'Zomato for schools': Mumbai boy Akshay Agrawal creates website to rank schools
All of 18, Akshay Agrawal created a website to rank schools, that he calls the "Zomato for schools"
Akshay Agrawal tells his story at TEDxYouth conference
Like most students just out of their 10th standard exams, Vashi boy Akshay Agrawal too went through a couple of months of severe doubt and confusion as regards which school he should move to, next. While surveys on top 20 schools in the city and in the country are a dime a dozen, he found no pointed source that could give out accurate information on schools, outside their prospectus and websites. Word-of-mouth was also of little help as Akshay recalls.
"Everyone I asked had their own reason to say something positive or negative about any particular school. And their reasons could be different from mine." He realised that the whole space was unregulated, and infested with information that was inaccurate and outdated. "I realised one could do with some more order." That's where the idea of ClassFever germinated in his head. An online review aggregator for schools, 18-year-old Akshay calls ClassFever as a "Zomato for schools". With 3,500 schools listed on the site, the idea of this platform is to democratise the review process by crowd-sourcing opinions, and rank schools accordingly. Their network now spans beyond Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Dehradun and Delhi.
Initially, they were just a team of four, who went around the city, from school to school to create a database. For the schools outside Mumbai, they connected over the phone to secure more information. But Akshay soon realised they needed to add more value to the data. "I thought maybe we could use artificial intelligence, develop an algorithm (based on the information and reviews we have) and make it an open-source, review driven platform," Akshay says. The platform ranks schools across six categories — academic, luxury, economics, value for money, recommendation and co-curricular — and the ratings are done on 5. "Most surveys list the top 20 schools in the city or the country. What about the schools in the smaller suburbs, in the smaller towns that don't make that list? So we rank them till the highest number and we calculate ranks every week — not just annually, like the surveys," Akshay adds. The rankings have multiple scaling too, so one knows where a particular school ranks in the neighbourhood, in the city, state and country. "It gets lesser-known schools notice and the transparency promotes healthy education practices," says Akshay, who is also a TEDx speaker.
The listed schools are notified about their rankings every week. And what do the schools have to say about that? "The reactions are interesting, and they vary from, 'excuse me, who are you' or 'I'm sorry, this ranking is unacceptable' to 'thank you, and here's some more info for you to factor in'" Akshay says. He was in the 11th standard when Akshay started work on the website. The idea was pitched to investors, but when it got turned down repeatedly, he took some monetary help from his father to kick-start the project.
"It was not easy. It was a classic case of the owner believing in the idea more than anyone else. But now when I look back, I feel thankful that we got no funding, else we'd have used all the money in lesser things. This forced us to re-invent ourselves from the ground up. The no-money module works," Akshay said. There were some funny and awkward challenges for the teenager, too. "Everyone I was working with was elder to me, so they didn't really like taking instructions from me," he recalls with a smile. Akshay has switched seven schools, thanks to his father's transferable job. "So I have friends across many cities," he says. He roped in his former classmates to expand ClassFever to other cities. They are now an "alpha team of 25".
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