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13th Feb 2023
1hr 54mins

Episode 8 | Hubert D’Mello | Skoolbx

Hubert DMello is the Education Head and Co-Founder of Skoolbx that believes in providing high-quality and affordable tutoring to students all over the world.

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Djagmo: Welcome to the Knowledge Entrepreneurs Show, where we celebrate the innovators driving change in the education industry at Edison Os. We've worked with over 500 knowledge entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into profitable businesses. In today's episode of The Knowledge Entrepreneur Show, we have Hubert d Melo.

Djagmo: Hubert d Melo is the education head and co-founder of School Box that believes in providing high quality and affordable tutoring to students all over the world. An alumness of the renowned St. Joseph's College of Arts and Science in Bangalore, Hubert's passion for education led into big in tutoring high school children.

Djagmo: In 1999, he continued tutoring alongside his work schedule in Renona to become a key consultant for several well-known online tutoring firms. As a subject matter expert and assessment test creator, Hubert has taught students from over 70 countries across all six continents, and his conviction is that students can develop a love for learning with a help of high quality supplementary education.

Djagmo: So let's get started. So, uh, Hubert, uh, before I kind of, you know, get into the podcast and start asking you questions and stuff like that, you know, I'll walk you through, um, what is this, even though we've spoken earlier, but I think it's better to kind of put it out there now so that, you know, we kind of take the podcast in that direction.

Djagmo: Um, so as the, as the name, such as, it's called the Knowledge Entrepreneur Show. Right. Uh, so we are, this podcast is, uh, you know, focused on talking to people who are in the education domain, uh, who are in the knowledge business and, you know, who are founders or CEOs of building a tech product or something like that, you know, who are building a business basically.

Djagmo: Uh, now why are we talking to, uh, people from the knowledge entrepreneurship space? We are a company, uh, who are, uh, you know, into making learning management softwares, uh, and, you know, the tech infrastructure that is needed for a training business to kind of, you know, thrive. Um, so. Given that we are in that space, uh, we always wanted to put out value to people.

Djagmo: Uh, who would be our clients or, you know, uh, who are probably visiting our website. And most of the people are target audience, are people, you know, who are aspiring knowledge entrepreneurs who might be trainers now, who might be teachers now who are working for some other company who might want to start their company.

Djagmo: But it doesn't mean that this podcast is to help them start a company. This is just to give them an insight about what's happening in the business. You know, what does it take to run a knowledge entrepreneurship business? And, uh, it need not always have to help them start a business. It can also help them design Oh, I might be a teacher, I might be a trainer, but, uh, probably it's not my cup of tea to run this business because that's a whole different aspect altogether.

Djagmo: Right? Um, so it can also give them value like that and can save them a lot of time and resources and effort as well by, you know, helping them desire, okay. You know, business is not for them. Maybe they'll just stick with training or some people it can give them enough information to go ahead and start also.

Djagmo: So that's the idea about this. And, um, the questions are mostly going to be surrounding your business, uh, school box.com. Uh, although it's, uh, spelled uh, S K O O L B x.com. Um, but I, I think, uh, it, you know, Pronouncing it school box only. Um, so yeah, that is, and uh, what is the value for, you know, you are putting in your time, you're taking your time out to come.

Djagmo: We hope to give you a bit of visibility with the kind of distribution that we've planned. We are in a very early stages. At some point we are looking to grow this, uh, you know, to a decent number of viewership, at which point I think there'll be some benefits as well. But yeah, this is about it Hubert. So, uh, let's get started.

Djagmo: Uh, before I start again, thank you so much. Um, my first question, uh, is gonna be very open-ended, uh, getting to know you sort of a question because I think when people connect with you, Hubert, before we get into your business, I think it helps a lot for people to kind of stick around and then all your stories and all the knowledge that we'll share, you know, will make much more sense.

Djagmo: So, uh, Hubert, if you can, uh, walk us through your journey. It can start as early as your childhood, where you grew up, and then, you know, what took you to this day, uh, running this particular business. If you can walk us through that in any great, uh, detail, it'll be, it'll be very helpful.

Hubert: Yeah. I mean, uh, going back to childhood, uh, I was, my dad was in a transferrable job, so we moved around a lot.

Hubert: So, uh, as a result, you know, I did not have, uh, what you call long lasting friendships, right. Because of that. And, uh, so I would, you know, books used to be my best friend, so I was a bit nerdy of, uh, childhood itself. Okay. And, uh, yeah, I would read books and so on. So there began my, you know, journey about learning things and a bit of an avid reader, avid learner, uh, in school as well.

Hubert: I used to, uh, do pretty well. At literally based things, uh, you know, talking to people. And slowly I felt that my communication skills were good. Okay. And, um, I never start, I never took up, uh, teaching or, you know, being part of the tutoring field immediately after that. Mm-hmm. But, uh, later on, I think about 10 years after I started working, Hmm.

Hubert: I would teach students part-time. Right. It was never a full-time commitment, but I liked it and somehow the students liked it as well. So, as early as 2014, way before the pandemic, I started teaching online students from, uh, U S A, uh, and other parts of the world. And soon, uh, being an early riser, you know, I had that time.

Hubert: So I would wake up at 3, 3 30 in the morning. Wow. And, uh, yeah, there was not, not, there's not much else to do at that time. Everyone is sleeping and, uh, so I found a. You know, I found that this teaching at that time for us students and students from South America worked for me and somehow the students liked it.

Hubert: And, um, it, then I got students from other places, from Europe, from, uh, uh, Africa in the evenings, late evenings after work, and sometime even during the afternoon, students from, uh, uh, you know, Australia, New Zealand, and, uh, Southeast Asia, Singapore and Indonesia. So, you know, uh, almost all six continents. I have taught students from, that's, uh, predominantly math and sciences, right at, uh, a high school, uh, pre university level.

Hubert: And, uh, whatever experience that I gathered from there with my own inputs, we started school box in, uh, in just before the pandemic started. So about, uh, Little over three years back. So that is my journey into what I am and how school Box was

Djagmo: born. Got it. Hubbert. Thank you. So, uh, Hubert, you said your dad was in transferrable jobs and that didn't allow you to kind of, you know, settle down in any location, and obviously there are, you know, outcomes because of that.

Djagmo: So, uh, I mean, are you an Army kid?

Hubert: Uh, no, no. My dad was working for, um, a company called Siemens. They were Siemens, yeah. Manufacturing, medical, uh, right. Products, not, uh, you know, tech, uh, or instruments as they do now. Right. So because of that, I think, uh, he was transferred I think two or three times. Not Army, but

Djagmo: this field.

Djagmo: Got it, got it. I'm so sorry. I mean, most of them. Yeah. Yeah. It's, you know, it's the army, uh, thing that keeps them moving. So what are the parts of India that you've, uh, spent time in? So

Hubert: three places, predominantly Mumbai, where I was born. Okay. Uh, then moved to Mad Pradesh in the, which also is a, you know, medical, uh,

Djagmo: hub.

Djagmo: Uh,

Hubert: hub. Right. And then from there on to, uh, Bangalore, the three, these three places. Okay. So I, when we moved to Bangalore, I think that's when my dad gave up the job and uh, he decided to go into agriculture. So coffee Oh, interesting. Is what he chose as his profession.

Djagmo: Okay, great. So, um, by the time you were in Bangalore, were you working, were you still studied?

Djagmo: No, no, I was still in

Hubert: school. So all these changes happened while I was still a

Djagmo: school child. Okay. Got it. Got it, got it. Hubert. So, uh, Hubert, you said, you know, you started teaching, uh, sometime in 2014 while you were working. So what was your work about? Uh, I

Hubert: had graduated to be a software, uh, engineer. Okay.

Hubert: And, uh, I finished my college in, uh, 1996. Okay. And from 1996, still about that time, I wa worked in various capacities in the IT field.

Djagmo: Okay. Uh,

Hubert: yeah. And, uh, a little before 2014. Okay. I had actually started a small company. Hmm. Which did, uh, testing. Hmm. So testing as in Right, you know, tests for psychometric evaluation or, uh, even for, you know, MBA preparation, that sort of thing.

Hubert: So company that generates tests or creates tests, uh, for these students,

Djagmo: students

Hubert: even for company appraisals. So in that course, actually during the course of that, uh, you know, uh, being. Uh, part of that particular project, so to speak. Hmm. I encountered a, a customer from the USA who were looking for teachers and that's how the teaching started at Because of this particular

Djagmo: project.

Djagmo: Yeah. Right. I was, I was definitely gonna get there. I was a little curious as to, you know, how to connect the dots. So, uh, I assume that, you know, given your software experience and, you know, since 1996 and, you know, probably the work you did, that's how you saw some sort of a scope in that area. And when you say testing, um, I think it was, uh, please correct me if I'm wrong.

Djagmo: Um, I'm assuming it's a combination of your software skills and your education background as well. Right. Uh, that's, it kind of merged and that's how you started off something like that. So what happened to that, uh, company, uh, Huba? Did you start while you were still working or, you know, did you, uh, take a leap of faith and you quit your job?

Djagmo: How did it go? Yeah, I

Hubert: was doing it parallel. So there were two of us who partners, right? Right. And, uh, this was in parallel to work, right? So we would, uh, you know, get people who are in the education field to create tests for us, right. Based on the requirements from, uh, the customers who are sometimes software companies or even universities.

Hubert: Okay. So we wanted. These tests. Right. Um, yeah. So it was in parallel while I was working itself, so I did not quit my job. Yeah.

Djagmo: Got it. So when you say you, you know, you worked with another partner to create these tests, was it only from a content perspective or was it about you presenting to them in a, you know, uh, like a software tool or something like that?

Djagmo: No,

Hubert: it was, uh, it was purely content. They had designed purely content. Yeah. They had designed the framework for us. Okay. And also they gave us the level, what the tests should be about, you know, this level. So. Got it. The level of filtration for Got it. Candidates. Yeah, that's the only two things. So it was purely content driven?

Hubert: No, nothing else. Got

Djagmo: it. So, but you know, how did this come about? Were you like always inclined towards, uh, you know, something entrepreneurial and that's how you stumbled upon this or, you know, because you were in software? Yeah. And then, um, uh, now I understand that it was, it did not even have anything to do with your software experience.

Djagmo: It's purely content driven. So what's the connection? Um, yeah, I think I

Hubert: was always drawn towards, uh, being, uh, an entrepreneur. Right. Uh, even while I was working, uh, my mom, uh, had a store. She ran a store Mm. For about 25 years. So while she was having the store, I think, uh, I got involved in that after my work as well, helping her out.

Hubert: And, uh, you know, during the time, uh, she was not, well actually for a few months at that time I was more. Uh, I participated a lot more in that, in the store and, uh, I was able to, you know, take that business forward, do well in it, and then we opened up, uh, another branch and so on and so forth. So it was good.

Hubert: And, uh, both of them were self-running. They were doing well. And then I moved to this with another partner who actually came up with the idea. So he was doing it, uh, on a smaller level. And I said, I think, uh, I feel that this has a little bit of scope and if we make small changes, we will be able to, you know, get, uh, take this business forward to a level where we can, um, be financially comfortable.

Hubert: That was the goal,

Djagmo: actually. Yeah. Got it. Gilbert. Yeah, I can relate so much because yeah, uh, I, I, you know, that drive to come out of a certain system and then do things as per once are called. Um, yeah, I think that's what I see here. And the store that you're talking about is, this is in Bangalore, I believe, right after you came to Bangalore.

Djagmo: And what store is this?

Hubert: It was, it was there. Now they don't exist there. It was a gift store. Okay. It was, uh, in, in the Bangalore. Okay. And, uh, yeah, the other one was in Whitefield, the new one that we opened. But then later on we sold both of them as the, uh, retail business was winding up and, uh, online, online stores were coming up.

Hubert: So I think at that time, luckily we were able to, uh, sell at the right time and we got a good price for both those stores as well. So,

Djagmo: yeah. Okay. And, uh, going back to the testing business that you're talking about. Right. So what happened to that? Like where did it reach, uh, did you close? Yeah, the testing close,

Hubert: the testing business eventually, uh, wound up because, uh, I think, uh, my partner decided to go abroad.

Hubert: Okay. So he got married and started a family, and I think, uh, family commitment took him abroad. Okay. So he was, yeah, we were not able to continue the business. Okay. So we sort of just wounded down instead of selling, we did not find a buyer or we could not sell it. Got it. We just slowly wounded down.

Hubert: That's, that's

Djagmo: about it. Yeah. You could not continue that on your own. Hubert.

Hubert: Um, I actually, you know, started at that time I was still working and doing a little bit of teaching as well. Okay. And I felt that there was a bigger, uh, you know, bigger, uh, Role to play in teaching, plus my partner, the one who had better experience in, uh, in this testing department.

Hubert: It was not my department so much. Okay. We had most of the knowledge. So I was just bringing along the, the little bit of business know-how that I had from my store and this and that, and few ideas. I think, uh, the core of the business, he was still the person. So when he left, I would have found it very difficult to continue

Djagmo: without him.

Djagmo: Got it. Huber and, uh, interesting you're saying, so I was thinking otherwise I thought, okay, you probably played the role of the content, uh, creation. And then he would, uh, bring the business. I don't know why I thought that. Oh, he for

Hubert: a company that, uh, used to do this before and then slowly he was branch, he branched out.

Hubert: You know, by himself and, uh,

Djagmo: got it. Got it. That's

Hubert: how we tied up. Yeah. So he was the per main person

Djagmo: in this. Got it, got it. The reason I'm, you're not trying to go so, uh, you know, deep into this is, you know, there's an insight here that I'd like to draw and, you know, share it to the listeners. Uh, even I have seen this, right?

Djagmo: Most of the entrepreneurs now, there are two types of entrepreneurs. One are the ones who know, they don't know what they want to do, but they know that they want to do, uh, something on their own. They want to be entrepreneurs. And then how they choose a business that's different. It could be, you know, from family, friends, and, but there's another set of entrepreneurs who will be working and who would spot an opportunity in their workspace.

Djagmo: And then, you know, because of the experience and, um, expertise that they would have. They would see an opportunity for them to kind of grow a company. So, uh, this is something that I thought, you know, uh, can help people who are listening. So if they're working, it's always a little, they, they have an edge when they're working because they are exposed to the market.

Djagmo: They know how that business runs and everything. All they need to do that is just, you know, all they need to do to grow from there on is probably branch out and get new clients. Um, where, you know, as opposed to people who know that they want to get into entrepreneurship, but they have no idea they need to do everything from scratch.

Djagmo: So, yeah. Um, so I'm sure, do you, do you kind of, um, concur with this Hubert?

Hubert: Yeah. I mean, if you want to get into running your own business, you have to be very confident about it. You can't, uh, go with, uh, you know, half-hearted feeling saying that, listen, you know, I'm going to try this. If it works, it's great.

Hubert: You can't have that thought. You can't Right. Have a safety net, so to speak. Right? You have to go into it wholeheartedly, right? And just give it everything. If you are prepared to do that right, then you should take that leap. Uh, yeah, only, and I feel that before going in, your preparation should be quite thorough, right?

Hubert: You should not go in there and hope that things will work out. You have to, you know, play out the business, so to speak in your mind, understand the market and all, all the things that, you know, the business, uh, books and wisdom gives you. You have to follow through on all of that and, uh, uh, You know, try and play it out in your mind.

Hubert: And once you believe that it'll work, then you give it all you have. Uh, make sure that you have good people around you who are, are in this field, and that you talk to them, uh, before going in because it's impossible for you to think of everything yourself, right? You have to, you know, you have to depend on other people.

Hubert: So that's very important part of business that you have as many, uh, trustworthy people. You can't listen to everybody also, but few trustworthy people. I think you have to, um, talk to them and also use them as sounding board, um, every now and then, but you should be, have the conviction to go. I think that's very important.

Djagmo: Got it. There's no halfheartedness in entrepreneurship. You know, you go all in is the message that I'll take away. And, uh, Hubert, this particular content business, the testing business you were in, how long were you part of it? How long did it last? Uh, about four years. Wow. That's, that's quite sometime. So, uh, you know, if there's something that you took away from that business Right.

Djagmo: For four years, um, what was it, you know, what are the lessons that you carried forward from there? Yeah. Some

Hubert: things that we did not expect, you know, especially things like, uh, uh, delayed payments, which I did not, uh, I did not foresee that, you know? Mm-hmm. Um, but that used to happen a lot. Mm-hmm. We were able to recover almost about 90% of, uh, what, um, you know, people owed us.

Hubert: Hmm. But still, that was something that I did not factor in, and that affected our ability to pay. The people who are working with us, you know, people who are creating this content. Um, so sometimes we would have to borrow from the market to pay, and then once you borrow, you have to pay interest on that.

Hubert: Right? So that affected profit margin. So that was something that I did not foresee. Okay. Uh, later on of course, we changed a few things around saying that, you know, we do the work in four phases and every phase you have to pay us about 25%. Right. So I think that, uh, that risk mitigation helped a lot and customers were also okay with it.

Hubert: Um, yeah. But initially that was sort of unexpected for me.

Djagmo: Got it. No valid point because I can, uh, so far, you know, I've spoken to about six to seven guests, and a couple of them have touched upon this point. Uh, there was one, uh, guest, you know, uh, who run, um, uh, art Academy online based out of Chennai. Okay.

Djagmo: They started off as an even management company and, uh, one of their first experiences was, uh, very similar to what you said, in fact, uh, larger and bigger, maybe, you know, where they did a lot of work and they had to learn it the hard way about, you know, no matter what, no matter how big a project you're gonna bag, um, you need to take some amount of money in advance, you know, for you to not fall into a deeper pit.

Djagmo: Yeah. Uh, so I think, yeah, this is a common thing, uh, that come across. Um, great. And uh, so you said, you know, you were working with people to create content. These were partners. These are freelancers or you they were on your payroll freelancers. They were freelancers, yeah. Three answers. Got it. And, uh, when you, when you spoke about recovery, Hubert, you know, what was that experience like?

Djagmo: Did you have to, how did you recover? You know, was it simply following up in a gentle way, whether people good enough or way did you have to, um, you know, uh, try different methods? What was it, how easy or difficult was recovery? Yeah, I mean, it

Hubert: was difficult to be

Djagmo: very honest. Okay. Um,

Hubert: people would give you all sorts of reasons and Sure that everybody knows, you know, uh, to try and delay the payment.

Hubert: Right. Uh, but, uh, here it was mostly repeat customers. So customers would, uh, uh, ask for next business and so on, so forth. So at that time we were able to, you know, tell them that work might slow down if the payments don't come in. So I think at that time they kind of paid, but it was very difficult And, uh, Um, it took away time and attention from the actual business itself.

Hubert: Right. It was a little disappointing, but yeah, it's all part of the business and I think the next time or in future as we were growing, we factored that also in, uh, you know, that people might take little long to pay. That was the biggest sort of challenge or something that was unexpected to me. But, uh, yeah, we were able to, and I think for us, when we were, you know, recovering the payments, we were never angry or, uh, upset or bitter.

Hubert: We accepted it and I think we, uh, always spoke to them in a rational and reasonable manner. Right. Um, and, uh, I think that also is important because if you are upset, angry and you create a scene and things like that, then uh, you could lose both the money and the business. Right,

Djagmo: right. Exactly. Rely on the

Hubert: future saying that these are our partners.

Hubert: We are getting money from them and, uh, we don't want to lose the customer and the money as well. So we tried to be rational and reasonable with them, but kept sending them regular reminders. And I think, uh, to some extent that helped.

Djagmo: No, I think this is a very, uh, you know, important lesson again here, because there could be times when you can lose it, right?

Djagmo: But what are you gonna gain by losing it? You're only gonna lose, you need to collect some money. The only way that you're gonna do that is any way you're trapped. The only positive thing that you can do here is to be patient. There are chances, but if you lose it a little bit, you even, um, st you know, take yourself out of that little chance of recovering.

Djagmo: So I think this could be another insight that we can draw out of this experience of your super. Yeah. It's a small,

Hubert: you know, business communities are usually very small, closed, uh, right, uh, communities, so to speak. And, uh, if you do something like that, the word gets around pretty quickly that, you know, these guys are unstable and, uh, that will hamper business coming from other sides as well.

Hubert: So you have to be a little cautious about


Djagmo: things. Oh yeah. That also, you know, the network effect, the way people look at you in your business circle, uh, the reputation that you build over time. Lot of stuff. Got it. So, um, I, I assume, so you said that, you know, you started focusing on teaching from 2014, so I assume this business was started somewhere in 2010, and then it went on to 2014.

Djagmo: Is that the time I was doing

Hubert: Yeah, correct. 2010, I think. 2015, yeah. On 20 10, 20 11 ish. 11

Djagmo: ish. Got it. Got it. And, uh, during this period also, were you teaching? No, uh, towards

Hubert: the end I started

Djagmo: teaching. Started

Hubert: teaching. Okay. Yeah, I mean, 2014 is when I started teaching and I think a year before this business shut down.

Hubert: Got it. Um, before, uh, you know, he got married and, uh, took off. So right at that time, I started teaching and I, I mean, I, for me that, uh, that was fantastic. I mean, teaching was like, oh my goodness,

Djagmo: I didn't. So how, how, uh, how did you get to the teaching, starting of the teaching aspect? Like, where did you get the opportunity from?

Djagmo: What was that all about? Uh, from one of

Hubert: our customers for this particular company had a customer in the US who was looking

Djagmo: for content.

Hubert: Okay. And in providing content, you know, in the, in the interactions. They said, uh, you know, we have, uh, we are teaching website and, uh, we have students from the US and South America.

Hubert: Right. They're looking for teachers. So you know anyone, you know, just let them let us know. So I said, I don't mind giving it a shot. I, uh, the timing seems like perfect for me and Right. Uh, teaching is something that I felt that. You know, this is good. I could interact with the young people and teaching, as you know, sorry.

Hubert: Teaching, as you know, is not just teaching, it's also guiding the children, talking to them and, uh, you know. Right, right. Speaking to, uh, listening to them and helping them with their confidence and other things apart from Right. The actual teaching itself, the actual providing of the content. There's other things.

Hubert: So, so I was very excited to take this on because it'll give me an opportunity to interact with these young people

Djagmo: also. Got it. And, uh, you were working all this while, correct? Yeah. You're still, you're still not, uh, quit your job.

Hubert: Yeah, but I think at that time, 2016, immediately I, after I started this mm-hmm.

Hubert: Uh, then I sort of, uh, wound down. I, I did not work at that

Djagmo: time. Oh, okay. So teaching went so big. It could kind of, you know,

Hubert: not so much. I think at that time, uh, because we had, uh, sold both of our, uh, stores. Okay. So we had a decent amount of ha Got it. And, um, yeah, I thought that work was getting too taxing and, you know, if I continue in the same way, then I will not get anywhere.

Hubert: With all due respect. I mean, I had no problems at work. People were great. Right. Everything was good. But, uh, for me on a personal level that I felt that I was not really going anywhere. Hmm. You know, with the, with working, uh, I felt that I could contribute more or do more with my life. Uh, right. Doing other things and teaching actually was fantastic cause I was interacting with people, young people, others involved in this particular field.

Djagmo: Got it. Hubert, so, uh, while you were working, how many hours, uh, would you teach? Put, I mean, morning and late evenings put

Hubert: together mornings. The morning's about four hours and evening about two, three hours. But once I quit working, Hmm. I was teaching, uh, some crazy hours actually. Yeah.

Djagmo: Yeah. That's what I was coming to next.

Djagmo: Four plus three seven. And then you work for like 10 hours, say that's 18 hours of solid work.

Hubert: Yeah. 18 to to 20 hours also. Wow. I would, uh, look, I have, uh, um, if you may call it a bit of a problem with sleep. I don't, I can't sleep too much. I can only sleep for about three hours to four hours. Okay. Uh, this has been going on since I think almost the last 10 years.

Hubert: Uh, even on Sundays or anything, I just can't sleep. Uh, okay. But I sleep around midnight and I wake up at about 3, 3 15 every morning. Uh, without alarm. So

Djagmo: I wish I could do that. I don't think it's a problem, but yeah, health practitioners would definitely

Hubert: say that's, that's a concern a lot of people want me and said that, you know, affect so far, you know, thankfully nothing untoward has happened.

Hubert: Right. Um, and, uh, I just can't sleep. Uh, that's, that's a bit of a issue. I hope everything

Djagmo: is okay. Okay. I mean, have you consulted, uh, uh, professionals? Yeah. I, I,

Hubert: yeah, I went to doctors. Of course, they told me it's not right, but the vitals and everything was okay. So was okay. They said that looks fine for the moment, but just keep getting yourself tested regularly.

Hubert: Right? And even the smallest indicator or signal just, you know, immediately, uh, seek professional help or go visit a professional. So I, I

Djagmo: keep that in mind. Got it. Gilbert, that's great for you. As long as you know, it hasn't affected you, it's good. Um, because, uh, there are some people, you know, who do not have that kind of a time because they have to sleep for seven hours, eight hours.

Djagmo: Right. Yeah. So maybe it's a good thing for you and that's great. And, uh, so, um, so how many, okay, so your quitting of the job has nothing to do with your teaching. It had to do with your, your, you know, store and stuff like that. Fair enough. Yeah. Uh, but, uh, how long did you do this dual thing of working and teaching?

Djagmo: Um,

Hubert: working and teaching, working and doing other things almost, uh, for about six years, but six years working and teaching just a

Djagmo: couple of years, that's all. Okay. Okay. And then once you, uh, stop working, uh, how many hours of full-time teaching were you into? I mean, I,

Hubert: on a regular day could be eight to 10 hours, but it has.

Hubert: It's gone up some days to even 17, 18 hours depending on, uh, you know, my schedule. Got it. So if I had free time, I would just use it for teaching. And I never used to get tired. Even if I taught for 17, 18 hours, I was not, not very tired or drained or anything like that. So I Great. Realized that this is a good thing.

Hubert: You know, for me, if you're doing something for that long and you don't feel Yeah. Emotionally drained, then I think you are. It means that you are, you know, liking it and enjoying it.

Djagmo: Right, right. And um, this was a one-to-one tutoring.

Hubert: Yeah, one-to-one. A few, you know, sometimes you had groups, but by and large it was

Djagmo: one-to-one.

Djagmo: And it's largely academic. Uh, maths and science. Yeah, just academic. And what is the age group that you're taught to?

Hubert: Uh, high school and junior college. So you can say eight grade. Eight to grade

Djagmo: 12. Okay. And, uh, what is the curriculum that we are talking about here? Hubert.

Hubert: Um, Initially we started with the us.

Hubert: I started with the US curriculum. US has essentially two curriculums. Mm-hmm. Uh, the old, and even now, the favored one is state wise curriculum. So every state has their own curriculum. Okay. Uh, the northern states, uh, usually the curriculum is a little more sort of advanced and developed southern states.

Hubert: It's about one grade behind. Okay. Uh, and I think, uh, oh, when Obama came in, he brought in, he tried to bring in something common, like we have the central board, C B S C and I C C here. Right. He tried to bring in a common system, uh, called, uh, common Core, but that has not really taken off yet. There are some, uh, schools and some states following that.

Hubert: Okay. But by large, it's still state board. State wise, it's very close to your I G C S C and ib. So because of teaching in the US I was able to teach children here and in, uh, uh, Singapore and, uh, Indonesia and those countries, IB and I G C S E curriculum, very similar methodology and curriculum.

Djagmo: Got it.

Djagmo: Hubert and, uh, you know, in India we know the kind of, um, fees or the amount of money that a private tutor can charge on an ugly basis, right? Say it would range somewhere, anywhere between as low as 150 rupees, maybe max, uh, 700 rupees, right? That's, we are talking on the highest level average would be 300, 400 rupees.

Djagmo: And of course, uh, there are certain outliers where, you know, s a t trainings can fetch you as much as about 4,000 rupees per hour, but, Teaching to the students from the US Now, um, first of all, I'd like to get this clarified. You were paid not directly by the student, but you were paid by the company that employed you, that connected you between the student Yes.

Djagmo: And you? Yes. Okay. So they would charge the student and then they would pay you a certain amount of money? That's right. Okay. And what is the early hourly where you paid in a, on an hour basis for this? Yeah. Hourly basis. Yeah. Okay. And what is the kind of money that we are looking at here? I

Hubert: think at that time, uh, 2014, 2015.

Hubert: Hmm. I think, uh, I started off with $8 per hour at that time. Okay. And then later on, I think as, uh, I grew, hmm, I think 2018. 2019. Hmm. Uh, I was getting paid close to about $15 per hour. So between eight and 15. Yeah.

Djagmo: Got it. It's got,

Hubert: uh, huge money,

Djagmo: or not huge, but not very low either. We're pretty decent. Yes.

Djagmo: You know, uh, if you just had to be at home, no travel and, you know. Yeah. Yeah. Um, and it's also a very, you know, the profession is also very, not too much pressure, I'd say. Right. Yeah. It's pretty chill. As long as you're pretty good at your subjects and the students are happy, it's a stress free job. Exactly.

Djagmo: Except for the kind of number of hours that you do. So, uh, Hubert a little bit of a here just to come out and, uh, you know, to all the listeners, right? They might be wondering, okay, you know, what, how can I kind of get this kind of, uh, an opportunity? So would you just say, you know, you were at the right place, right time, or, uh, you know, if you had to kind of help people out who are listening, you know, if somebody are looking to get such kind of an opportunity, is there a way that you can, uh, help them out with uh, yeah.

Djagmo: So.

Hubert: I mean, if you want to go as a personal tutor by yourself, your own individual journey, right? I think you have to put yourself out there. So nowadays there are a lot of platforms, right? Uh, which are like marketplaces for tutors, right? And you can put yourself out there, you know, make sure that you are on all of those platforms.

Hubert: That way your visibility

Djagmo: will increase. Uh, you're talking about, uh, uh, the US market, uh,

Hubert: not us is difficult to this thing with us. Uh, you can put yourself out on platforms, uh, but difficult, I think starting with India is good computer. Mm-hmm. And, uh, I think in us you need just that one breakthrough sometimes.

Hubert: Right. And mostly, you know, you get these tutoring opportunities through word of mouth. If you Right. Are teaching a particular student really well, it's very likely that their classmate or some contact will be suggested, so, got it. It's word of mouth referrals work the best here, so you have to be really good at your job and, uh, make sure that whatever, whatever happens, trying to maintain a discipline.

Hubert: Hmm. You can't be, you know, doing these things as in when you want, because when you commit to the student for a year, then you have to be aware that the child will have tests and this and that. So you can't really, you know, during their test time, you can't take off on a vacation for 20 days or right now, you can't cancel it's commitment, flimsy reasons and things.

Hubert: So the professionalism is also very important. Apart from your knowledge and teaching skills, professionalism

Djagmo: is very, very important. I was, I was, uh, gonna come to this, uh, you know. So Hubert, you have experienced teaching and you've done it successfully. There are two aspects to teaching, right? In fact, three, uh, after you probably, you know, mentioned the word professionalism, that's one thing.

Djagmo: But, um, when it comes to teaching, there are the main things that comes to me is that one is how good you are at what you teach, the subject knowledge that you have. That's one thing. Let's assume everybody has that. Okay? I mean, teachers, uh, I'm sure you know, without that, they wouldn't go out and put themselves out there.

Djagmo: Apart from teaching the expertise that you have on the subject, what other skills that you need to have to succeed?

Hubert: Okay, I'll give you a broad outline. School box has like a 20 page dosier on this. Wow. Okay. One of the things needed an

Djagmo: our tutor, and I haven't even come to school box yet. Okay, cool. Cool, cool.

Djagmo: But yeah, please, yeah, go through that. Uh, okay.

Hubert: Broadly, I think, uh, tutors need to have a lot of patience. Patience is very important. You can't lose it, right? You have to, uh, sometimes some children take longer than others to get, you know, a particular topic. Not everyone learns at the same pace, right? So you have to very patient, uh, at the same time encouraging children at that age, and especially children who are not very good at their subject from everybody.

Hubert: They always hear negative vibes. They always get from parents, maybe right from, uh, neighbors, relatives, uh, school teachers, peers, and so on, so forth. So they're sick and tired of that. Right as tutor you can, you know, offer them something else. And it's quite surprising that some children who other people call as dull students, you know, not capable of studying, they don't deserve to be in the school at the moment.

Hubert: You give them a little bit of confidence and space to make mistakes and learn from it. Uh, and, you know, cultivate that little love for learning. You'll be surprised how quickly they can turn around and, you know, start excelling at their subject. And for me, apart from the money, these have been like enormous rewards to see a child just turn around, especially someone who says, I hate the subject, or, you know, I don't like this.

Hubert: And I think constantly weighed down by everything that goes around them. Yeah. It doesn't just affect them academically, it affects their entire personality. Right. For them to break out of that and then, um, you know, come out feeling good about themselves, doing well at school. Um, it's so, so nice to see and for right.

Hubert: That is, that is a big, big

Djagmo: reward. Got it. Got it. Um, uh, you said

Hubert: three, right? So one is patience, the other is professionalism. And, uh, the, the third one could be, uh, your,

Djagmo: Okay. Uh, Hubert. No, no, sorry. Sorry to interrupt. No, I didn't mean three like that. No, you have 20 list, you know, 20 page dossier. You can go on and on.

Djagmo: What I meant was I thought, you know, there are three aspects to teaching to succeed. One is the, uh, hold on your subject. Uh, one more is the other skills, like you said, right? You know, the rapport that you build with a student. It's not just about coming in, you know, just, you know, uh, talking about the subject, right?

Djagmo: It's about how you interact, your comfortness with the child and stuff like that. That is also very important. And then I thought, okay, professionalism in terms of your commitment, you know, uh, it's like a project you take up. You don't, uh, give up on the kid till, uh, the kid completes the exam because there is also the kids, the kid also undergoes a certain curve, uh, where they get familiar with the person and, you know, they build a rapport.

Djagmo: They get comfortable. By the time it's three months, I don't think it's nice. It's good, uh, on the part of the teacher to kind of, you know, Leave at that point because then it's a no other process for the kids. So these are what I thought. But yeah, you can, uh, talk about the other things that you think a teacher needs apart from these things.

Djagmo: Uh, yeah. I mean, broad

Hubert: based. Broad based. Got it. Of course, uh, patience, right. Uh, professionalism and your ability to be honest with the student. Right. Um, you know, many times, uh, you may not, I mean, honesty comes in many forms. Many times they may ask you a question, which you don't know the answer to. Right.

Hubert: So there are examples of teachers who've, you know, just to get out of that situation, they might have told the wrong answer

Djagmo: to the teacher. Wrong answer. Right?

Hubert: Right. You have to be honest and say, I don't know. I let you know in the next class. I'm not sure. I don't know the answer to this. I'm sorry. I'll let you know next class.

Hubert: So, yeah. Or, you know, I'll message it to you later if you have their phone number. So it's very important. And also to be honest, to the child also, right? If they're doing not so well, hmm. Uh, you can change the language. You can sort of dress it up a little bit. Hmm. And tell them, convey to them clearly where they're at, and also what, uh, you know, we are going to achieve realistically in the next few months.

Hubert: Set realistic targets for them and help them to achieve those, uh, giving them false, uh, hopes and, uh, unrealistic expectations so they themselves will later be disappointed. Uh, give them realistic goals. Be honest with them. Uh, give them honest appraisals every now and then, but give them encouragement and support.

Hubert: Also, at the same time, make sure that, you know, they know that you are not the person who is going to berate them and put them down. Hmm. Make sure that you are like, uh, uh, you know, your. Role, their role model as well as someone they can always come to, even if it's a non-academic problem. Right. Then they say, I don't feel motivated to study.

Hubert: What do I do? They should be comfortable enough to tell. Right? Right. Or, I don't like this particular topic. You know, it's really boring. They should be comfortable enough to te tell you that. So get them to that position. Right. And, uh, I always tell them, I always tell them like, if you find the subject boring, just tell me.

Hubert: I'll find another way to teach it to you. Right, right. So that'll help me to improve as a teacher. I, I will learn a new way of teaching, so which I can employ maybe with some other students. So, you know, we grow as teachers as well when we have students giving us inputs. Uh, yeah. Or saying, and every, every child, every situation sometimes is different.

Hubert: You know, you don't encounter the same child, same situation, even though you teach the same subject. Uh, but it's never really delivered in the same way to everybody. Uh,

Djagmo: Yeah. Got it. You, but I was, I was gonna come to that, you know what, what, you know I was gonna come to was that, you know, you've had quite a bit of experience, right?

Djagmo: You would've seen a varied number of, uh, types of children that you've got to, yes, there would be some children, you know, who'd be razor focused and, you know, they know that they're here to study and crack and whatever it is there, there's not much of a, a job for you to do there. You just have to like, help them with whatever they ask.

Djagmo: And they are professionals. You are a professional and then you move away. But then there are other kids, you know, who come with a lot of other problems. Uh, you know, it could be from family or some child, uh, you know, may not be interested. Their talents may be lying somewhere else, but then, you know, they need to clear just pass and stuff like this.

Djagmo: Or it could also be, you know, from a, uh, from an attention perspective. Also, not all children can be. Very attentive. You know, some people might have it less, some people. So when you start, uh, to, to a new child, teaching to a new child, right. After so much of experience, did you figure out a way to kind of, you know, okay, this is, this child is, you know, falls under this category, this is the kind of, uh, method I'm gonna employ to teach this.

Djagmo: Have you, did you arrive at that? And if you did, what are those broad types and how did you adapt yourself to that?

Hubert: Yeah, yeah. This is, uh, another, um, very well researched, uh, subject at, uh, school box itself. So we have 13 different parameters for every child as they come in. And there's actually, uh, not for all students, but uh, once a student comes in and for some time in the school box, there are a set of about.

Hubert: 50 questions, which have very simple answers. You can do the entire answer, the entire set of 50 questions in about seven to eight minutes. It's just that, you know, you have a question like, do you, uh, do you like to play? Ha,

Djagmo: stop

Hubert: coming back from school or something. And so the answers will be agree, strongly, uh, agree.

Hubert: Got it. No comment. And so five different options for that. And the options are of course the same. So from the answers that are given by the students as well as the teachers, uh, we ca not categorize, but we assign them a score. Hmm. And, uh, the teachers and students that have the closest score are generally matched based on personality.

Hubert: Ah, so interesting. Their relationship will be better because Right, right. You know, relate and understand each other a lot better. So this is something that we have developed. That's, that's where the tech side of school box, uh, or most of the work has gone in the tech side. So we call this our matching matrix where Got it.

Hubert: The students and teachers are matched based on these 13 different personality parameters. It's, uh, some ways similar

Djagmo: to the Myers Briggs. Is it based on that?

Hubert: Yeah. Maya Mbi, t Myers Briggs. But Myers Briggs categorizes you into a certain type. Right. Our system is a lot more fluid. It assigns you a score, which could even be a whole number or decimal, and then it gets close match.

Hubert: So it does not put you into a box, but it's a little more fluid. Yeah.

Djagmo: Excellent, excellent. Hubert. This is like amazing stuff because, um, I've known people who teach, uh, you know, at these big, uh, EdTech companies. You, uh, you know, uh, like say, um, the huge volume companies and, you know, I've not heard of such things because it's this very random, you know, people come for a demo and then, you know, it's conversion from their salespeople.

Djagmo: Call them up and then, you know, they just match it with the teachers and then it goes like that. There's no methodology as such, but this is brilliant. Uh, I'm sure you know, this saves so much, uh, even from a business perspective because you are, uh, giving yourself, giving school box a higher chance, uh, for the student to feel comfortable with the teacher and even for the teacher, right?

Djagmo: The job's gonna become so much more easier if you go to this level to match them. That's great. Okay. Uh, so Hubert great so far. Great. Now, um, uh, I'd like to, you know, go to school Box. You said school box started in 2020, sometime around the pandemic. It's been about three years of journey so far. Just a little before.

Djagmo: Just a little. Just a little, yeah. What a timing. First of all. It's amazing timing. I, I, I think, uh, it helped that, uh, you were already in this, uh, domain, but if you see, uh, if you noticed, um, a lot of online teaching portals were established after the pandemic, uh, hit because there, that was a need of the hour, but you seem to have kind of, you know, naturally and organically started it before the pandemic.

Djagmo: So, uh, Hubert tell me. Uh, you were teaching for this company, uh, at what point did the thought arise? Okay, you know, why not I do this myself. I start a company myself, you know? Can you just walk me through that entire starting and then, you know, how did you come and start school box, the entire journey of that?

Djagmo: Yeah.


Hubert: from, uh, 2014 I started teaching for, uh, an ed tech company, which was based in the US right? And, uh, apart from that I was doing a few, uh, side gigs as well, because they had customers only from us, but, uh, got it from other places. I had put myself out there, right. Uh, registered with various, um, other companies.

Hubert: I think Tu I was one of them and a few others. Right. Uh, so they were getting me students from different places. I wanted to understand students from, you know, different backgrounds Hmm. And what their subject is like. Hmm. Um, so I was doing this, uh, from 2014 and I was with, uh, ETU World, the company that I started with.

Hubert: Hmm. Up till about 2019, I think five years I worked with them. And, um, around that time I felt that, you know, certain processes, so certain things could be done in a better way. Mm-hmm. And, uh, I don't think, uh, this company was ready to do it in that way. And I felt that, uh, if it had to be done, then I should give it a shot.

Hubert: Great. And, uh, then I knew these two. Gentleman who were my co-founders. Okay. Gupta and Mak. Mm. So they actually run very successfully, uh, uh, a sort of a restaurant Mm. Uh, business. Okay. They have, they own many hotels of different types. So, in Bangalore? In Bangalore, yeah. In Bangalore and outside also. Okay.

Hubert: Most of the, uh, restaurants are in Bangalore, so they own a line of Chowa outlets Oh, okay. In, uh, the Santi brand and yes, many, many hotels.

Djagmo: They also there. Oh, for your information, I'm, I'm a bangal as well, so Oh is okay. That's the reason I'm so curious whenever you bring in such things, and I used to like eat out a lot also, so as a little curious as to, okay, what are these restaurants?

Djagmo: Okay. Yeah. They're

Hubert: foodies to the core. Uh, okay. Not me so much, but they are, you know, they talk about it all the time and they're really interested and they're really good at it, what they Right. So. They have many restaurants. So naturally they were, uh, I needed someone who was good at business. Hmm. Uh, and had the knowledge on how to manage people in a slightly large setup.

Hubert: Hmm. Uh, because what I was doing, even with the, you know, the testing company was a small setup. It was not large. So Right. There is an organizational structure, you know, when you, uh, have a slightly larger setup. Right. And, uh, how the roles are to be demarcated and, uh, responsibilities and how this, how the system works.

Hubert: You know, we can't reinvent the wheel, so it's good to have someone who knows this already. Right. That's the reason why I tied up with, uh, Kash and Hmm. And, uh, with them. They also brought around, brought along other people who had worked previously in, um, You know, in the industry in slightly more senior roles, right?

Hubert: So they had, uh, an overview into these structures. Hmm. How it works, the HR department to the tech department, to uh, uh, operations and all of those things and how they interact with each other. What is the kind of reporting that is needed, right? Uh, and so on, so forth. So I think that's what we did. And School Box was, uh, was born as a result.

Hubert: At that time. We wanted to do it properly. We wanted to do it in the right paper. We wanted it to be covid proof, even though we were excited that, you know, COVID brought along with it, um, unreasonably large, uh, business. But we knew that that was just, um, uh, you know, uh, a Black Swan event, something that, yeah.

Hubert: Happen again. Yeah. And, uh, we wanted our business to be covid proof. So we were not worried, we were not excited that, you know, COVID happened and so on and so forth. We were all the time working on our processes, our tech, making sure that our product is really, really good. You know, from, from, uh, hearing customer feedback to everything.

Hubert: We wanted our product to be really, really good. And sometimes we have even sacrificed a little bit of business customers for making sure that, you know, the tech and everything is working properly and perfectly well, as best as it possibly can. So I think, uh, I think that was a good decision to take.

Djagmo: Great. You, uh, okay. So now you get this idea while you're teaching for world, you know, you think that there are certain processes that can be tightened and you know, made better, and then you think, okay, probably you are the person to do it. Yeah. And now you are thinking of, okay, starting something on your own.

Djagmo: Now, uh, the other two co-founders that you're talking about, may Pai and, uh, Gupta. Now these people were your friends. You already knew them or you Okay, got it. I knew

Hubert: them, um, but not very closely, but I knew them from about 20 years on and off. We used to meet, we had Okay. Sort of, uh, kept our friendship going though we were not, uh, sort of in each other's lives or sort of Got it.

Hubert: Got it. We had a decent, uh, friendship going, uh, from the college days, so. Got it. Uh, Kash was my college mate. My was doing engineering, but Mau used to come and

Djagmo: meet. You didn't do engineering hu you, but you didn't do engineering? No, I not, I

Hubert: graduated from St. Joseph's College of Arts and

Djagmo: Sciences. Arts and Science.

Djagmo: Yeah. On the brigade road That is, yeah. Yeah, that's the one. Yeah. Yeah. Okay, great. I did my p c from Joseph's, uh, residency road. Yeah. Oh, wow. Okay. Okay. Yeah, but I, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Not the arts and science though, because I moved on to engineering and stuff, so Yeah. But, uh, I used to walk past, uh, arts and science college pretty much every single day to catch my bus back home.

Djagmo: Oh, okay. Okay. Wonderful. Yeah. Wonderful. Um, so, um, now you, I mean, you're friends from 20 years, right? So where, you know, whenever you used to catch up for whatever reason, in whatever capacity, did you used to have, you know, conversations surrounding business and enterprise and stuff like that?

Hubert: Um, not in a very serious capacity until, uh, about six months, six months before we started school box, I think we met, uh, because a common friend of ours had, uh, come to bang.

Hubert: So we happened to meet. Okay. And then I discussed this idea with them saying that, you know, guys, uh, this is the plan that I have. And I want you guys when, you know, when I created,

Djagmo: so, uh, Hubert, uh, hold on. I'm so sorry. The reason I asked you this question and the build up to this question is this, right?

Djagmo: Um, now it's one thing that if you always talk about business and then ideas are flying around, that's one thing. But then, you know, you said you don't do that and then, you know, you're very focusly desired to talk about school box. Now tell me, just this is for the benefit of the listeners out there, you know, who'd be in similar situations.

Djagmo: How did you, uh, identify, you know, you must have had a lot of people in your mind, but how did you kind of zero down on Kala Bka and Mai and, uh, what gave you the confidence that, you know, you could go and pitch it to them? So what were the, uh, pre preparations or the, or the, sorry, the preparations that you did before you went and had that conversation.

Djagmo: Did you tell them before, Hey, you know what, I'm, I have a business idea. I'm gonna come and pitch it to you. How did that whole process go about?

Hubert: Yeah. Um, so in my mind as I was thinking about starting this, I knew that I would need the help of somebody who knows business, right? And, uh, despite knowing a few people, most of them were already involved in something and, uh, they would not have the bandwidth.

Hubert: Uh, a right second is, I don't think they would be interested. I knew that Kash and Mau, uh, loved education. Ah, uh, even back in the day when we used to sit and chat, you know, we would talk about things sometimes, every once in a while, some science topic would come up and, you know, we would, uh, uh, discuss that or talk about it.

Hubert: So they were. You know, had a, a soft spot for, uh, education, right? Because they have great business news. You know, they were very, they're very skilled businessmen, okay. And I knew that they would have the bandwidth, they would have the time because their restaurants had become almost self-running. They had set up their structures really well.

Hubert: Hmm. And, um, so when it was in my mind always that these two are the people, if I'm doing a business with, most likely, if they say yes, then these two are the people that I want to do this company with. So from the beginning it was quite clear to me that they would be the ideal candidates. And, uh, I was very happy that when I spoke to them, they actually said yes.

Hubert: Okay. Um, both of them. And, uh, then I discussed the plan with them and, uh, from there on, so the

Djagmo: regularly, so the first time that you pitched the idea to them, it was just a concept. No numbers. No numbers? No, just the case. No numbers, no PPTs, nothing. Nothing, nothing. Okay. So, and when they said yes, you went back and you worked on the business model and stuff like that, I believe.

Djagmo: Yes. Okay. So did you do that by yourself? You got help from somebody? Uh, I think I

Hubert: gave them a broad outline of what the business will be like because I had sort of visualized it and I planned it reasonably well in my mind. Okay. Uh, I wanted it to be a little bit different. I did not want to be it to be the same thing.

Hubert: You know, it should not look, you know, like the hair on your head. You should not, it should not look like just another business, which you cannot distinguish, which a customer will never be able to distinguish. Should not look like that. Right. It should. It should not be radically different. It's very difficult to think, come up with a business that's radically different.

Hubert: You can't do that that easily. Right. Right. It should be slightly different and it should provide that sufficient value. So I felt that it ticked both those boxes. Hmm. And, uh, the plan, because it was reasonably clear in my head, I was able to make a plan and then I took the plan to them and I talked to them and they had their own inputs and ideas and so on and so forth.

Hubert: So after that we did our, what we call the brainstorming. Hmm. And, uh, yeah, I think they, they put a significant amount of contribution, uh, you know, to building school box into what it is now. Got it. Their contribution was pretty big despite the fact that they were not from the educational business. Yeah.

Hubert: Purely from the fact that they were businessmen. They were able to think of a lot of things, which are never really occurred to you, but they were great ideas. Yeah.

Djagmo: Yeah. So, um, when you, uh, uh, pitched it, so what was your pitch? Like, you know, what was your idea? Did you just say, you know what, I have this idea, you know, I've been working with this company called World.

Djagmo: Yeah. Uh, where, you know, they connect teachers and students. I would like to also start another company that would like to connect teachers and stu students. Is that what was your pitch?

Hubert: Yeah, kind of, but with a twist. I wanna make sure that, you know, the students, um, and the teachers are paired, uh, properly.

Hubert: So one more

Djagmo: level of that was your usp.

Hubert: Yeah. One more level of, uh, your personalization, so to speak. Got it. Uh, so not just, you know, they should match in, uh, having the right grade subjects and so on, so forth. Even, uh, being from the same region, but their personalities also should match. So I felt that it would help the students and the teachers as well to save a lot of headaches basically.

Djagmo: Wonderful. Wonderful. Um, this is very interesting because, you know, uh, I was curious about, you know, what was the, uh, kind of differentiating factor and, uh, it's, it happens to be something that we already discussed. Now, uh, Huber tell me something. When you pitched the idea, the idea was fine and all those things, right?

Djagmo: But you, uh, looked at them as somebody who'd invest in your business, right? The capital part is what you, uh, what would come

Hubert: from there? Um, not so much I, I didn't think of them as investors. I thought of them as people who would give the bus business acumen

Djagmo: Business direction. Yeah. Direction. Got it.

Hubert: Take it there.

Hubert: And they knew a lot of people also because being part of that setup, they would know a lot more people then, uh, they would also know investors, so indirectly, yeah, I mean, they. Uh,

Djagmo: so Kash and Maur are not the investors, so to say? They're not the investors. No. Oh, okay. Fine. You have investors, someone else. I would say that, yeah.

Djagmo: Okay. And they helped you find investors? Yeah. Three

Hubert: other people have invested in the business in separate

Djagmo: times. Uh, okay. Yeah. Interesting. So when Kash and Mau, you met, right? I mean, just to, uh, very interesting. Another interesting point is, you know, you directly, uh, you know, I'd like to like observe one thing here.

Djagmo: You know, at least what strikes me is that when somebody has an idea, the first thing that they think about is, you know, money. But, you know, uh, what stands out for me with the way you approached this Hubert, is the fact that you acknowledged that, you know, you might have the idea, but you might totally be lacking the business direction and the business side of it.

Djagmo: And you thought, okay, you know, you need co-founders just to take care of this. And then you going to them, and then further as a team of three, you going to investors is a very interesting thing. But tell me something, what were the questions or what were the concerns that were raised by Kala and Maur before they decided to come on board?

Djagmo: Um,

Hubert: I think one of the concerns, well one of the things that they had is they said they will never get involved in the business on a day-to-day business. They can't, uh, get involved, right? Because they have other things to do. And, uh, You know, they could not commit to that. They would try and contribute as much as they could.

Hubert: Hmm. But they would provide an overview. So the groundwork had to be done by someone else. That was one thing that they made very clear from the outset. Hmm. Um, and, uh, I think then the numbers, we talked about numbers and so on so forth and, uh, certain process, but nothing more than that. I think they just wanted to make sure that, uh, they were not sort of involved in the small things, you know, just running of the business.

Hubert: They would provide the ideas, which I was, which is exactly what I wanted them for. Right, right. Always get people to do the groundwork, but, uh, it's very difficult to, you know, get people who would be able to plan out a business. Okay. Uh, correct properly so that tomorrow you don't have to undo and restart.

Djagmo: Got it, Gilbert. Um, so, okay. Now see, uh, from a business angle, right, it's, you know, having teachers, students, uh, from the outset doesn't look like it needs a lot of capital. You know, you just, you can start off even without much capital as a business, technically with one teacher, one student also, you are live and all those things.

Djagmo: But, uh, now tell me, uh, did you start off the business in a small way and ly did you start finding investors or did you even think that you needed capital, uh, where you had to go and find some external investors? So this entire, uh, you know, process, like how did it go about?

Hubert: I think from the day we started the business, while we were developing the platform, right, it was about three months to develop the platform.

Hubert: Okay. So at that time itself, we approached an investor because we wanted it to be reasonably big from the day one. Uh,

Djagmo: yeah. So you, uh, outsourced the development of platform. Is it? Yeah. Yeah, we did to a team of software developers. Yeah. We

Hubert: knew, uh, a group of three. They had a small setup. Okay. And they had done work before for, uh, Kash.

Hubert: And I knew them as well in not very closely, but I knew them and I knew about their work more importantly. Right. Their background was really good. Mm-hmm. So we needed someone who could not just develop it, but obviously of course, uh, be on hand to support, to provide support. Um, so that was very important to us.

Hubert: So, uh, they built it and now they are, uh, you know, providing

Djagmo: us a support as well. Got it. So, uh, your capital was needed right from this point when you started building the platform? Yeah. To

Hubert: develop the platform, we needed capital. Okay. And then, of course, to do marketing is not much. We have actually, strangely and not done too much of marketing, uh, which we want to change right now.

Hubert: So the next, uh, The next step for us, uh, is that we are looking to partner with, uh, a company in the us mm-hmm. That would, uh, you know, help us to get a foothold there, get customers from us from there. Right now we are more India centric with few students in the US but now, you know, I want to get into the US market and get students from there.

Hubert: So we need a, we need a partner because for us, uh, it would be a huge deal to, you know, get involved, uh, right now with all the monies and so on. So this partner is, uh, a local there and, uh, setting up a company and things like that is right. A partner is easier for him rather than for us. So he will be our eyes and ears there.

Hubert: So we needed someone local there. Got it. Um, yeah, it would save us a lot of costs. From

Djagmo: a student acquisition perspective. Yeah. Got it. Gilbert Butt. So you, when you started off, uh, you waited for the platform to be fully developed before you started your first teaching assignment? Yes. For school box, yeah.

Djagmo: Okay. And how long did the platform development take

Hubert: you? So it took about three, three and a half months of develop. Then there was about a month and a half of testing.

Djagmo: Okay. Um,

Hubert: in that time also, a lot of changes happened. Uh, there were things that, you know, which we felt could have been done better. There were things that were not working and so on, so forth.

Hubert: So we started in about May I think of no, uh, April or something. And then, uh, I think by about August, September is when we were ready to go live

Djagmo: when we got our student. Yeah. This was 2019?

Hubert: Uh, 2019.

Djagmo: Yeah. 2019. 2019. Yeah.

Hubert: Got it. By the time we had formalized the company and so on, it was 2020 already.

Djagmo: Got it.

Djagmo: Yeah. Uh, Hubert, one of the important things for online tutoring, right, is the tool, like we are using Riverside now. Um, there was Zoom and stuff like that. So did you build one custom for yourself or you just integrated with the solution? We, uh, had the Zoom api, which we used. Okay, okay. You integrated with Zoom.

Djagmo: Great. We integrated with Zoom. Yeah. And even today you use Zoom for your classes. Even today we use Zoom. Yeah. On school box platform. On school box platform. We have

Hubert: of course the corporate account with them.

Djagmo: Yeah. Got it. Got it. Uh, but it's not white labeled, right? No, it's not. Not white labeled yet. Yeah.

Djagmo: Yeah. Got it. So, uh, the first few students, uh, do you know, did you kind of use your network to bring in or, you know, was that okay? Got it. Yeah. It's through

Hubert: my network. Okay. I think, uh, yeah, we had, uh, a pretty decent network because I, like I said, I had advertised myself Uh hmm. Quite fervently

Djagmo: Right.

Hubert: In the years preceding the, uh, start of school box.

Hubert: Uh, yeah, I was,

Djagmo: I you were on all the major platforms and that kinda thing. Yeah. We worked with that. Yeah. Sometimes I'm sure you would've also had to reject due to bandwidth in the past, so, uh,

Hubert: that also happened. Yeah. So those people were, uh, yeah. Had been assigned to our tutors. That's right. And, uh,

Djagmo: tutors also, you had a network already.

Djagmo: Was it easy for you to source the tutors? Yeah, in the

Hubert: beginning, I, yeah. On LinkedIn. Um, I think, uh, uh, among my connection, uh, about 5,000 of them were just teachers. So I had, uh, access to a large, uh, pool of teachers and, uh, few of them I was in even reasonable communication with. So it was easy to, you know, identify the right people and

Djagmo: get them in.

Djagmo: Okay. And, uh, what is the, uh, you know, today what's, where's school box at? What is, what's the team you have? How many teachers? How many

Hubert: students? Yeah. So the tech team is about three people. Oh, you have

Djagmo: an inhouse team now? No, I mean, it's these guys. It's not Oh, okay. Yeah. Got it, got it, got it. Uh, they're your tech people,

Hubert: but they're on hand almost at any time.

Hubert: Got it. So three of them, you, then we have our social media team. Mm-hmm. There are two people who are working on that. Okay. Creative and,

Djagmo: um, the,

Hubert: uh, content to marketing kind of thing. Yeah. Know how of, you know, how, what are the platforms and so on and so forth. Then there are, uh, there is one coordinator.

Hubert: Who basically coordinates if there's any queries from students, parents, teachers, something like that. Uh, so the good thing was that to save on the number of people, uh, we sharpened up the software so much so that it's, uh, very less reliant. Otherwise, when I was working with the previous company, I noticed that for every 50 students, they would have one coordinator, but here we could make two with, uh, many, many more students.

Hubert: Uh, okay. One coordinator. So. Got it. And then apart from that, um, I think we have about, you know, in finance there are, uh, two people more. Our team is very small. Our team is just about seven or eight people. Okay. Apart from that, it's the teachers. The biggest teachers. The teacher. But the teachers are freelance.

Hubert: Freelance, okay. They're paid on an hourly basis. Okay. Uh, depending on the work that they get. So we are paying them from the, the revenue we receive as opposed to, you know, if we had hired them, we would have been paying them from, uh, the money that we have. Right. But eventually, we are looking to, you know, get a few teachers who will be with us,

Djagmo: uh, permanently full-time.

Djagmo: Full Okay. On a payroll. On a payroll, yeah. Got it. And, uh, what is the early, uh, fee that you pay to the freelance teachers? Uh, it ranges from, is it, is it uniform?

Hubert: Uh, kind of depending on India and us. Okay. Uh, so 440 is the remuneration for a tutor for teaching Indian students. Mm-hmm. And, uh, 600 is the remuneration for teaching a US student.

Hubert: Those are only two pay skills. Yeah.

Djagmo: Got it. And, uh, what is your, uh, process to hire any teacher bead, filance, or, you know, it's, uh,

Hubert: it's quite a, it's quite a process. Okay. So initially, uh, there is a screening call that's made to the teachers, uh, just to check the communication skills. Mm-hmm. Uh, of course before that we, they would've sent us their cv.

Hubert: Cv, yeah. So we went through CV and C if they qualify. And if they qualify, we would, uh, one of us would make a call. Okay. And, uh, screen them to just assess their communication skills. So on a 30, 42nd phone call, you'd get a fair idea of how this Yes, yes. Yeah. Yeah. And then if they go through that as well, then we call them in for a 20 minute demo session.

Hubert: So during the demo session, they would show us their teaching skills. Uh, there are certain processes that we follow there. Right. And once they go through that, then, uh, you know, they're hired. Once they're, once they're hired, then they go through a. Three day training program. Mm-hmm. Uh, and, uh, one mock session with, you know, a dummy student.

Djagmo: Right. Um,

Hubert: and then they're put

Djagmo: live. Yeah. Got it. Gilbert and, um, you know, from a, uh, CV perspective, right. So do you have, you know, okay, they should have done their baed or you know, they should have done a bachelor's in physics or how do you filter that?

Hubert: I just look at teaching experience. I don't look at, uh, qualifications at all.

Hubert: I'm not like, I don't even, like, that doesn't matter to me at all. Okay. I just look at how long they've, you know, whether they've had teaching experience. It could be anywhere between two years to anything. Got it. So if I know that they've taught before they can teach. Got it. Uh, so then I assess, uh, the skills and not just me, but the team is able to assess those skills based on certain parameters and.

Hubert: Yeah, that's how we go about it. I think the next round is to also get them to do a sort of a video presentation, right. Uh, of, you know, a topic that they can teach just for one minute or two minutes. Right. Um, yeah, so for me, teaching skill is more important than, uh, maybe, uh,

Djagmo: the knowledge. Yeah. Or degree, the experience that they have, the degree they have and stuff like that.

Djagmo: Got it. Got it. And, um, when they use Zoom right, uh, is it, you know, do you have pre-prepared, uh, content slides that you, uh, aid them with? Or do they have to use a tablet and a pen, or how does that work? Uh, no pre prepared

Hubert: content for them at all because we are, uh, a company that that does afterschool tutoring.

Hubert: Right, which means the student can come to you with any doubt. They say, they say that, you know, today we have learned by, so it is after school tutoring, not so much. Of course. I think some, um, some companies take on a whole year package for a student. So Right. The, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

Hubert: It could be like a 96 hour, a hundred hour package. And we would teach, uh, you know, uh, session one, this topic, then give the homework, session two, this topic. So for correct, preparing that preprepared. Content is much easier then teacher would just have to follow the content and uh, go on. And even if, you know, you could have either a single student or a group or something like that.

Hubert: Right? So economically it works out for them, but, um, somehow I didn't feel that that serves the student's need.

Djagmo: Yeah. I mean, what's the point of them? What's the point?

Hubert: Exactly. Something else. And also it puts extra burden on the students. So they're learning one thing in school and something else outside of school.

Hubert: Then they'll have to do two homeworks, learn two things. Right. You know, so it's, uh, not really, and most of them come to us seeking help from their schoolwork anyway, so we can't really burden them with something more. Okay. So after school, I felt is, um, is better. And, uh, that's why there's no pre-prepared content.

Hubert: But we have a library of curated content that we always curated content as in YouTube videos that, that any of the teachers who would find, uh, Good. You know, and along with a comment on that. So the teacher would just write a few lines on why that particular content is good, what it, what, what is there in that, and, uh, it would be great and subject board specific.

Hubert: So we put that in there and any teacher can access that. So it would be not just videos, but it could be, uh, uh, notes. It could be worksheets, it could be tests that have been prepared previously. So it's there on our platform. So any teacher can access that at any point of time, either before the lesson or during a lesson as well.

Djagmo: Got it. Hubert. Um, so, uh, okay. Before I ask you further questions, right, I just realized I'll just go, uh, couple of steps back. Uh, can you, um, you know, share with us what problem does school box solve? What is it addressing?

Hubert: So we are solving essentially the problem of. Uh, relatable tutoring, let's put it that way.

Hubert: Right? So there's nobody that does relatable tutoring. There are companies that do tutoring, uh, provide content. Hmm. But, uh, is it solving, is it, is it, how well are they solving the students problem? Most of them are focused on doing the job. Right. But we take it one notch up. Hmm. So we do the job in the way that would suit you best Hmm.

Hubert: By making sure that, you know, we, uh, personalize your learning. Hmm. So I would say that one problem that we solve, we personalize tutoring at a much higher level. So if, if you had to, if you were a student that was not too good at school, or even if you were a student that was really good either way. Hmm.

Hubert: Uh, what would you want to learn? Would you want to learn a pre-prepared content? Uh, maybe yes, but we are not into that. Right? Your, what your academics are at school, how to excel in that. I think that is our focus. And giving you a teacher that is, uh, matched to you personality wise. So it's a level of personalization that's not there.

Hubert: It may not be, uh, a different anything, uh, radically different, but it's an improvement from what's there. So you can say, uh, uh, we are solving the problem of personalization. You can say.

Djagmo: Got it. Got it. Gilbert. And, um, so now let me just, you know, go a little deeper. So you are not having any pre-prepared content.

Djagmo: You don't for, you know, uh, follow a curriculum, you don't have a content and stuff like that. You are trying to help students with their doubts. So a typical session is like what, you know, a student, um, uh, comes on the class and then the teacher, let's say, uh, is the subject decided before the class? What subject is gonna be done?

Djagmo: Nothing. Not

Hubert: always. I mean, uh, initially may not even be, but after, sometimes, sometimes some teachers would, uh, you know, say that I think next class we can do this. So soon as, see it looks okay because I'm, I'm, uh, you know, quite okay with what's happening at school. So we can go in this particular way, but not often.

Hubert: I think interesting it be, um, it's 75% of the time the teacher doesn't know what that session is going to be about. Even

Djagmo: the subject. It could be physics, chemistry, maths.

Hubert: If a tutor is teaching multiple subjects. Yes, it could be. Oh wow. Okay. So there, there are many teachers who teach physics and math.

Hubert: Right. Uh, so a student can come in and say, you know, today, can we do math? Yeah, sure. Uh, so those are the kind of teachers we are looking for who can think on

Djagmo: their feet. Got it. Got it. Very, got it. Uh, perfect. And uh, do you have a pre, uh, uh, you know, pre timed, I mean, do you have the time fixed for a session at a certain.

Djagmo: Okay. And what is that book?

Hubert: Uh, no, I mean students because they're one to one, so students can book. So there's a calendar

Djagmo: on the site. Okay, fine. And what is the minimum time slot that you offer? Uh, one hour. One hour is a minimum. Yeah.

Hubert: One hour sessions are ideally one hour, it's actually 55 minutes. Okay.

Hubert: So for tutor has back to back. They can, you know,

Djagmo: yeah. Take a five minute break. Five minutes. And turnaround time is

Hubert: needed.

Djagmo: Got it. And, um, so you sell up, uh, you know, a bundled number of hours to the students on a monthly basis. Okay.

Hubert: Uh, no. They can just buy a package of package five hours. 10 hours. Five hours.

Hubert: So someone wants to initially try us out. Uh, I don't want them to commit, like, you know, other sites make you pay for the entire year and so on. Correct. It's a huge burden on the parents and you know, it's a commitment that if they want to get out of they can't, so it's not fair and right on our part to get them stuck with something.

Hubert: Yeah. That they cannot really like, and it shows our confidence as well, that, you know, we are confident in our business that if we give you five hours, we are, you're gonna

Djagmo: come back for more. You're gonna come back. Yeah. Yeah. You don't have that insecurity where, you know what I wanna catch order to the student now only and then, you know, put them for 300 hours or Yeah.

Djagmo: 200 hours. Yeah. There are companies that do that. Yeah,

Hubert: most of the time they repeat, like initially they'll buy, you know, 10 hours or five or 10 hours to trials out. Then next time they'll buy for, uh, 50 or a hundred hours, they'll say that, uh, you know, we are, uh, quite happy. So we just one shot we'd like to book for the entire year instead of doing this again and again.

Hubert: So I think that's usually the pattern.

Djagmo: Got it. Great. Hubert. And, uh, so, uh, how many students, uh, do you see enroll, uh, on a monthly basis? Like how many unique students that come in? I think

Hubert: about, as of now, not major, say about four to five.

Djagmo: Four to five students come in. It's not a lot, but uh,

Hubert: each student does about eight hours, 10 hours.

Hubert: Okay. So if you multiply that, it's a pretty decent number. Right.

Djagmo: And how many total students do you have? Put together at this point. So as of now, it's close to a hundred students. A hundred students, yeah. And they take about, what you say, average of eight hours a month? Is it eight, 10

Hubert: hours? 10 hours a month?

Hubert: Well, as some of them, so eight, eight to 10 maybe

Djagmo: like an average. Yeah. Thousand hours a month is what you do at this point in time. Yeah. On an average ballpark. You're right, you're right Close to, yeah. And, uh, you are adding four to five students every month as well, so, yeah. Yeah. And, uh, how many, uh, what's the pool of teachers that you have?

Djagmo: How many teachers do you have? So we

Hubert: have about 50 odd teachers. I think 57 or something like

Djagmo: that. Yeah. Okay. And what is the average number of hours that teachers get on a daily basis or a monthly basis?

Hubert: So some teachers are really part-time. Okay. They may only do, uh, make themselves available for about two hours a day or something.

Hubert: Either two alternate days or something like that. Right. So they may only be available for 15 to 20 hours. Some are little more on a monthly basis. Yeah. Some are a little more active. Uh, they could be doing like 60, 70 hours a month. Yeah. Not, not more. I don't think anyone does over 60 or 70 hours.

Djagmo: Yeah. Got it.

Djagmo: And at this point, what is the age group that you cater to? It's group of students or, yeah, students. Students. Three, six to 12. Not younger than six, not younger grade. Six to grade 12. Yeah. And, uh, the curriculum is not an issue. Any curriculum. Curriculum is, yeah. Uh, the

Hubert: Indian boards, C B, C and I C S C and some state boards.

Hubert: Okay. And international boards. Uh, in India we do I G C S C and ib. Ib. Okay. And, uh, UK We are doing G C S E. Okay. And, uh, us of course, state and uh, common

Djagmo: code both. Got it, Gilbert. And you know, you said, you know, you've got about, say a hundred students, roughly, right? Yes. So far. Yes. Uh, what is the marketing, uh, activity that you employ, uh, that is, you know, in process right now to get the students and how aggressive are you?

Djagmo: Do you have a sales team? No, it's a product led that's

Hubert: sadly, uh, yeah, that's something that I, uh, have not, I should have done and I didn't. Mm-hmm. But partly because I wanted the, uh, there was a lot of software development that was going on. The right, uh, backend needed to be better, more precise. A lot of the processes had to get sharpened up and become better.

Hubert: Right. Um, we did not go all out and do marketing. I think we had a decent number during, uh, COVID. Mm-hmm. And, uh, so there's no marketing. There's only those two people doing social media marketing. That's the only marketing we do. That's

Djagmo: how you get all your students.

Hubert: I think from, uh, word of mouth and referrals from our current students is what we've, and from my, you know, uh, inner circle, that's how we've got students so far.

Hubert: Okay. But now I told you earlier that, you know, we are looking to go ahead and tie

Djagmo: up with the partner in the US company

Hubert: in the us and that's, uh, hopefully that will kickstart and they come with someone who has, uh, great marketing knowledge and experience so we can utilize

Djagmo: that. Got it. Okay. And there's no, uh, pressure from the investors as such and stuff?

Hubert: No. So far nothing. Yeah. Okay. I, I told them like, you know, I want to get the processes right. Okay. If your foundation is good, then, you know, building

Djagmo: up and, and these are, these are like, uh, you know, what type of, uh, investors. Oh, essentially individuals, friends and family. Individuals.

Hubert: Yeah. Not professional investors.

Hubert: No, not that

Djagmo: sort of a No, not, not that.

Hubert: Got it. So because, uh, yeah, they were, they were willing to be patient with us, always felt, uh, you know, that we get the groundwork, uh, done and the processes within are proper and good. Uh, it would be better to, or it would be easier to scale up later. Right. But I think going too aggressively in the beginning without having your, uh, product, uh, developed properly, will lead to a lot of problems and, uh, customer dissatisfaction and you can't play around with, you know, students life and things like that.

Hubert: So you have to be very careful, uh, from that perspective also. Yeah.

Djagmo: Got it. Um, so, uh, you said, you know, you're also looking to hire teachers on your payroll. Yes. Uh, what is the, uh, thought process behind that? You know, why did that come about? Hug were, did you face an issue where, you know, freelance teachers went available?

Djagmo: Yeah. Where classes canceled ADOC because of that? Yes.

Hubert: Sometimes that happens and sometimes what happens is, uh, you know, some teachers last minute, especially for demo, you know, a regular class cancellation, we are not that worried about because that class can be rescheduled. Of course, it is not good to do that often, but once in a while is okay, but for a demo class, when it gets canceled, we lose the customer.

Hubert: Hmm. So that is something that, uh, you know, will affect us a lot because we. Spend a lot of effort getting that customer to the demo. Right. So losing that is not good. So a few teachers who are all rounders mm-hmm. You know, who can teach more than one subject, more than one grade, and so on, so forth. Plus, help us out with, help us out with the creating content and other things.

Hubert: So these are the kind of people that we are, uh, looking for on a retailer.

Djagmo: Got it. Creating content and stuff. Yeah. But, um, you said, you know, you don't have any pre-prepared content and stuff. Like, so what is, what, what's, what's your plan with ation

Hubert: rated content? Uh, so Okay. Content that, you know, the teachers could use.

Hubert: Good library. Got it, got it. Some nice, some good notes and things like that. And just sift through all of that. Got it. We are also planning to create online tests. Hmm. Uh, we were looking to tie up with a company, but we somehow did not find the content, uh, that. Good or whatever they were offering. Mm-hmm.

Hubert: So we felt that if these teachers who are working with us could get us those, then it'll be like a self, uh, the students could do the test themselves online if it's, uh, multiple choice. Got it. So they can get graded immediately. Parents also get a sort of validation, uh, and at their own time, at their own convenience, you, they can choose the topics of their choice, grade subject and so on into these tests.

Hubert: So the next plan is to do this because that will serve the students and the parents a little bit better. Got

Djagmo: it. Hubert, so, uh, you were talking about demo classes. Um, now there are, you know, number of things that I'm thinking about the demo class. So you pay the teachers for demo class as well? Yes. Yes.

Djagmo: And that's not as much as what you pay them for the. Yeah. Demo classes typically 20 minutes. Okay. Oh, just 20 minutes. Okay. Your

Hubert: teacher would get paid about 250 rupees. Okay. For a demo class, which is a little more than half. Right. Uh, by the time duration is less and we don't take of course, anything from the

Djagmo: student.

Djagmo: Got it. And um, the teacher who does the demo class, is that the same teacher that goes on to teach a student as

Hubert: well? Yeah. Yeah. Most likely. Yeah. Unless, you know, they say that we were not happy with the demo class, then we suggest another demo with another

Djagmo: teacher. Another teacher, okay. Yeah. Yeah. Sorry.

Djagmo: But irrespective you end up paying the teacher. Yeah. And, uh, what is a conversion rate?

Hubert: Uh, right now it's about 70 ish percent because all of these, uh, you know, these leads that come to us mm-hmm. Are from people who are serious and who are known to us and they're serious about it. It's not, uh, that they have come from marketing, uh, and so on.

Hubert: So then the conversion rate would be much lesser. But these are almost certain they really want it. And they've sort of trusted me in the past, or someone they knew has trusted me in the past. The students you're talking about the students and parents? Yeah. So they, those are the ones that come to us. So most, in most likelihood, they would convert, but sometimes, you know, they, they say, why don't you teach?

Hubert: You know, why is the teacher teaching? So that time sometimes some rejections happen. Um, yeah. Got it. Or for price, I think, uh, uh, because we, we pay our tutors better than most of the other companies pay.

Djagmo: Yeah. That's evident. Yeah. And

Hubert: plus we charge the students a little bit more, obviously because of the, our profit margin is not too much.

Hubert: Hmm. But, uh, it still is more than, you know, many of the other companies are doing. But I feel that you'd rather do. Five classes with a good tutor rather than do 20 classes with a not so good tutor, average tutor, there will not be, there will be nothing that you'll gain from that. Right. The price is cheap.

Hubert: This is not an industry where price should be, uh, too, I mean, it is of course consideration, but we price it as best as we can because we get good tutors, you know, really good tutors. So the pricing is as best as we can because to, to, I don't want to sacrifice, uh, for the sake of money, the quality of tutoring.

Hubert: So I'm trying to give the students the best, you know, from my side. Got it. And also the teachers, and this is what we felt would be an ideal summer or ideal amount, and they should be able to teach, you know, better than anyone else, uh, that the student might encounter locally or from any other platform. I don't want to put down other platforms and show they're doing their best, but I want my quality to belittle.

Hubert: A few notches about, because in this field and in this line, I think quality makes a huge

Djagmo: difference. Of course. Yeah. Um, and, uh, your teachers, um, most of them, is there a pattern, uh, uh, you know, from a background perspective, they are, are, you know, are they all working for software companies or are they all professors and teachers?

Djagmo: You know, what are they like Cuber?

Hubert: I think most of them are, uh, active teachers, most of them. Okay. Okay. But there are, yeah. Other people also who, um, who, some of them who've never taught in a school, some of them who are professionals Okay. Who love teaching. Okay. And, uh, who do only tutoring and, uh, it could even be housewives who have.

Hubert: Yep. Uh, time at home, but who are also good tutors. The thing is they have to like be good teachers. There is no compromise on that.

Djagmo: No compromise.

Hubert: Yeah. They have to be good at teaching because that is what the customer expects. Right. And yeah. That we cannot compromise on at all. Yeah.

Djagmo: Got it. Hubert, I was, I was on your website.

Djagmo: I'm on your website right now. Okay. I see. You know, the grades, the curriculum, the test prep and all those things, but I don't see subjects. What are the subjects you teach? Um, math and science. Okay. Nothing else. Yeah. You don't get requirements also for other subjects like languages or history, geography.

Hubert: Yeah. There are actually a few students who have, uh, but this is a primary thing. There are interestingly, uh, Language. I did not expect it, but language requirements are quite huge. I did not know that. So we recently, uh, got French, Spanish, Canada, Hindi, uh, tutors and they're, uh, they've got a decent amount of students.

Djagmo: Yeah. Got it. So, so apart from Mathson, you're also teaching languages now?

Hubert: Yeah, there are a few, uh, children who come, but that's so far majority is math and

Djagmo: science. Got it. Um, I see, uh, you know, uh, test preps like, uh, S C A t, C o G A t S A T P S A T A C T and all those things. Yeah. I'm gonna ask you, I don't know about a lot of those, but I do know about s a t and a c t.

Djagmo: CT is a online test, if I'm not wrong. Yeah, similar. It's an online version of s a t. Right. And s a t. Now, recently they have, uh, come out saying that from next year onwards in the US it's gonna become online. And in other countries it's gonna be online right away. Hybrid and, yeah. Yeah. So, um, do you have, uh, you know, a tool to simulate that?

Djagmo: Because I mean, as much as the subject and the topics are there, it's also the whole as when it comes to tests, right? Especially online. It also has to do with the technology and the atmosphere and simulating the atmosphere as much as possible. Because these are all five minutes matters in these exams, right?

Djagmo: Yes. So, uh, how are you addressing these things? Are you having your platform replicating this

Hubert: Hubert? Yeah, unfortunately it's not on the platform. Uh, right now. It's, uh, in the teacher's hands. Okay, so these teachers have background of teaching these tests. So, you know, they have taught previously to students and, um, they give them these, they give them the time tests, obviously preparing them with test test, uh, yeah, you are, I think you're pretty knowledgeable about the s A t and s A T.

Hubert: You have to do a lot of tests, right. To be able to attempt the s a t. You, you can't just learn the topics and go into, so that's why, you know, the next round of planning, we are trying to get these, uh, quizzes and tests on board so students can attempt them, uh, by themselves also and see the results. And then there will be, of course, a data analysis and so on, so forth of the results.

Hubert: And that will go to student, parent, and teacher. So after every test, they can review and work on the areas that need to be worked. Yeah. That's the next planning. That's what we are seeking. The, uh, Um, funding for, for the next round. That and the app that we want

Djagmo: to develop. Got it. Hubert, this is like you're going for a professional investor, sort of a funding.

Djagmo: Yes. Yeah. Got it. Hubert? Uh, great. Uh, I just want to go a little bit back. Uh, you know, from the, uh, when you said that, you know, you got your, uh, funding from your family and friends, uh, but then, you know, you had to kind of, you know, show them something Right. You know, this is what the business is gonna be like, projections and stuff like that.

Djagmo: Yeah. So, uh, uh, how did you solve that? Uh, you know, you cannot always be right with what you project, right? Yeah. So how conservative or aggressive were you and are you right now meeting your projections, uh, that you made, you know, when you took the funds?

Hubert: Yeah, I think I told the investors initially that for first two years, don't expect any return.

Hubert: So I give them a very low. Uh, expectation. Hmm. Because I knew that, you know, there would be a lot of groundwork preparing the things. So I said, we'll, uh, not work typically, like most startups work with the start startups, the general ideas to scale as quickly as possible. Right. But, um, somehow that doesn't seem to be right to me at the very beginning.

Hubert: Uh, so for me, I think the first two years was a time when we had to develop our platform really well. Got it. Get a groundwork for our processes and operations. Got it. And then going, yeah. We have been a little slow and little relaxed in this field, but the investors are okay with it because they knew what to expect.

Hubert: But I think the next two years, knowing that, you know, we have a decent, uh, foundation, I think we'll be able to kick on.

Djagmo: Got it. Gilbert, I think, um, yeah, I think this attitude. I don't know. I mean, I don't know much, right? I mean, not that I've experienced your product, but from what I've spoken to you and, uh, having a little bit of knowledge about how other platforms work the way you seem to have maintained it seems, you know, that is kind of reflecting, uh, on your work because with pressure, it's not sometimes easy to maintain quality.

Djagmo: I think, uh, uh, I mean, I don't know. My appreciation to you for, you know, keeping the way it is, it sounds really good. It comes across, you know, very, um, genuine and, uh, looks like you're actually solving the problems that you set out to solve. So it, it, it comes across to me like that. Great. And so you, uh, duke still continue to teach or you're now fully in the managing of school box?

Djagmo: Uh,

Hubert: um, yeah. I mean, I. Still, I, I think every day there is at least a little bit of teaching that I do for me. Okay. It day seems incomplete if I don't be anything small. But yeah, it has, um, taken, um, it has gone down the number of classes and students that I take, just a few. Um, but I think the teachers are good now.

Hubert: They are really, you know, picking up on all the processes they learn very quickly and, uh Right. I've learned to trust them a lot more now, initially. You know, I used to be on their case all the time.

Djagmo: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hubert: And now I, I I, I should realize that, that too much of micromanagement is not good for Yeah.

Hubert: Irritates them and, uh, you know, you should trust them also. So I've learned to do that little bit better

Djagmo: now. Yeah. Do you do demos? Pardon me? Do you do

Hubert: demos? Yeah. A lot of training sessions for them every now and then. Um, um, But, uh, difficult to get everyone together sometimes at the same time. So we are thinking of packaging them and putting them in.

Hubert: So, and, uh, the teachers can access them from time to time, so that'll be a task for them that if you do this particular thing, then you know, you, that task has been completed. Rather, it'll show us pending, so they've gotta go and watch that video. They'll learn something and so on, so forth. And, um, yeah, that, that's my idea.

Hubert: Got it. Gilbert. And you know what I learn? I want to pass it on to them. Yeah.

Djagmo: Got it. And, uh, all the sessions that happens, do you record them for quality purpose? Do you like, have a, okay. Is that somebody who goes through all these classes? Yeah. Yeah. I think

Hubert: Zoom by default. Records record. Okay. You have a, a paid account with them, paid account, automatically they record.

Hubert: But yeah, there is somebody who goes through, not all the sessions, but I think tutor. Maybe one in five or six sessions they go through and there are some para parameters that they look for. You know, like a session is divided into six parts. Right? So during those times, are all of these, uh, parameters met for quality reasons and so on and so forth, and other things like his homework, tests, test results, and all of, all of that to measure the student's progress, right.

Hubert: Is, uh, is there, yeah. Yeah.

Djagmo: Got it. Gilbert. Great. Uh, so Hubert, I think, uh, as far as, uh, trying to understand about your business, about you, school box, uh, I think I, I pretty much have all my questions covered. And, uh, probably just another question. You're doing one-to-one now. Do you at some point looking to do group sessions as well?

Djagmo: Has that idea come? Uh, I'm,

Hubert: uh, yeah. I'm a little against, uh, online group sessions. I, and don't mind group sessions if they're held. Right. You know, face-to-face. Face-to-face. But I think online group sessions, to me are very difficult to hold the attention of many children. See, when children are online, they're in their own space.

Hubert: They're in their own world. Distractions come easy to them when they're on a computer. So, you know, we have something, uh, in our training manual called the 32nd rule. 30 seconds. Okay. So if there is no engagement between the student and the tutor, there is no back and forth for a period of more than 30 seconds.

Hubert: Mm-hmm. Then the student most likely is gone off somewhere doing something else, Facebook or some other tab or

Djagmo: something. So the videos will be on,

Hubert: but right. Their video will be on, but yeah. Yeah, yeah. So you have to make sure, so that's not possible in a group class.

Djagmo: Right? Right. That's why. So group class, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Djagmo: Group class is is not possible. Group class. Yeah.

Hubert: We would feel that it's economically more feasible, but it's not the right way to do things. You know? We are in this business to provide primarily, to provide good education to the children. Making money should be a subset of that. Right. They should not sacrifice this to make money, I feel, to me.

Hubert: Yeah, yeah,

Djagmo: yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. And um, uh, okay. You said for the academics, you know, it's doubt spaces, right? Student can come talk about whatever doubts. Is it the same for test prep or test prep? You have a fixed curriculum?

Hubert: Um, again, test prep depends on the timeline they have. So not everybody, you know, comes to us six months before an exam.

Hubert: Sometime they come one month, sometimes three months, and the requirements are different. Some may want us to go through all those four parts of, uh, uh, of the s a t they have. Right. But some of them may just want some, some of them may just, just want, you know, us to do testing review. So the requirements are different.

Hubert: So no,

Djagmo: but the, but the pricing is same. We only charge for the time. Correct. Yeah. Got it. Okay, Hubert. Great. Just one final question. You know, just a generic question, just want to get your views, given that you're on the teaching thing, right. Um, how do you look at, uh, you know, uh, homeschooling? It seems to kind of be on the rise of late.

Djagmo: It's being spoken to. People are open to, uh, talking about it. Uh, and, you know, see, uh, one of the major problems school solves is, you know, uh, helping kids understand subjects. Right. And a company like School Box, you're already doing that. Uh, do you have your sites on kind of expanding this and, you know, making it a problem, you know, making it a solution that can solve, uh, homeschoolers problem?

Hubert: At the moment, no, because I think, um, I contribute to what people may say about school. Schools are actually doing a great job because Okay. You know, we have such a large population and, uh, few teachers, lots of students, few teachers that. There is that ratio of at least one is two 30, you know, one teacher for every 30 students.

Hubert: So given that, and, uh, given all the other varied factors, I think they, they're doing a pretty good job and they've been doing that for many years. They've, uh, sharpened their processes and so on. So I have nothing against schools. So, but we would like to be a support to the schools. Um, online virtual schooling, to me bit tough because, like I said, group classes.

Hubert: Mm. Uh, online somehow I feel that there would be a huge quality. If it was a slight quality difference, yeah, we can be okay with that, but it'll be a huge quality drop when you have group classes. So to me, at the moment, given everything that's there, I don't know, things of course, can change in the future.

Hubert: Uh, I may be wrong on this completely, but, uh, Based on the information that I have now and my thoughts on it, coming from the whatever experience I have, uh, virtual schools, uh, above a certain age group. Yes, I agree. At the university level, their students are self-driven, motivated, and so on. Uh, or even, you know, courses like MBA and those sort of things fine.

Hubert: Uh, but academic school and high school? Um, I don't think so. And regarding where home, the reason I was smiling, uh, is that homeschooling is, my children are homeschooled. See, both my children were pulled out of school in primary. Okay. And, uh, now they're in grade. Uh, one is doing his grade 10 exams now. The other older one is in grade 11.

Hubert: So he did his exam as an independent candidate last year without going to school. Reasonably well, I think. Got some eating.

Djagmo: Congratulations to you because, uh, Hubert, you know what, uh, uh, this is really, I would wanna do another session at your convenience, just about homeschooling. There's so much, parents are interested, but they have no clue how to, you know, really replace the school.

Djagmo: Right. And, uh, uh, if you've done it successfully, I think

Hubert: the most important thing is time. Um, it's not, it's not for everybody. Uh Right. Did it help that you were a teacher? Yeah, it did help that I was a teacher. But do you know something? I think my wife Hmm. Did most of the work there. Okay. So her, her contribution was immense to this.

Hubert: Right. I had my work commitment, so I could not give time. I think the reason I said it's not for everybody Hmm. Uh, is because, you know, People are working now. Both parents are working in most cases these days. Right. Or they're busy in some other way. And we had also, you know, another huge support at our home is my mom is with us.

Hubert: Mm. You know, work gets divided and everybody's putting their hand. But if for, for, uh, you know, parents who are living in a nuclear family, husband, wife, and children. Hmm hmm. Um, it's very difficult because even at home, you know, let's say the man is working and suppose it's a lady that's at home. Hmm. Uh, housework is, yeah.

Hubert: It's a lot. It's not, it's not like, you know, they sit around and do nothing. It's, it's, you have no time to realize there's so much going around. And then if you take on this responsibility of doing this, yeah. It's crazy. So for my contribution was mostly providing the curriculum, uh, the notes, the tests, and so on and so forth.

Hubert: But actually sitting down and doing it, Was my wife. So it is for people who have the time and a little bit of discipline is also needed. Uh, because you can't let three months go by without doing anything, you know, then

Djagmo: you have to reset. Yeah. Yeah. But what was the reason you pulled your kids out of school?

Hubert: I think my wife was very, very particular. Okay. That, uh, she wanted them to develop, uh, outside of school. Again, no fault of the school or anything like that, but the system itself does not allow you to develop again. Right. No folder. There is nothing wrong with, schools are doing the best they can, but they are hampered, you know?

Hubert: Yeah. So now in a class of 50, how do you expect a teacher to teach? Treat everyone as an individual. Yeah. It's

Djagmo: possible. Right? And schools don't even have playgrounds these days, which was basic back in the day. I, I think, correct. Uh, today there are schools in every residential layout, just like another apartment, right.

Djagmo: And they just go in the building, come out. Lot of things. Of course, being whatever I said is just one little aspect.

Hubert: I mean, sad to say again, um, I don't mean this badly on schools, but from the time that we were in schools 30 years back, yeah. Now, yeah. The quality has definitely dropped. I think everyone will say that.

Hubert: Yeah. Um, yeah. Everyone's doing the best they can, but unfortunately that's the way it's turned out. And, you know, with companies like School Box that are learning to supplement school education by, uh, taking on that problem of individualization, personalization, and addressing that, uh, I think and plus what the school is doing.

Hubert: Right. Two together, two parties together can make, uh, students come out with, you know, uh, confidence, knowledge and so on. And tomorrow, what are we doing? We are contributing to the industry, right? We are, we are making sure that, uh, tomorrow most of these children will go into the industry in some capacity or the other.

Hubert: They'll be working in various jobs and so on. So they need to be really good. And if they're good at the job thing, the industry productivity is good. And as a result, it affects everything positively around, including the country itself. So, right. This is our little contribution to that large this thing.

Hubert: But I think, uh, every small, uh, cog in the wheel, uh, makes

Djagmo: a difference. Makes a difference. Yes, it does. Hubert, great. It was wonderful, wonderful talking to you. It was truly an amazing, uh, couple of hours for me. A lot of things, you know, uh, that I learned. And it's amazing, uh, the way you spoke about school box, the kind of journey you had and the way it's shaping up.

Djagmo: Uh, it's like one of the best that at least I've come across. Not that I've seen a lot, but still, you know, it feels, uh, intuitively you don't have to see a lot, but then you know, that ir respect of how many ever good things are there. This is definitely another good stuff that I, um, I think I'm seeing and I wish you all the very best.

Djagmo: Um, and, uh, Yeah. Uh, hope, you know, we are gonna be publishing this. Um, you know, investors may also, uh, come to watch this, and I'm sure a lot of investors will, will be like, super, uh, interested. Uh, I, I, I don't think you're gonna have a tough time in that aspect, I think. Uh, but yeah. Um, so, uh, Hubert. Thanks again very much of, uh, you know, uh, I'd love to get back to you at some point and, you know, uh, not, not to learn something, but just from a, from the kind of value that you can provide even to normal parents from a homeschooling perspective, I think it'll be amazing.

Djagmo: Id probably, you know, uh, would love to host, uh, uh, you and your wife if you're willing, just, uh, to, you know, uh, put out, uh, you know, some advice given that you've been there, done that. There are a lot of young parents out there who are like, um, grappling with this. Um, I, myself know a bunch of them. So from that aspect, I think it'll be another great thing.

Djagmo: So, great. Uh, I'd be happy to,

Hubert: I would be happy to let me know. It's been a pleasure, you know, talking to you. Uh, you've been, thank you, a wonderful, uh, host. Someone who facilitated the conversation and, uh, Um, you know, ask the right questions given the right prompt. Fantastic. It's, uh, such a pleasure speaking with you and spending these two hours with you, and I wish you and your, uh, adventure the very, very best.

Hubert: You guys are doing a great job.

Djagmo: Um, thank you Hub. Thank you. Thank you so much. Welcome. This podcast is brought to you by Edison os a no-code EdTech platform to operate an online education business. Knowledge. Entrepreneurs can use Edison OS to sell online courses from their own websites, manage online masterclass, launch mobile learning apps, sell online practice tests for competitive exams, run online learning communities, digitizing their offline tutoring business, use it as a learning management system, and a lot more cases in the domain of knowledge commerce.

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