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Why this education administrator felt the need to start a campus automation platform

As a student, later a visiting faculty, and an administrator, Hemant Sahal found one major gap in the education sector — the communication and collaboration systems are highly paper-driven, which directly impacts teaching and learning. 

This led Hemant to start Bengaluru-based CollPoll in 2013. However, since 2018, it has expanded to end-to-end automation of institutions far beyond the traditional ERPs.

“From booking a taxi to shopping, to even finding a life partner, technology today is playing a role that is indistinguishable from magic. However, we are still stuck in an era of pen and paper and browsers for communication and collaboration in educational institutions. At CollPoll, we are changing this, one institute at a time,” Hemant tells YourStory.

On Thursday, the mobile-first campus automation platform said it raised Rs 16 crore from Prime Venture Partners and will use the fresh capital to enhance its platform, hire across functions, and help institutions adopt technology to provide education that equips students for the future of work. 

So far, CollPoll has raised around Rs 26 crore.

Hemant had started his first venture when he was in his second year of college in 2009, which was showcased as top 50 student startups at NYSE. Before starting CollPoll, he worked with Manipal Global, World Bank, and Adianta School for Leadership and Innovation.

What does it do? 

CollPoll helps educational institutions digitise all academic and administrative operations to manage rising complexity, competition, and digital compliance. The startup’s platform enables educational institutions to go digital by automating all their key administrative and academic functions. 

It offers ERP for administration, a learning management system with video conferencing integration, AI-proctored examinations, a no-code business process automation engine for contactless and paperless campuses, and a campus social network for digital engagement. 

Hemant says, “Today’s Gen-Z students and the upcoming Gen-Alpha kids are digital natives and far more technically savvy than any generation previously and expect a similar experience in a campus environment. The industry is driven to transform to keep up with student expectations on access to resources, and how they choose to communicate with their educators and peers.”

He adds, “CollPoll is betting big on this change and will continue to invest substantially on this platform, which promises to offer a system of record, engagement, and intelligence to institutions so they can focus on more value-added student-facing activities.”

How has the platform transformed?

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, when all the institutions had to close their physical campuses, CollPoll helped them to move thousands of students and teachers to adopt a virtual learning environment by providing a learning management system that integrates video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meet and engages students via live quizzes, discussion forums, and polls. 

CollPoll’s platform offers a comprehensive learning suite — an academic management system (programme master, course catalogue, scheduling, attendance manager, outcome-based education), learning management system (session plans, assignments, quizzes, discussions, e-resources), and examination management (schemas, enrolment, grade sheets, AI-proctored tests). 

The startup also allows faculty members, administrators, and parents to customise various kinds of approvals, applications, requests, grievances, and bookings without any additional cost.

In fact, it also features direct messaging, campus social networks, E-notices, event management, polls, and surveys for students. 

Speaking on the funding into CollPoll, Amit Somani, Managing Partner, Prime Venture Partners, said,

“We believe India’s digital adoption is accelerating. Indian consumers have adopted the internet and technology-based solutions en-masse. Students, arguably the most Avant guard on the adoption curve, now expect education institutions to deliver great experiences.” 

He added, “Likewise, businesses like education institutions, need to rapidly deploy technology to provide a great customer experience to the students, along with improving effectiveness and efficiency by using modern SaaS technology. CollPoll provides both and is at the beginning of a mega, long-term trend.”

The tie-ups and setting up the team

CollPoll has partnered with over 40 educational institutions with more than 100,000 users and is planning to add 300 more institutions with over half a million users by the end of 2022.

Its users are spread across India, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia and include reputed educational institutions such as OP Jindal Global University, Ashoka University, Manipal University – Dubai and Malaysia, Chitkara University, and Jagran Lakecity University, among others. 

The startup has a team of 40 members. The core founding team comprises Siddharth Das, who leads engineering, and Sanjeev Gupta, who heads design.

Amit says, “The team stood out as having a maniacal focus on solving customer problems using product and technology thinking. They have evolved from being a student engagement platform to becoming the “Operating System” for running the institute or the university. They are a mission-critical part of the university’s operation, and hence will continue to be critical and growing partners for years to come.” 

It took CollPoll’s team over three years to build the product to reach this scale. Hemant adds that the startup has invested substantially in research to come up with scalable solutions, which can cater to all kinds and sizes of institutions.

It competes with startups like eduTinker, eduMarshal, mPowerO, Fedena, Google Classroom, and others in this space.

Speaking of the market, Amit says, “Software has eaten the world. It was imperative to adopt software years ago. Now, the market is demanding automation, AI integrations, open APIs, and mobile-first customer experiences. Any education institutes that do not provide a state-of-the-art “Digital Campus” experience will be left behind over the next decade.”

CollPoll now aims to be the market leader in India with 300+ institutions (around 500,000 students). The team is hiring across functions and will continue to invest in product-led growth.

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