Transfer of knowledge has been the top priority for civilizations since the very beginning. As time and lifestyle changed, we also changed the way we used to transfer our knowledge to the next generation and started an education system.
The way used to learn in our classrooms has completely changed and that change is technology. Technologies like VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) seem to be the natural next step for the evolution of education.
In our move in the search of technology companies working in the field of education, we had a chance to interact with Vijay Thakkar and Mayur Patel, founders of FotonVR, a virtual reality company working in the field of Education. Here are the excerpts.
1. Why was the startup founded? What problem of society did you want to solve?
When kids are learning science in a traditional way, teacher teaches them a concept with the textbook and utilizing White-board or Smartboard, but as we know science is a subject of full of adventure and experiments, with traditional learning system it is not possible for schools and teachers to conduct all the experiments as it is not affordable as well as safe for students..! Because of that, they teach most of all fundamentals of science verbally and students used to mug up the concepts. When children needed the fundamentals of science in higher education, at that time normally they forget the concepts as they mugged up at that time. Due to that, they lose interest in science. To eliminate this we have started fotonVR, which gives a facility to learn with practical experiments in the virtual world, explains science activities in 3D, 360-degree environment with adding fun into it. It increases students’ interest, creativity and engagement in learning.
2. Who are your competitors? How are you competing with them?
Our competitors are classVR, MEL chemistry and Google Expeditions. We provide content aligned with school syllabus that covers all science activities for the age group 8 to 15 whereas other companies are providing content as an add on.
Our competitors do provide content based on 360-degree images and some do have 360-degree videos but we are providing content in 3D, 360-degree animated walkthrough interactive activities which give a feeling of the actual environment of that activity..! We have built a library of learning 530+ concepts in VR, which is almost the biggest VR learning library.
3. When was it founded? Where is it based out of?
We established it in December 2017. We are located at Ganpat University incubation centre – Gujarat, India. The university is giant and has 12000+ students as well as more than 400+ great teachers, due to this it would be better to develop products which exactly need students and teachers. We can take a review and survey immediately with the help of them.
4. The founding team and background of the founders.
We are a big team of educators, enimetors, 3d artists, business developers including 4 founding members, Vijay Thakkar, Mayur Patel, Mehul Patel and Dhaval Sonpal.
Vijay Thakkar graduated in Instrumentation Engineering, in 2004. Started career with educational institute. Later he founded Kachhua, an Edtech startup. He has wide experience of 16 years in the education field, and he is known for effective marketing strategy and international collaboration. He always looks for solutions for education in technology. Currently, he serves as VP of business of the company.
Mayur Patel graduated in Aircraft maintenance engineering. He has a great knowledge of designing and business management. He has gained rich experience in Outsourcing, Teamwork and Marketing Strategy. Currently, he serves as VP of operation of fotonvr.
Mehul Patel graduated in Aircraft maintenance engineering. He is a creative, passionate and dedicated personality. He manages all technical development for fotonvr. He learns and teaches all the technologies in no time. Currently, he serves as VP of Technology of fotonvr.
Dhaval Sonpal Has graduated in commerce in 2004. Then he Joined SVIMS with Vijay and provided valuable leadership for 8 years. Now he has joined fotonvr. He has strong skills in finance, cost management, teaching, and management and he is a strategic planner. He is VP of Finance of fotonvr.
5. How do the founders meet each other?
Vijay and Dhaval are brothers and managed an educational institute where Mayur and Mehul (also siblings) were students. Later on, they became friends and started a business together.
6. How did this idea of the startup pop up? What was the inspiration behind this idea?
We all four friends love to do science experiments, we realized that in school, we were not given good exposure to it, even nowadays there isn’t a good science laboratory and apparatus in schools. When we read the first blog about virtual reality, we came to know that this technology can solve this real problem of students. Providing education in virtual reality could be cost effective and interesting.
7. Why this name?
The meaning of Photon is a particle representing a quantum of light or other electromagnetic radiation which is primarily related to science and initially, we have created content for science. Apart from this A photon carries energy proportional to the radiation frequency but has zero rest mass with this we aimed that we will provide a kind of education which brings light to all students’ life without the burden of study by adding fun into the learning. So we chose the name fotonVR which has the same pronunciation as Photon.
8. How exactly does the operational model work?
We are a combination of subject matter experts, technical experts, animators, 3d object designers, VFX exerts, programmers and market researcher experts with the Business development team. So we do have a complete package in all segments, with the help of the core team it’s easier and manageable to create this amazing solution in education for children..!! Content designer drafts the story for science activities, the technical team designs virtual worlds and objects for it, and the 3D designer team creates animation, and makes it ready for the testing team. After testing it’s ready for usage..!
9. What are your products or services?
- We are having a solution for school which is VR Classroom/lab and another solution is
- individual student kit.
For school, we provide a turnkey solution that includes
- Complete classroom setup,
- Training for teachers.
Teachers train using tablets whereas students use HMD VR, teachers can manage and monitor students in realtime.
For an individual student, a parent can place an order of a VR device with content, we ship VR with content for school education for CBSE and ICSE syllabus. At home students study using virtual learning tours, and science experiments using fotonvr.
In our survey and feedback we have found that, fotonvr is helping students to increase their interest in science subjects, it is helping them to understand complex topics, it makes them more creative and expand their knowledge.
10. Tell us about your target audience. How did you acquire its first set of customers/ clients? Name a few clients.
There are more than 25 crore students learning in 14 lakhs schools in India. Government and self-financed schools are taking an interest in our product. Each parent wants to give practical learning facilities to their child.
Our content is built to align with international standards, and we are expanding our sales reach in 40 countries of America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
11. What are the funding details? Do you have any plans to raise funding in the future?
We have received seed funding from Ganpat Biznovation. We are planning for pre-series A funding.
12. How is the market space like? (Market data)
The education sector in India is estimated at US$ 91.7 billion in FY18 and is expected to reach US$ 101.1 billion in FY19. The country has become the second-largest market for e-learning after the US.
14. What and how are the challenges so far? How did you overcome them?
We faced many challenges as we were working on a completely newly introduced technology. It was tough for understanding teachers and students requirements. Our other challenges are initial organization setup, preparing the team, selection of appropriate hardware, searching for the perfect candidate and multi-language content requirement. To build a perfect team, we have started an in-house training program for freshers for novel technologies.
15. Tell us about the other players in the market.
ClassVR, MEL chemistry and Google expenditure are also working on VR Education. They are providing content as an add on like science-based movies on any random topics chosen by them. Activities are based on 360-degree images and some do have 360-degree videos.
16. Any interesting or memorable incidents or experiences along the journey.
Yes, We do have some memorable incidents. We would like to describe one among them, Once we have visited school of deaf and dumb children and give them the opportunity to learn in virtual reality. I can’t describe their feelings and emotion in words. They were trying to touch the objects and enjoying virtual tours..!! Teachers said due to the safety issues we can not take those children for trips but using VR they can visit water spots, industries, human body structure tours to land on the moon..!! At that time we realised that we have not created a product only but we have created values..! The other one is, We have recently been honoured with a very prestigious award from the National Conference on E-Governance of India. In that from the entire India, only 3 startups were awarded and we were one among them, It was a very proud moment for team FotonVR. In 2018 we were awarded as the best startup of Gujarat, by the CM of the state.