We continue our series on Indian companies in the education sector. The company featured today, ChalkPad Technologies, is a provider of education enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions to schools, colleges and universities. It is also a consultancy on how to leverage IT in an educational setting.
ChalkPad Technologies was founded in 2008 by CEO Kabir Khanna. An engineering graduate, Khanna has over 14 years of experience in globally benchmarked IT organizations. Since its inception, Chalkpad has been financed through loans and self-funding, with no external funding. The company expects to raise its first round of financing in the next 18 months.
Before ChalkPad was formed, Khanna saw the need for educational institutions to effectively and efficiently manage their ventures though the use of technology. He felt that in India, technology was highly underleveraged in the education sector. What he saw as the absence of a cost-effective, feature-rich and user-friendly education ERP solution led him to form ChalkPad and its flagship products, CollegePad, UnivPad and SchoolPad.
When the company was founded, there were fewer than 10 significant players in the Indian market, most of which had only a regional presence and a focus on the school segment rather than on higher education. Most of these players use systems based on the traditional client-server model wherein the client is a desktop/thick client. ChalkPad’s ERP system uses an Internet or hosted model wherein the complete application can be accessed through a browser interface, also called a thin client. The hosted model, combined with the thin client technology, can provide access at any time, anywhere and on any device.
ChalkPad aims to differentiate itself from its competition by integrating with some popular open source systems such as Moodle, KOHA and Google Apps. This ensures that a client’s investment in user training and setup are preserved while the client uses ChalkPad ERP’s additional features. Built on the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql, PHP) platform, using robust open source technologies, the system is designed to be scaled to a multi-campus system that can handle millions of students at an affordable price. Continuous improvements are made and new features added to keep the system ahead of the curve.
ChalkPad believes that an education ERP system such as the one it offers can help educational institutions to streamline their management and allow for operational efficiency to help them grow. Management also becomes more transparent, and the company believes that its system is an efficient way to both manage geographically dispersed institutions and meet regulatory compliance. ChalkPad has features such as single-click access to students’ records, teacher feedback, hostel management and student analytics.
ChalkPad’s target market comprises 90 million students in 750,000 schools and 11 million students in 13,500 colleges and 235 universities in India. Over 800 engineering, 60 medical and 300 MBA colleges are expected to open in India by 2012. The average household currently spends approximately 8.9% of its income on education, and this figure is expected to increase. Chalkpad Tech’s top target segments are schools, colleges and universities with basic IT infrastructure in place, a tech-savvy staff, institutes with multiple campuses that need to be managed, and institutes where ownership is separate from management and would need transparent reporting from them.
ChalkPad charges a per-student-per-annum fee for using the system. Most of the company’s marketing is done through direct marketing efforts, which involve extensive presentations, demos and a limited- period demo license for the product. The sales cycle sometimes lasts a few months.
The company is already generating revenue. Its solution is used in 16 institutions in Punjab and Haryana in the north of India. The company plans to strengthen its position in North India and then move across the country though a network of channel partners in a revenue-sharing model. Eventually, the company aims to target world markets, with Africa being the first. Due to the hosted nature of the model, it would be easy to manage customers around the world. The hard part would be the initial marketing and support.
On an exit, Khanna says, “We have not thought of an exact exit strategy as of now, as our current focus is on building a healthy and fundamentally strong business. However, exit options like a strategic buyout, an IPO or an organic increase in shareholder value are strategies that we would consider.”
This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2009