Shikho, a Bangladeshi Edtech startup by two entrepreneurial friends, started its journey to raise the country’s education standard to match the international level. By 2022, the platform had raised USD 5.6 million, the highest ever investment in Bangladesh’s Edtech industry. Through its innovative teaching methods and quality content in just three years, “Shikho” has earned significant popularity in the Edtech sector of Bangladesh. In addition, Shikho introduced a new trend in the Edtech industry by acquiring Edtech platforms like Bahubrihi and Mainly Coding.
The Journey of Shikho
Shahir Chowdhury, the co-founder, and CEO of Shikho, which started its journey in 2019, is a BBA graduate from Cardiff University. During his 12-year career at Barclays and HSBC, Shahir noticed that technology had played a massive role in advancing China’s advanced education system. In the meantime, some technology-based educational institutions have also started their journey in India. Compared to that, the context of Bangladesh is entirely different. Despite having several Edtech platforms, there was a lack of good quality content and experienced teachers. Also, since many of the platforms are based on Facebook or YouTube, students do not always get proper support.
From SSC-HSC coaching to admission test coaching – everything was mostly Dhaka-centric, so the learning opportunities for students from other parts of the country were very limited. After identifying these problems, Shahir thought of a solution that would make it easier for anyone in Bangladesh to get a quality education.
According to the co-founder and CEO, Shahir Chowdhury,
“Globally ‘Edtech’ is a very generalized term. Every market, such as India, Chinese, or American Edtech, is into solving a problem. Every market has different learners; hence the problems are also different. When working with Bangladesh, we make a product or solution for Bangladeshi students. So it’s always going to be different; it’s never going to be the same as the others in the market. But if I have to say about the ed-tech industry in Bangladesh, we are still in a very early stage. We have raised several million till now, but to be frank, we are at the very beginning of our journey. So there are a lot of exciting things you can expect from the Bangladeshi Edtech industry in the future.”
Shahir shared his idea with his friend Zeeshan Zakaria, currently the COO of the startup, who holds a BSc Honors degree in Economics and Mathematics from Royal Hallway, University of London. With the desire to be a teacher, Zeeshan later completed a graduate teaching program in Secondary Mathematics at UCL Institute of Education. As Zeeshan liked the idea, in 2019, both the friends Zeeshan and Zakaria Zakaria started Shikho. Their first course was on the complete syllabus of general mathematics of class nine-ten, which was entirely funded at their own expense. The 700-minute course consisted of 105 animated videos, 65 board papers and mock exams, solutions to approximately 4,000 questions, 315 quizzes, and over 1,000 smart notes.
Following this, Shikho launched its first app in 2020. In June of the same year, Shahir and Zeeshan’s team were able to get USD 1 million in pre-seed rounds from Adiba Khan, director of venture capital firm Learn Capital and Summit Group. In December, the second pre-seed funding round was joined by Zubayer Siddiqui and Amberin Reza, managing directors of foodpanda Bangladesh, where the startup raised USD 1,75,000. These funds played an important role in delivering new courses to the students.
In July 2021, Shikho raised USD 1.3 million in the Seed Round. The companies investing in the seed round are Wavemaker Partners, LearnStart, Learn Capital, Anchorless Bangladesh, and Ankur Nagpal, the CEO of ‘Teachable’. As a result of this investment, the company focused on building web platforms and apps to enable users to take courses on desktops and laptops besides mobile phones as well. In the same year, to make the most demanding skills of the era accessible to all, Shikho acquired a local Edtech platform, professional course provider Bahubrihi.
The company has recently raised 4 million in the second seed round. From the two investments in the Seed Round, Shikho has managed to raise a total of USD 5.3 million in foreign investment, which is by far the largest Seed Round for any Bangladeshi startup. Investors in this round include Wavemaker Partners, Learn Capital, Anchorless Bangladesh, Vibe Capital of the previous round. Additionally, DSG Consumer Partners, Black Kite Capital, Ratio Ventures, and founder of demand curve Julian Shapiro are among the new investors.
Currently, there are two types of solutions for students in the Shikho App and Web Portal: Animated lessons & Online coaching. Shahir Chowdhury mentions,
“Our platform provides 2 types of solutions, firstly the animated lessons, which we have made since the beginning. Its primary focus has always been to make academic studies more interesting, engaging, and exciting. When a learner is using our app to test themselves, we analyze and figure out the strengths and weaknesses of the learner as well as tell them how they can improve their performances. So here’s the power of online learning because, in offline learning, the teacher-to-student ratio is very high, which has been going on for years. We are trying to change that. ”
The Shikho Platform currently has nine animated courses and 17 online coaching courses for SSC, HSC, and university admissions students. In addition, Bahubrihi has 37 professional courses for skill development. More than 350,000 students in 64 districts of Bangladesh spend an average of 68 minutes a day on the Shikho app.
Another Shikho solution is online coaching which is basically an interactive live class. Shahir says,
“ During covid, we realized a massive demand for live classes, so we decided to make our own live class technology. So now, students can take interactive live classes with expert teachers in our app and also on our web. These are our two main teaching methods, but the entire backbone depends on technology personalization. He also added that “Self-learning is an essential concept. In Shikho, the learning process as a whole is very structured. Students choose the chapters under the subject heading when they enter our app. Inside the chapters, various topics are enlisted, from easy to the hardest. So the student can understand the topic according to their pace.”
Recalling his childhood, he further said,
“This is a significant point for me personally. Because when I was a student, I was not very good at math. So in class, I always lag while others would learn and participate in the class. I was shy to raise my hand and ask the teacher to explain the concept to me again. But when the lessons are available in an app, it’s a safe space for the students. If required, they can watch the videos as many times as they want to get a clear understanding. In my case, I might have had to watch the video ten times to understand math. That’s why structured, self-paced, on-demand learning is an essential concept to our customers”. ”
During the Corona epidemic, considering the needs of students’ Shikho launched interactive live classes within their app, a step that has been taken for the first time in the Edtech industry of Bangladesh. The difference with the traditional live class is that here students can speak directly to the teachers and take part in live polling and instantly assess their learning. This solution also includes features that can tell the students their study progress and automated analysis. Starting with limited resources, Shikho has now grown into a team of over 300 members. The team is working to ensure regular updates and development of the app, improvement of course content, design new courses, and ensure student support.
Shikho is currently working on designing courses for SSC, HSC, and admission test preparation on their platforms. They are also planning to launch courses ranging from class Six to university level and for competitive exam preparation as well. In addition, the online coaching solution will have two teachers in each live class for the benefit of the students. One of them will take the class, and the other will respond to the students’ questions in the chat. In addition, the Shikho team is working on using artificial intelligence to provide the highest quality learning experience. Shikho’s latest investment round will play a significant role in achieving this goal. Shikho’s efforts to take Bangladesh’s Edtech industry to a new height is a reliable step, and such large-scale international investment is a clear indication.