Exploring new ways of software technology, a Nepali startup has come up with an innovative solution for effective communication in schools.
--BY NIKEETA GAUTAM
ICT has been playing a major role in changing the lives of people in today's world. Education is one of the many areas where the use of smart technologies has been very beneficial in recent years. Nepal, too, is not left untouched by this as new software developers are coming forward exploring innovative ideas to offer useful solutions.
Eton Technology is one such startup which has been working to make it easy for educational institutions to communicate with the parents of their students. The company has been working with around 57 educational institutions in the capital valley ranging from pre-schools to colleges through its web-based school management software Sajilo School Manager. The software was developed in 2015 by the joint initiatives of the company’s co-founders Roshan Limbu and Prabal Pradhan. Limbu heads Eton Technology as the CEO while Pradhan leads as the company’s CTO.
Sajilo for effective management
Sajilo School Manager is a system which can be used in multiple areas of education management. It is basically a content management system which also can be used as an exam manager, transportation manager, billing manager, attendance manager and transportation manager. The software can be directly connected to a mobile app and can be downloaded through the school's name. The app enables educational institutions to send notifications about their regular activities or any events. It is a free app which the parents of the students can download via the Google Play Store.
How it works?
Developed in the secured platform of open-source PHP web framework of Laravel, the software uses innovative features of the Google Drive for storing data. Through the content management system, educational institutions can create and edit their own websites. Similarly, using the software’s multi-user account role, each department of the given institution can log into the system separately. Another feature of the software is the Student Profile System which allows parents to monitor the activities of their children including attendance. Meanwhile, it also enables parents to check the payment history of school fees. “The benefit is that even parents who are living abroad can know about their child’s performance through the app,” shares Limbu. The app’s Internal Messaging System is another handy feature that lets parents and teachers to communicate anytime even if they don’t have each other’s phone number. The conversation though is subjected to be observed by the super-admin of the system.
Another notable feature of the app is the Transportation Manager. It enables parents to check the location and speed of the school buses in which their children are travelling. “It is quite unproductive for busy parents to come early to the bus station and keep on waiting for the bus to come. So, the app helps them to track the location with their Android phones,” says Limbu. This system has also made it easy for working parents to know whether their children have reached their schools or home on time.
In the meantime, the Study Materials Manager feature allows parents to download the syllabus of the course of study and assignments given to their children. Likewise, the Daily Routine feature helps parents and students to view daily updated routine through their smartphones. Library Manager is also useful in this regard to notify students about the books available in the libraries of the schools. It frequently notifies students who have failed to return the library's book on time. The software’s Hostel Manger categorises the hostel students and updates their monthly fees automatically.
Cost and Clientele
The price of SSM services ranges from Rs 25,000 to Rs 45,000. Eton Technology charges Rs 15,000 each year for providing the services of the software. "There is an optimum utilisation of technology in the system we have developed. It has enabled us to provide cost-effective services to our clients," says Limbu.
To name a few, Advanced College, Cosmos College, Holy Vision HSS, Sooryadaya Secondary School, SOS School, Euro Kids, Modern School and Mahendra Bhawan School have been providing services to the parents of their students through SSM. "Most of the students and parents are appreciating the Transportation Manager feature and parents are happy that they can observe and communicate about the performance of their children using the smart platform provided by the app," shares Limbu.
Childhood experiences led Limbu to come up with developing the educational management system software. Originally from Jhapa, Limbu shared his childhood story of being a naughty child who used to frequently bunk classes, roam whole day with friends and fritter away money which were meant to be paid for school fees. “After completing secondary level education, I wished if there were some easy ways for the parents to communicate with the school authorities to know about their child's activities and performance. If there had been such a system in place, me and my friends would never have been spoiled," he expresses. "Though I was not so serious in the school days, I really wanted to do something to prove myself after SLC."
After the SLC exam, he took a bold step. At the age of 17, he came to Kathmandu and started working as an office assistant for a courier office. He recalls an incident on the day he successfully passed the SLC exams. He was cycling his way to office when he saw other SLC graduates happily walking with red ‘tika’ on their foreheads. "At that time, I was really enjoying my work and hoping to become successful in the future rather than working under pressure to meet my daily expenses. So, I had no harsh feelings of not being in my hometown and sharing my happiness," he recalls. This was the time when he learnt about Photoshop and Graphic Designing. While pursing his bachelor’s degree, he started working as a computer lab assistant at the DAV School. This increased his eagerness to learn about computers and made him feel that they should be used more for efficient work. Then he started his own call centre called Sparkle Webs. After doing lots of outsourcing works, he wanted to do something innovative. He then decided to develop the SSM with Prabal Pradhan who was there with him in the call center business. "He was a fellow at Teach for Nepal and knew about collaborative education.
“Entrepreneurship is a much talked-about term nowadays. Entrepreneurs are featured across media platforms. People talk about their ventures and that feels trendy. However, the hardship that entrepreneurs have to go through to transform their startups into a successful company is agonising,” he shares. When Limbu started Eton, he had no idea about entrepreneurship. The team was focused on developing an efficient product rather than searching investment. Limbu spend his own savings and invested Rs 1.4 million in the beginning. When he began, he had no plans to raise the service charge. “It was because I wanted to make SSM affordable to everyone. Had we kept the rate high, only few schools of the capital could have subscribed to it. But my aim was to bring about a real change so that every parent could access such a service,” he shares. He continued with this belief and faced financial instability after some time. The business was growing but he was not able to bring more human resource in the company. “It was at that time when Abhay Paudel, CEO of BizServe, came to help us as an angel investor. It was by then I came to know about third party investment,” he mentions.
Promotion and Competition
Eton Technology which is solely focused on the SSM software at present now has 15 employees. According to Limbu, the company is expected to reach the breakeven stage by October this year. The company has earned a significant client-base through the word of mouth and Facebook promotions.
"There are around 32,000 schools across the country and the capital valley alone is home to some 4,000 schools. Among them, just 10 percent have been using IT services," shares Limbu. He thinks that in the next five years, 60 percent of the schools - both private and public - will have to adopt digitisation. He says that Eton Technology will collaborate with other similar companies to make other positive impacts on the education sector.
According to Limbu, the company’s main objective is to provide a platform to parents and school authorities to communicate with each other. "We are not worried about the market. We will keep on working to make our product more convenient to use in the coming days," he says.
Five years down the line, Eton hopes to reach 3,000 schools in Nepal. According to Limbu, the company aims to adopt the Statistical Analytics System (SAS) model and will go for inbound sales rather than door-to-door sales of the product.