( This blog post has been written by Vineet Amin Product Manager at Zaya Learning Labs )
So here comes the stockbroker! Some over adventurous project manager from a financial services firm, who sets out to go change the world! To go and “Disrupt” the education space and bring about a revolution like no other. That’s probably the emotion that drives most wannabe startup guys including me from the corporate world to the world of chaos and madness. And for me personally, to call this transition huge, would be an understatement.
Zaya’s vision was always to bring world class learning to low income learners across the world. But then the obvious question from an outsider was that- “How?” Having a ClassCloud solution was great but it lacked the desirable scale. How do we reach every student across India? How do we engage the child and ensure that learning is fun? How do we deliver all this at a low cost? We had worked on several ideas of what should go out in the first release. Should the mobile app be an extension of the ClassCloud? We however realised that our back end solution wasn’t scalable. Should we then build a math app? Or science? After several discussions we asked ourselves- What’s that one subject that each child wants to learn and one subject that every parent from that segment considers important. And that’s English! English is seen not just as an important subject to learn but more as a means to move ahead in life, as a means of empowerment. Be it school, work or social interactions, the language perceptively commands a premium.
So two weeks into my job, with my limited knowledge and even lower abilities, I built a rough sketch of what the User Experience would be. And to my surprise, the team liked it. We were excited and now we were on a mission! And guess what? We had only 90 days to build it! Yup! 90 days. Are you serious? I was hoping for 90 days to settle in! And now we have to build an app?
The app was called ‘Zuru’ – A combination of Zaya and Guru. Which was then changed to ‘English Duniya’. We had numerous heated discussions on what the user flow should be, what are the key features to be launched, what grades and languages should be launched first. Lets remember- We are competing for their time spent on playing games such as ‘Subway Surfer’ and ‘Candy Crush’. Nothing could be more daunting. So engagement or the “Hook” was the key factor. The underlying key features of the app had to be personal, fun and social. Our initial user experience designs were similar to a Transaction app which we later realised didn’t cut out with kids. We then worked on a concept of exploring the world and different regions through the app. Went through multiple designs, sketches, rigorous testing, changes etc. But more importantly, given that we were running against time, we didn’t have the luxury to think everything through. We were creating something that wasn’t trivial or had a ready reference point that we could just replicate and therefore the best resource was our imagination. This created a situation where we faced issues that we didn’t visualise. We had to solve multiple problems related to UI/UX and also the tech around it. And yes, managing multiple priorities and stakeholders can be exhausting.
We also had to make critical calls during the development phase itself and trade-off certain features. Our app was to have Machine Learning (ML) and artificial intelligence built-in that would offer a key differentiation. ML would personalize content for the user and provide content relevant to him and his skill level. However this would come at the cost of making the content available offline. It was a tough decision, however the correct one. Our pilot launch spoke volumes on the importance of the app being available offline. This solved multiple problems of downloads, content loading, poor internet and related data costs. We also had to spend sleepless nights trying to figure out the ideal experience for kids.
Despite several challenges, testing, bugs, multiple priorities etc. we finally launched our app called ‘English Duniya’! And yes- We did launch the first version within 90 days! Nothing could be more satisfying. But unfortunately we hit a big wall. And quite a big wall I must say. More of it in the next post.
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