During early childhood, parents are constantly concerned with the well-being and whereabouts of their children. As parents of young kids, Ankur Pandey and Badrish Agarwal felt parent-teacher communication in pre-schools was passé. To fill this vacuum, the duo spent resources identifying major pain points in this area. Both faced similar parenting problems, so the idea resonated with them immediately.In 2013, they launched The Uolo.“We wanted to replace panic calls of parents and paper notes with a mobile platform where parents would get ‘Just in Time’ notes or communication,” says Badrish.
Uolo has replaced the traditional diary system and panic phone calls with a smartphone application that reports a child’s location, attendance and progress.The company’s flagship platform, KonnectEz, is deployed in more than 150 pre-schools in Bangalore and Hyderabad. The platform maintains an extensive information database on children, employees and childcare providers. “We strongly believe that the quality of early childhood education depends on the connection between a pre-school and parents. By reducing administrative work. we allow schools to focus more on children,” says Ankur.
To use KonnectEz parents have to pay a nominal amount on yearly basis. “Schools are partners,hence not charged,” says Badrish, who worked as a technical architect in multiple software MNCs before finishing his MBA from IIM Ahamdabad. Ankur, on the other hand,had stints in semiconductor companies across the globe. He did his MSc. in computer engineering from University of Cincinnati and MBA from Indian School of Business (ISB).
Getting to recruit bright engineers was tough. Both founders used their technical backgrounds to create a working product. “Initial product got rave reviews and was adopted in few schools. Word of mouth success stories from these school owners and administrators provided positive feedback and helped sustain adoption momentum. The adoption wave helped us get enthusiastic programmers who were excited by the product and its proliferation,” says Ankur.
More than just communication
The Bangalore-based company raised seed funding through early-stage investors last year. “The seed round is helping us to expand to other cities and accelerate our growth,” says Badrish. KonnectEz is a mobile platform.All communication is sent through notifications to parents on a mobile app. “Ours is a ‘mobile first’ strategy, which we believe is a key differentiation,” adds Ankur. For instance, through Uolo’s mobile app,parents can interact with teacher in real-time and teachers can share pictures of students performing school activities, which, in turn, becomes part of child’s photo album. Parents can even set reminders for teachers for medicine.
The road ahead
“There are very few competitors in pre-schools,” says Ankur. However,a point to note is that Uolo does compete with Mumbai-based Knit App, Edunext’s mySchool and BabyChakra, all established startups. The idea of digitising school communication itself is not novel. Susana Juniu, a Montclair State University professor in New Jersey, USA, extensively wrote on the role of technology in parent-teacher communication in her paper ‘Computer mediated parent-teacher communication.’
For Uolo, then, the next big step is to move into the K12 segment. “None of the existing education-focused software vendors have a robust communication platform between teachers, students and parents like us. And this edge will help us scale faster,” adds Badrish.