April 16, 2021
Charu Noheria is the co-founder and the COO of Practically, an experiential learning app for students of grades 6-12 in STEM subjects. Practically was founded in 2018 and the app was launched in April 2020 during the COVID lockdown.
Please can you share your background and your role at Practically?
I have a bachelor’s degree in engineering (Computer Science) from R.V. College of Engineering, Bangalore and began my career as a software engineer at Samsung where my role was to develop mobile applications. In 2010, I moved to the US to pursue an MBA from University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign followed by St. Louis, Missouri to work for Lumeris Inc., – one of the largest value-based healthcare IT firms in the United States, as a Strategic Leadership Development Associate and quickly moved up the ranks to become Director-Technology Partnerships. This is where my co-founders Subba and Ilango and I eventually started Practically. I shuttle between Hyderabad and San Francisco Bay Area.
At Practically, my role is business facing with sales, marketing and fundraising efforts under my direct responsibility.
What are the challenges you faced as an EdTech startup?
Challenges have been a big part of our start-up journey and luckily almost always we were able to keep our heads above water. We embrace challenges with open arms and if not for them, the journey would be far less fulfilling.
- COVID: The lockdown was a blessing in disguise for EdTech giving it the right push for education to go online. Due to the current situation, the focus is on following a medium which allows for safe, continued and effective teaching. This meant we needed to be agile and quickly start offering what was the need of the hour: an experiential and immersive learning experience for schools like in a physical classroom environment using augmented reality (AR), 3D videos and simulations. Practically launched in India amidst the lockdown in April 2020.
- Model: The challenges began when we wanted to grow the product to become a one- stop-solution rather than a point application so that learners won’t have to pay for multiple apps and they get everything they need on Practically.
- Capital: We required substantial capital upfront to build unique life-like immersive and experiential content. We put in all profits from the existing product sale into this and also went in for our Series-A fundraise which helped us achieve that. We faced numerous challenges when we started scaling our business to all parts of the twin states of AP/TS as this needed a larger team and growth capital. We were lucky that we were able to raise our pre-Series B round just in time to help us scale and grow in this region and further set us up for pan-India launch this year. In addition, we have been able to build a great team passionate about our singular vision of shaping the way the world learns.
- New entrant: Practically has been widely accepted in a short span of time despite the brand Practically being a young brand given the value proposition for students. The brand kickstarted its first-ever campaign around the theme – ‘Bring Learning Alive’. The campaign included TV, Digital, Print and Social Media Marketing with a regional focus on Andhra Pradesh and Telangana markets. The rationale behind this dual pronged strategy was to drive awareness and consideration in the home market and also test markets at a pan India level to gauge the brand’s traction. The TVCs received a stupendous response with the campaign closing in on 32 million views since its launch.
What was the inspiration for launching an experiential learning app?
The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are the premier autonomous public, technical, and research universities located across India. Every year, lakhs of students appear for entrance exams to get into IITs for which they have been preparing since they were teenagers! Being part of the competitive rat race back in the day, all I remember from that experience was stress in learning. I dropped a year, switched five engineering streams, and changed 3 colleges during the 18 months I struggled to get my footing right. Unconsciously, this left a lasting mark on me. I was always attracted towards unconventional ways of learning which are different and more effective than rote learning. This is what inspired me to start Practically along with my co-founders.
My Co-founders Subba, Ilango and myself were colleagues at Lumeris Inc., in the USA and in the hallways of our workplace is where those very first conversations of Practically began. When my co-founders and I were bouncing off ideas to pursue, it became apparent that we all shared the excitement for tech-based, non-traditional methods of teaching and learning. We all wanted to make some of those very dry subjects more interesting, engaging and fun for learners around the world.
Having recently secured funding, what are your goals in the coming months?
While our focus so far has been on Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states in India, Practically is working on expanding pan-India in 2021 and adding over 2000 employees by December 2021. We have launched Practically Live Classes for STEM subjects and Coding++ which is the A-Z of coding. 2021 will also see us entering the K-5 segment while currently we are focussing on grades 6-12. We believe that technology adoption in the education sector is yet to see its peak and what started as a mad rush to adopt technology during the pandemic is likely to continue and sustain well beyond the pandemic years making products such as Practically a household name among students and teachers alike.
Using the Series B fundraise which we are working towards, we will penetrate deeper into all major cities in India and begin expansion to another international market by the end of 2021. Outside India, we have received very positive responses to our product in the Middle East and we will be partnering with many more schools there in 2021.
The Practically School Solution is absolutely FREE of cost to schools. Our experiential solution has been a mega hit with teachers. In addition to above, Practically’s immersive animated video content can be easily localised into any language. Although the near-term plan is to expand into other English-speaking countries globally, we are also exploring with partners in countries where there is a need for content in another language. We have plans to launch in various Indian languages as well. Presently over 200 schools are using the Practically School Solution.
Founded in 2018 by Mr. Subbarao Siddabattula, Founder & CEO, Ms. Charu Noheria, Co-Founder & COO and Ilangovel Thulasimani, Co-Founder & CTO, Practically uses next-generation interactive methods, such as Augmented Reality (AR), Simulations and 3D videos to not just learn but learn by doing.
Practically is an intelligent, interactive and immersive experiential learning app for students of classes 6-12 with a focus on STEM learning. It is the only experiential learning app that brings learning alive through immersive videos, interactive augmented reality and 3D simulations. It offers an edge over other learning apps by enhancing conceptual understanding and improving retention of concepts with features like life-like video content, hands-on learning, experiential learning, live classes and AI assistant. Also has a 24×7 Seek Help feature for doubt resolution, where students can reach out to subject experts on the platform. 3,30,000+ students have already started benefiting from the engaging content on Practically.
The Practically School Solution, a B2B2C offering, gives schools and its teachers access to the Practically teacher experiential learning app FREE of cost. Teachers can access 3000+ videos and 1000+ Simulations/AR and features like reports, test-preps, polls, analytics, assigning homework, etc. The app covers universal curriculum across Math and Science for 6th to 12th grades. Over 200 schools across India and Middle East are using Practically to enable online classes during the pandemic and this number is growing very fast.
So far, Practically has raised over $9M from Siana Capital, Exfinity Ventures, YourNest Venture Capital, IDFC Parampara, and angel investors.
Recently, Practically was awarded the EdTech Startup of the Year at Startup Awards 2021 by Franchise India & Entrepreneur India magazine. Practically was also adjudged the Most Innovative STEM Solution by Elets Digital Learning magazine at the World Education Summit 2021 last week.