GUVI uses the vernacular to bring coding to everyone
Chennai: Mrugan, the son of a day laborer and a graduate of a government college in Tamil Nadu, had an aptitude for technology but struggled with coding as he did not speak English. He then came across GUVI, an edtech startup that teaches coding in regional languages. It changed his life. He first landed a job at a tech company in Chennai, then in Bengaluru, and is now in Silicon Valley.
GUVI was founded by Arun Prakash, a graduate of a municipal level 2 college in Madurai. When he returned to his alma mater as a successful software engineer after a decade, he found the students’ employability skills questionable.
“Technology is not easy on its own and when people learn it in English it is all the more daunting. I could see the gap between academia and industry there,” says Prakash.
His YouTube tutorial on coding in ‘Tanglish’ (Tamil + English) had reached a million views within a month and it was all the validation Prakash needed to start GUVI in 2014 with his wife Sridevi and friend Bala Murugan.
GUVI’s platform offers live and self-paced courses on C++, Java, Python, big data, machine learning and R programming in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Bengali and Kannada. Providing training in regional languages and at affordable prices, it has reached more than 1.5 million learners, of whom nearly 60 to 70% learn in
Tamil. “Being incubated at IIT-Madras Rural Technology Business Incubator in 2014 was our first win and it has been a roller coaster ride ever since,” he says.
While it was difficult to close sales with colleges and companies at first, the December 2015 floods in Chennai completely destroyed the sales channel. They couldn’t even pay salaries for a few months. Just as they were stabilizing after the shock, the pandemic hit – a disaster that affected both the business and the lives of the entrepreneurs. The team lost co-founder Sridevi to Covid-19, dealing a crushing personal and professional blow. “Sridevi was the genius in operations and it was pretty awful for a few months. We literally rose from the ashes,” says Prakash.
From that low point, GUVI is now a cash-flow-positive startup that declines takeover requests from edtech majors. In addition to reaching learners directly, it also connects with businesses today, allowing them to tap into the GUVI pool for their hiring and training needs.
From three people in 2014, the startup now has more than 110 employees. He has raised over $1 million from US venture capital firm Gray Matter Capital and others. It was also supported by Google’s Launchpad Accelerator program in 2017.
GUVI also recently partnered with AICTE to provide free Python and AI lessons to over a million underprivileged students and in local languages, as part of the National Alliance for Education. for technology (NEAT 3.0) from the government.
“We haven’t even reached 10% of our vision and want to impact the lives of over five million students next year,” says Prakash.