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The Story of Edtech Startups On Building A Critical Mindset

Learn from Zenius' Chief Education Officer, Sabda PS in the #SelasaStartup session

Marsya Nabila - 18 June 2020

Zenius is one of the pioneers of the edtech platform in Indonesia, which still exists today. This startup always emphasizes its ambition to revolutionize the way of learning in school by planting critical and logical thinking. Therefore, future students will not become a generation of only memorizing stuff, but also capable to apply the knowledge in a daily life crisis.

In carrying out that mission, Zenius continues to evolve to provide content and adapt to the current times. For further details, #SelasaStartup this week (16/6) invites Chief Education Officer Zenius Sabda PS as the speaker. He brought insights from Zenius pioneering experiences, views of the industry, and plans for the future.

The beginning

Sabda said he started Zenius back in 2004, operational funds obtained by swiping his own credit card. There are no investors, such as venture capitalists, who are interested in funding. The first business model is to make offline tutoring. Therefore, the business turnover is crystal clear.

There are regular payments received in advance and he can directly teach students. This income is to be circulated for additional teachers and create recordings when the teachers idle. “In the beginning, We create content and sell the CD. We are yet to thought about the internet at all,” he said.

The following year, the team became more active in producing CDs containing analysis and discussion. Until 2008, the CDs sold were getting more varied. There is a complete CD package, therefore, no need to buy a single unit. In that year they also began to use the internet, however, it’s only limited to selling CDs.

“This is our historical moment on April 4, 2008, we launched the first exhibition in Jakarta and a website to sell CDs.”

In the first year of online selling, Zenius claimed to have obtained profits. He was determined the following year to develop the Zenius business online because there were still many Indonesian children who were not familiar with Zenius, although at that time internet access tended to be limited.

“Zenius can survive because we have the elements, not only what is important, but the right impact. When they buy content, is it really makes them smart? or not. As long as what we deliver can change the mindset, it seems like Zenius can be guaranteed [sustainable].”

Innovation and drastic changes in time of a pandemic

He added, the pandemic and quarantine situation rose up the edtech business. Zenius is one of the impacted players, and there are lessons to be learned from the current issue. Usually, Zenius traffic rises before nightfall when the students began studying. Nowadays, traffic is high all day, used not only by students but also by teachers and parents.

“There are many things, but most [of them] are nice to have. [For example] from the beginning of the school year, our user growth has increased by 12 times. The server jump, which usually crowded at night, is now high-traffic since morning. This becomes a problem for we must improve the capacity, however, it becomes an opportunity since the enthusiasm is high.”

In addition, Zenius also turn its services free, therefore, more Indonesian children can be “addicted” to learning. Sabda said this strategy has been actually sticking out since 2013. However, supporting “facilities” (re: the presence of the Gojek application, etc.) are yet to exist, therefore, it’s just realized.

He said many Zenius users are affected in terms of manner. It affects their paradigm about learning is changing, even addictive. The impact has not been widely applied to non-users. “When the brain has been upgraded, the more “addictive” to learn. That’s our way.”

This pandemic, he continued, is proof that it is time for the education industry to go hybrid. They will no longer focus on education in schools because information can now be obtained from anywhere. At home, everyone can still be productive. All assessments can be done digitally.

However, he also emphasizes that it does not mean the school is less important because humans need to socialize. He positioned the school as a place for discussion, brainstorming, debating, and other activities that require offline interaction.

“Such activities are more effective when experienced offline. However, the source of knowledge is everywhere.”

The latest services

Since starting operation from almost 16 years ago, Zenius has only been focusing on students from elementary to high school. Sabda said the team is preparing non-academic content that works to improve professional skills. “We’re getting there, the first thing to do was a matter of strategy.”

He gave an example, coding training is one that is required to improve skills. In his opinion, coding is a very helpful tool in growing critical thinking skills. Not only for creating applications, but coding can also grow logical thinking. When it comes to finding bugs, people need scientific methods, which can be helped through coding skills.

In terms of technology, Zenius is still preparing the use of machine learning technology and artificial intelligence to help companies distribute content in accordance with the user profiles.


Original article is in Indonesian, translated by Kristin Siagian

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