Business Models

AI is shaping the future of education in India

Sid Talwar
20th March 2018

Product evolution plays a crucial role in the decision on how best to monetize. And that’s the Embibe story.

The last time I wrote about pivoting, I used our portfolio company, Embibe, as an example. I ended the article saying, “I can’t wait to see what Embibe does next!”

Of course, I had absolutely no idea what I was in for at the time!

In the story, I had concentrated mainly on how Embibe pivoted their business model, finally ending up making the product free and then slowly thinking through how best to monetise. They wanted as large a consumer base as possible to access their product, but didn’t want to stop the evolution of the product to support early monetization. A tight rope many product companies are familiar with in India and around the world.

What I didn’t discuss at the time, was how large a part product evolution needs to play in the eventual decision on how best to monetize. And that’s the Embibe story. They first decided to concentrate on making sure they were solving the biggest problem possible, which they decided was learning outcomes, not practice. Practice, they said, had become a commodity. You can’t succeed by trying to monetize a commodity. The best way to make money is on your own IP. And, in order to do that, Embibe went back to their roots as a technology company, focussing on using AI and data to help support outcomes.

 The story changed from content consumption to learning outcomes. And today, Embibe guarantees improvement based on effort. The result: the platform is driving 55% + score improvement across some of the hardest exams in the country.


Slowly, they started seeing students spending more and more time on the platform; they saw teachers get more interested in applications like generating tests (where Embibe crunches millions of parameters for questions) or generating personalized practice packs for students; they saw parents give more credit to the platform for their children’s score improvements. And all this led to a series of accolades including them winning the Amazon award for best AI company in education in 2017.

And if outcomes was at the core of their philosophy, then it needed to be at the core of their monetization road map as well. They needed to put their money where their mouth was, so to say. And that’s exactly what they did.

Today, content consumption is free at Embibe. They only charge for learning outcomes and personalization. And that focus has jumped started revenue this past financial year, after nearly 18 months of very limited revenue.

So, how did Embibe answer my question from nearly two years ago? By going back to their core philosophy, doubling down on what they knew was the most critical aspect of their product, and believing that when the product delivered value, monetization would follow.

This next year is going to bear the fruits of that labour and I’m looking forward to it!