Education took one of the hardest hits by the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools, colleges and universities shut down and online classes were introduced.
By the time the first year of the pandemic came to an end (March 2021), the concept of edu-tech, or edtech, had already gained momentum and widespread popularity. With popularity, it also gained the attention of investors.
Taking full advantage of this, many edtech ventures sprouted. While some managed to find a place in the market, others were driven away by fierce competition.
'Sohopathi,' a social learning platform that connects students and educators from all across the country, is an edtech startup that took up on the opportunity in Bangladesh.
"It is the first edtech platform in Bangladesh that connects a student from anywhere in the country to any teacher in Bangladesh," said Shadman Majid, one of the four co-founders of Sohopathi.
"Our system is capable of suggesting potential teachers to students as per their requirements through AI and our smart database. We like to brand Sohopathi as a hybrid of YouTube and Facebook for education," Shadman explained to The Business Standard in a recent conversation about how they plan to revolutionise the country's industry.
The idea and concept behind Sohopathi came to Shadman and the two other co-founders when they were students living in BUET dormitories. All of them studied computer science and were tutoring other students. In 2018, Sohopathi initially started its journey.
Once realised, the discrepancy between the quality of teachers inside Dhaka city and in rural and semi-urban areas outside Dhaka bothered them. "We felt as though that students outside Dhaka are sufferers of inequality when it comes to tutors. And students in Dhaka, in all likelihood, have access to the best teachers and facilities," said Shadman.
The experienced tutors also observed how many schools outside Dhaka where they tutored, lacked ICT labs. "As a result, students were taught technical courses without practical application. There are also not as many teachers as we need for all the students. Our aim is to tie every student with the teacher they seek and to address the inequality," Shadman further explained.
'Sohopathi is completely customisable'
We asked Shadman to tell us about the parameters that make Sohopathi stand out. In reply he said, "What sets us apart is the fact that Sohopathi is completely customisable. Our system practices efficiency by matching the right kind of teacher with the learning style of a student through the use of AI."
"With this, we also realised that there is a gap in the education market despite the fact that there are several e-learning platforms and students could access free video lessons on Youtube. Personalised education content, however, was not a common feature," Shadman added.
Currently, two lakh students are registered with Sohopathi, which is facilitated by a team of 60 volunteers.
With time, Sohopathi is becoming more robust both online and offline, with campus ambassador groups in different schools, colleges and universities, and dedicated Facebook groups for school, college and university candidates.
"We have over 1,000 campus ambassadors from different educational boards. We have already built a community of 2,00,000 people," said Shadman.
Future, milestones and purpose
"Students learn differently so we aim to customise the mode of learning. We want every student to go through a personalised experience," said Shadman, adding, "Whenever a student is browsing our site, the system is continuously collecting data and using it to optimise the smart AI engine to generate more accurate suggestions."
The growth and development of Sohopathi's smart search engine is facilitated by tracking the students' watchtime, rating and engagement. The smart engine also tracks a student's depth of knowledge regarding a particular subject.
Recently, Sohopathi received a grant of Tk10 lakh for taking the crown at Bangabandhu Innovation Grant, where they were one of the top startups among 7,000 contenders. They have also collaborated directly with the ICT Ministry's iDEA project.
And most recently, Sohopathi became one of the toppers at Accelerating Asia's Cohort 5 where they were selected among over 500 startups across Asia. This has helped them utilise international funding from Singapore and get access to the global and regional network's support plans.
Sohopathi is the first startup from Bangladesh to enter this prestigious and internationally recognised competition.