualisation.

“I believe this is my true calling; the ability to play with data.” He quit the start-up saying he wanted to start his own venture, but did not have a specific idea. He was clear that his venture would be in using data to make better informed decisions. He narrowed down his focus to the education sector as education was a transformational tool. “It is a field where data can be used a lot and that is the field where it is used less. Can we build something in that field. We wanted to build a product,” says Anant.

He founded Report Bee in October 2010 and launched the first product within four months. He started talking to schools to find out where data and analytics can be used. He realised that the problem was much bigger as the data recording layer was simply not there. So, the first product – Report Bee Records – was meant to help schools capture data properly. While the company’s development team was working on the product, he went to a Chennai-based school and managed to meet the head of the institution and speak about his product. Before he knew it, the school wanted the product to be installed. “A product demo turned out, ‘when can you implement it’,” says Anant. This was quickly followed by an order from another school.

After having bagged two orders in quick succession, Anant was lulled into believing that selling the product was going to be easy. He recalls that he couldn’t sell anything more. “The first two were just luck. I met the right set of innovators, principals who were open to the idea. Even if my idea was not fully formed, they gave me an opportunity,” says Anant.

 

 

 

Report Bee’s products are named after flowers and have names like Begonia, Chrysanthemum and Daffodils, which took the company nearly a year-and-a-half to build. The first three got released much faster. Daffodils is almost 70 per cent re-write of the software, based on all the learnings the company has had over the years, says Anant.

Schools, he says, use Report Bee to transform the way they record and analyse data. The analysis allows schools to track the performance of individual students or a particular class or even how a teacher is faring in a subject. The product is also sold to educational publishers who use it to assess the text books and how each school is performing and what more needs to be done with the lessons. According to Anant, Report Bee has sold the software to 950 schools; 930 of them in India and the rest in Maldives and Qatar. It is piloting the product in Nepal and Dubai. He would like to reach 2,500 schools within the country before actively looking at other countries. Within India, he believes that tier-2 and tier-3 cities offer maximum opportunity as schools there want to improve their ranking.

He is looking to raise ₹10 crore, which will be used for product development and go-to-market. The company has achieved break even and he feels there will not be a need to increase the team substantially from its present strength of 43. There is big money in education, including in providing the assessment tool for publishers. However, he feels the ability to scale rapidly in a cost-effective manner will be a challenge, which he is confident of cracking.

Published on September 17, 2018
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