“Designing” Disruptions in the EdTech Space
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Just like the designer items in the market, a quality design education in India is rather a luxury that constantly escapes the comprehension of the common person. Often expensive and inaccessible, design schools are mired in infrastructure issues and archaic curricula. As of 2020, Samarth Bajaj had studied these issues for a decade without coming up with any plausible solution. This all changed when COVID-19 hit the country that year, imparting some necessity to the concept of digital education in India.
It was the first time Bajaj saw a real opportunity to build a design-based EdTech platform – the first in the country – and as a result co-founded The Designer’s Class with entrepreneurs Adheesh Nahar and Vishal Bajaj. Since August 2020, he has been the CEO of this company, which he describes as “the result of a decade-long journey fueled by a dream that has finally come true”.
The application and necessity of design in today’s world is obvious and endless. There are between 100 and 150 different verticals in the domain. Design encompasses everything around us: from what we wear, to the products we use and consume, to the spaces we live and work in, and even how we present ourselves and communicate with each other.
“Design as a career is much more lucrative today and this generation has the inclination, the opportunity, the aptitude and the courage to make their design dreams a reality. We have one definitive mission: to democratize design. design education by making it affordable, accessible, relevant and engaging for all design enthusiasts, regardless of age, income bracket and geographic location,” says Bajaj.
The presence of ambition, however, does not eliminate the possibility of challenges. The latter, Bajaj and his team have met many: “We started The Designer’s Class at the height of the pandemic – one of the most difficult times to start a business. Our first challenge was to build a good team that was flexible and adaptable in overcoming two problems: The world was facing an unprecedented situation, which made it difficult for many to concentrate on work, making the pool of resources smaller than usual; then, there was a technological frenzy, which led to a massive inflation of salary expectations for tech professionals across the country.Good tech resources were very hard to find and extremely expensive for a startup like ours.
Notably, until last year, the start-up world was primarily focused on growth and valuation, rather than value. His lack of attention to good unit economics and limited cash burn are widely seen today as a contributor to the current funding winter. “I believe the combination of bottom line, balance sheet and customer satisfaction is what truly defines the value of a business. We were unwilling to succumb to the pressure of unsustainable growth, which made the getting funding more difficult for us.. It took us a while to find like-minded investors, entrepreneurship being a very important factor to keep in mind when raising funds. Today, fortunately, we have a group of investors who have invested in our vision and share the same principles,” says Bajaj.
Today, the start-up ecosystem is going through a rather turbulent phase, a stark contrast to the golden age that prevailed just a few months ago. Ed-tech is a major casualty of this sudden shift, making cost-cutting and widespread layoffs inevitable to survive, mostly because market liquidity has dried up. “This is proving to be a major concern for businesses that relied on frequent funding rounds. However, businesses like ours that have focused on building a sound foundation realizing the importance of achieving profitability are in a good position. This allows us to be self-sufficient with the added benefit of receiving new investor interest,” he says.
The founders of The Designer Class consider their startup unique for focusing exclusively on design and offering sought-after services in the field: comprehensive courses developed by leading design scholars and taught by industry stalwarts; offering credible certifications, serious internship opportunities and an exclusive design community; and many others. “The Designer Classroom was built with the intention of pioneering a revolution in the world of design education worldwide,” says Bajaj.
With operations currently spread across the B2C, B2B, and B2G segments, The Designer’s Class is executing growth plans across all three sectors. “In the B2C sector, we will be active in six different design verticals by August 15: fashion, interior design, makeup, jewelry, photography and wedding decoration. We will also introduce courses in 15 new verticals of design by March 2023. Additionally, we are expanding into new Indian markets, particularly in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, as well as international markets, initially targeting the South Asian Diaspora. We are also developing a state-of-the-art hybrid model that will equip us with a structure to grow rapidly in the B2B and B2G segments.”
“We will work tirelessly to put India on the world map for high-end design education,” he promises!