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Q&A: Brainly Chief Product Officer, Rajesh Bysani, on growth in India, the impact of Covid on education and how students are staying on top

24 September 2020

Q&A: Brainly Chief Product Officer, Rajesh Bysani, on growth in India, the impact of Covid on education and how students are staying on top Tell us a little about Brainly in India – When did Brainly become available in India and what kind of growth have you experienced?
Brainly is the world’s largest online learning community for students, parents, and teachers. Since its founding in Poland in 2009, Brainly has united over 250 million monthly users across 35 countries. The Brainly community comprises more than 25 million users from India alone. We entered the Indian market in 2016 and have seen almost 100% Y-o-Y growth to date. 
However, just like our unique learning model, we also see ‘growth’ differently. As a Chief Product Officer, I believe that you truly grow when people see value in your product. We have a comprehensive approach, so we look at our growth metrics, be it personal or professional, from a broader perspective and beyond just financial figures. User engagement is also a key attribute and so is retention. Both of these attributes require a tailored approach for each and every user.
The expansion of our knowledge base to the regional languages becomes a logical step in this case. Our content is available in Hindi, Sanskrit, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Gujarati, Kannada, and Bengali, something that has made it accessible for a wider audience. We are helping students with their academic problems, facilitating knowledge sharing between users, and strengthening the sentiment of problem-solving, all for free. 
Looking at the pandemic, what are the biggest impacts it is having on teachers and their pupils in India?
Again, I would say ‘impact’ is a deep concept that can't be assessed in simplistic figures. The results could show up immediately or it may do so in the longer run. The pandemic has introduced several challenges for the community as the traditional classroom is no longer available. I prefer looking at the brighter side of things and the same holds for the pandemic as well. It has changed people’s perception of technology and led to higher adoption. In other words, it has simply leapfrogged the market to where it would have been in the coming 5 years, perhaps, even more.
In India, I believe that challenge has multiple layers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been listening closely to the feedback from students, parents, and teachers. We have seen that all of them have been challenged by the situation. In a lot of ways, teachers have become students themselves in order to learn and adapt to new measures. It gets difficult and challenging for them at times. So, we think that technology needs to be supportive of the teachers. At the same time, the parents also need to become both teachers and students in order to help their kids at home with learning. However, it may be hard for them to remember many key subjects. They themselves have to look for assistance, and that is why we are seeing a lot of parents becoming a part of the Brainly family. 
Ultimately, it is nice, organic interactions that we see at Brainly, wherein students, parents, and teachers help each other to learn and grow together. This is a kind of impact that simply stands out.
What are the biggest changes you are seeing in how Brainly is being used in India since the start of the pandemic?
In India, Brainly grew from 10 million to 20 million monthly users from 2018-19, seeing a 100% year-over-year increase. However, we saw a record-breaking increase in the number of Brainly  users during the pandemic. According to data released by SimilarWeb, Brainly registered the maximum website traffic in April with approximately 25  million visits. The sheer usability of the platform is what drove more users and fast-tracked our journey to 25 million Indian users in the month itself.
What is Brainly doing to support teachers and education delivery in India during the pandemic?
Teachers remain a vital part of the Brainly community. In the current situation, they should receive more appreciation and recognition than ever before from students and parents for their continuous efforts. This is the reason we are launching ‘Shikshak of the Year’ awards in India. During the pandemic, all teachers have left no stone unturned while training their students, even if it required them to go the extra mile and learn new ways of teaching. Recognizing them for their efforts in this difficult transition is the least that we can do. Shikshak of the Year awards honour all educators who have gone above and beyond the set standards to make a difference in the lives of their students. Lastly, Brainly is helping support teachers and education delivery in India during the pandemic by providing a safe online community where students can ask and answer tough homework questions, helping take some of the burden off of teachers who are often burning the midnight oil to offer extra support to students so they don’t fall behind. 
What are the biggest impacts of COVID-19 on education delivery around the world, and do you think there will be lasting impacts from the pandemic?
Ask any teacher, student, administrator, or parent of school-aged kids, and they'll tell you that school looks very different now than it did at the beginning of the year. The impact of COVID-19 on education systems around the world has been stark. Millions of students traded classrooms for Zoom chats, and educators at nearly every level are attempting to adapt to a completely new way of educating young people. 
Once the effects of the pandemic begin to subside and we get back to ‘normal’, educators will be left with a lot of new information to absorb about the effectiveness of online education curriculum and the various tools that go along with it. 
Already seen as a major trend even before the pandemic, online learning tools and tactics, while not perfectly operationalized yet, have shown to be effective at increasing lesson retention and to provide flexibility for students to learn at a pace more efficient for them on an individual basis. Look to see these practices integrated into traditional in-classroom learning in a bigger way than ever before. 
Additionally, it’s logical to predict that digital citizenship will become a priority subject. Much in the way we currently teach civics and social studies lessons to inform children how to be engaged citizens in the real world, they will also have to be taught how to be engaged citizens in the digital world. 
Have people been using Brainly differently throughout the pandemic globally and if so, how might that impact what Brainly offers now and in the future?
Our use case was already extremely relatable for almost every human being. After all, how has never got stuck while studying at home? Most of us experience that feeling of frustrations and helplessness twice in our lives - as students, and then later, as parents. During the pandemic and the lockdown of schools, almost the entire learning process was forced to move from school to our homes. All school work became homework, parents needed to become teachers, teachers had to learn new things and students found that they can be both. They started supporting each other in learning by helping their siblings out, calling friends, and using platforms like Brainly.
Over the last few months, kids and teens also haven’t had traditional school responsibilities or access to extracurricular activities and summer social opportunities, and Brainly has proven to be an excellent tool for them to socialize while also getting the right help. On Brainly, because of our gamification system and the way the platform functions, the way to build your credibility or even swag, is your knowledge and skills and how you share them with the community. People come to Brainly because they are stuck, but they stay for years because they find extraordinary motivation and drive in collaborating with others. And of course, we love education and how it opens new doors for so many people around the globe.

Embracing a hybrid on-and-offline education programs will mean introducing educational resources not available in the classroom. Online tools like Brainly, which offer supplemental instruction options will continue to work hand-in-hand with traditional classroom curriculum. 
Are you seeing different dynamics across geographies regarding how students use Brainly? If so, what are the most notable differences, and what are you seeing that is consistent across the globe?
Something that is consistent across the globe is that offline learning is very important. We’ve seen now how quickly some elements of learning moved successfully to online, but we’ve also seen struggles. Students who meet their peers in real life establish relationships, they learn how to function with others and bond. In addition, online learning can make the experience more personalized and meaningful for each student. That is why we believe that the future belongs to hybrid learning. 

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