Shikho: Edtech Startup Democratizing Education for Bangladesh

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Traditional teaching systems and old-school pedagogy are being transformed by education technology (ed-tech) companies globally. The Bangladeshi startup landscape is no different and a handful of ed-techs are working to transform the learning opportunities available for Bangladeshi students. 

Shikho, founded by Shahir Chowdhury in 2019 is one of the leading faces for ed-tech startups in Bangladesh. Shahir is a CFA charterholder with 11 years of experience in financial services in London. He started his career at Barclays before moving to HSBC as a Director in their UK Private Bank. Shahir comes from a family of educators and is a strong believer in education being the foundation for empowerment and development of societies. After 16 years in the UK he returned to Bangladesh to found Shikho with a mission to democratize access to high-quality learning for students across Bangladesh.

Shikho’s Solution for Bangladeshi Students 

The Problem

Bangladesh has a population of 170 million people with 85 million below the age of 25 and therefore learning in some shape or form. Amongst this 85 million learning-age population there are 42 million students formally learning across primary, secondary and tertiary education institutes with Bengali as the main language for classroom instruction.

Although the country has a very large young population that is increasingly aspirational with greater levels of disposable income, the reality is, the rate of increase of the learning population has been far greater than the rate of increase of new qualified teachers in the system, leading to one of the worst student to teacher ratios in South East Asia (1:45). The situation is even more alarming outside of the larger urban metros. As such, the majority of the student population in the country does not have access to education opportunities which are currently only afforded to a few urban learners, and even if they did, a large number would not be able to afford it.

Shikho is fundamentally trying to solve this demand-supply mismatch by providing personalized digital learning programs in Bengali using the smartphone as the primary medium for dissemination. The company is building high-quality educational video, text and image based resources and bringing together the best instructors to beam across all 64 districts, removing geographical barriers. In addition to creating access, by building a scalable technology architecture the company is able to provide these services at very affordable prices that are within the financial means for the majority of the student population today.

Shikho's Full-Stack Digital Learning Solution

Shikho’s core mission is to democratize access to high-quality education. By delivering premium learning resources in Bengali via smartphones, Shikho seeks to empower millions of students with affordable and personalized learning experiences, which they can access anywhere and anytime.

The company is building a hyper-localized digital learning ecosystem centered on modernizing the delivery of supplementary education for school, college, university and young professionals. Combining expertise across content, instruction, media and technology the company’s products and solutions aim to make online learning accessible, enjoyable, engaging, and effective for a learning age population of 85 million Bengali speaking students.

The technology platform addresses each part of the Bangladeshi student journey — covering daily lessons, homework, exam-prep, tutoring, and skill development — in an affordable, convenient, and cohesive way. Shikho’s web and mobile applications include access to interactive live classes conducted by expert tutors, original animated video lessons that help visualize complex concepts, a vast library of in-app questions and solutions, personalized real-time performance tracking, and a recommendation engine that prompts users based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Shikho’s Milestones Since Inception

Shikho’s Business Traction

Shikho currently has over 2 million registered users on its platform and reaches 2.5 million monthly learners across their app and social media channels. Importantly, 65% of all registered users are from rural Bangladesh who have limited access to learning opportunities and resources.

The company is very proud to have learners in all 64 districts of the country including regular paid users from some of the most remote islands; Monpura, Hatia, Moheshkhali and Shondip and prides itself in the social impact the platform has had since its launch.  

Each paid learner currently uses the platform for 2 hours on average daily, indicating very strong product market fit. Alongside very positive customer feedback, Shikho has a 4.3 star rating on the Google Playstore and a Net Promoter Score of 63.  

They have built a deep and rich content library that boasts over 4,000 pre-recorded lessons, 5,000 original animated video lessons, 6,000 live classes, 3,000 tests and exams and 30,000 digital notes that provide the most comprehensive coverage of the SSC and HSC national board exam syllabus.

In the last 24 months the company has experienced rapid growth and scaled revenues by 45 times, with 32 percent of revenues in 2023 coming from repeat subscribers.

Shikho’s Investment Track Record 

Shikho was the very first company to raise institutional venture funding for education technology in Bangladesh in June 2020. It has since raised $6.5 million USD of global venture capital from Learn Capital, Wavemaker Partners, Anchorless Bangladesh, Sturgeon Capital, Goodwater Capital, DSG Consumer Partners, Black Kite Capital and strategic angels such as Ankur Nagpal (Founder of Teachable) and Julian Shapiro (Founder of Demand Curve). Sajida Foundation, a prominent local philanthropic institution also participated in its last round of equity funding. 

The company was featured in Forbes Asia 100 to Watch List in 2022 and its Founder, Shahir Chowdhury, was included in the Bloomberg 2023 list of New Economy Catalysts.

The Future: Re-learning the Approach to Learning with Shikho 

The company is now 350 strong and is therefore the first team of edtech professionals in the country that span departments such as academics, content production, engineering and product, sales and marketing, alongside head office functions.

As such, the company is now solely focussed on increasing its reach and distribution across the country. In 2022 the company launched the very first mass-awareness campaign for Bangladeshi ed-tech, called “Shikhbo, Jitbo”, featuring actor and father, Chanchal Chowdhury. 

It also partnered with Prothom Alo, the leading Bengali daily newspaper to re-launch the “GPA 5 Celebrations” for SSC examinees after an 8 year hiatus. The two month celebration marks the largest student event in the annual calendar with over 100,000 students and parents physically attending.

Shikho - Prothom Alo GPA 5 Celebrations at Dhaka, Fantasy Kingdom with 10,000 SSC Examinees
September 25, 2023

In 2023 the company partnered with Sajida Foundation to pioneer the launch of two hybrid learning centers in sub-urban Bangladesh, a first-of-its-kind. These centers included fully digitized classrooms that were powered by Shikho technology and are currently at full capacity. The company plans to expand this network of centers across all 64 districts of the country, and believes that omnichannel, hybrid learning to be the way forward.

As the “Shikho” brand becomes more commonplace across student and parent communities, the edtech platform can truly help redefine and revolutionize learning in Bangladesh.

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Shikho: Edtech Startup Democratizing Education for Bangladesh

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