The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Daniele Busato
The Lockdown Economy, an international non-profit social-economic and educational initiative started by the Think Tank AlterContacts in May 2020. The objective is to help small businesses and self-employed professionals to overcome the challenges of the pandemic and reactivate the economy. The initiative has been registered by the United Nations as an Acceleration Action for the Sustainable Development Goals.
In this interview, we meet Nirdesh Dwa, the co-founder of inGrails (Veda app) Pvt. Ltd, an edu-tech app in Nepal. They started as an outsourcing firm but now are totally into edu-tech with the app, Veda (वेद). It is an MIS, process automation system, and E-Learning platform all in one app. We talked about how Veda had to strategize to stimulate business during the lockdown. They were into MIS and process automation but during the lockdown as schools were not allowed to open, they felt the need for an E-Learning system that was reliable. The addition of this feature saw an increase in demand for their product but less time to fulfil that demand. In a short period of time, they had to restructure the organization and add team members to remodel their app. They work in a customer-centric model and are currently focusing on adding features to their E-learning platform.
Today’s guest is Nirdesh Dwa, cofounder of inGrails Pvt.Ltd, creator of the app Veda. Can you tell us about your company?
We started inGrails about five and a half years ago to provide quality internet solutions to international clients. Then we ventured into our own product and started an edu-tech company, an e-learning platform with an MIS system and automation; as a whole Vade is a system that provides process automation for schools, and also has school management MIS, and now during the pandemic, we also have loans e-learning software. This is a system that helps a school to go digital without needing any other software.
Where is your company based?
Right now we are present in 30 cities around Nepal, but our main office is in Kathmandu.
Before the lockdown, how was business?
We listen to the market and keep growing, we add our features based on our clients' needs. Before the pandemic, our company has been evolving quite well because education is becoming quite conscious about going digital. The first few years were quite hard for us due to the lack of knowledge and consciousness about the need of digital platforms for schools, but in the two years before the pandemic, our company was doing quite great.
What strategies did your company adopt to deal with the lockdown?
During the lockdown, a lot of things changed for us. The first thing was the way we used the market: for the last four years most of the marketing and sales side of things has been done through word of mouth, but during the pandemic, this had to change. We are doing all this digitally and are into social media marketing as well, and we had to build a whole new platform that incorporated e-learning classes. This meant we had to hire many new employees, our number has more than doubled during the pandemic.
Did you see an increase in clients during the pandemic?
Yes, we did for e-learning. But this increase started even before the pandemic. This number is growing fast, but the time that these schools take to manage everything has reduced because right now, online learning is the only way in which they can actually educate the students.
How did you manage this increase in demand?
In Nepal, not all schools run the same way and there are many ways in which things can be done. We tried to modify our product so that everyone can use it but sometimes it doesn’t go that way, so we give our clients many options: for example, they can upload the results via mobile, Excel, etc. For e-learning as well we try to generalize what the schools needed and satisfy all.
How did your competitors approach the lockdown?
Every start-up (not just e-learning ones or those similar to us) is benefiting from the lockdown because now people know about the benefits of going online. If we talk about our product, we’re really proud of our customer satisfaction and service; in the past, we saw clients that had never used any software come to us, and then we saw many schools switching from other products. During the pandemic, not all the competitors in our field had entered e-learning. But then again, we don’t know a lot about other companies: we are customer-centric, not competition-centric.
Now that restrictions have eased up a bit, are you still adopting the strategies used during the lockdown?
Schools are still closed, and I don’t think they will re-open for quite some time. In the upcoming months, we will focus on improving our e-learning software. In the future, school lessons may be a blend of physical presence and online presence, but if that doesn’t happen then we will go back to our previous model.
Where do you see Vade in the near future?
For the next couple of months, we will be focusing on the e-learning site, because I doubt schools will re-open soon. Not much will be different than how things are right now.
If you could point out three things that your company needs help with, what would they be?
The first thing is that we are now exploring international markets, so we need capital.
Secondly, we need outreach to other nations markets. Third, support from the government, not for edu-tech but for all enterprises and start-ups: many public schools want our product, but the process to achieve this is often very long and difficult. The government could ease these processes.
About the Guest
Mr. Nirdesh Dwa is the Co-founder at Veda (veda-app.com) & Ingrails. He is an MIT Entrepreneurship Bootcamp Alumni with over 10 years’ experience in software development and over 5 years’ experience in Edu-tech. He is on a mission to make education better using technology. Veda is an edu-tech app in Nepal. It is a complete digital solution for schools and colleges which combines MIS, process automation, and E-Learning. https://linkedin.com/in/nirdeshdwa