Published: 27th July 2021
Here's how educator Gaurav Garg's start-up StudyIQ grabbed YouTube's Diamond Play Button
With over 10 million subscribers for which they recently won the Diamond Play Button Award, Study IQ has been offering entrance exams training online since way before the pandemic
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Now, here's a proverb that pretty much sums up what the last year and a half has been like. The pandemic-induced lockdowns have shut down almost everything physical, including physical classes for competitive exam coaching. While most coaching centres simply went online and continued classes there, some rocked the virtual world with their content and became quick favourites in the space.
With over 10 million subscribers for which they recently won the Diamond Play Button Award, Study IQ has been offering entrance exams training online since way before the pandemic. We talk to Dr Gaurav Garg, co-founder of this platform that reaches students even across small towns and remote villages, to discover their journey since their inception, how they've adapted during the pandemic and their recent accomplishment of crossing 10 million subscribers on YouTube. Excerpts from a detailed interview with Dr Garg:
Tell us what your journey has been like.
I have a diverse background in terms of my career. I did my bachelor's degree in dental surgery from Kasturba Medical College and then my MBA from the Mudra Institute of Communications in Ahmedabad. Following that, I got a job through college placements but I resigned to pursue my passion, which was teaching. I decided to take a leap of faith and just do something of my own, so I returned to Gurugram, my hometown.
I have always been fascinated by the world of teaching. I used to teach my friends back in college. After quitting my job, I did a few teachings gigs here and there in 2014. By December 2014, my friend Abhishek Jain and I started a very small coaching institute in Lajpat Nagar in Delhi. We started by helping students with banking exam preparations. We wanted to enter a market that had not yet been tapped into by others. While I used to teach General knowledge, Current Affairs and English, Abhishek used to teach maths. It was cost-effective as we did not need to hire teachers back then. Our revenue was fine as long as we got seven to eight students every month. Within five months, we opened another institute in Patel Nagar, Delhi.
When did you take Study IQ online?
We always believed that online is where the real game is at. We started our YouTube channel on June 22, 2015, and initially, the purpose was to attract more students to in-person classes. We generated a lot of interest and received phone calls, several of them from across the country. People wanted to study with Study IQ but coming to Delhi wasn't feasible because of additional living expenses. We realised soon that the landscape was shifting fast and the response we got online was really huge. We completely shifted online around mid-2016. Since then, we've amassed over 10 million subscribers and we've been awarded the Diamond Play Button for this achievement. We're truly humbled.
Did your viewership change after the pandemic and the lockdowns?
When people were forced to stay indoors, they needed to pass their time so there was a slight increase in viewership. Our channel is not only restricted to academic content but many watch our content to stay updated in general. Although, I won't go so far as to attribute the rise in viewership only to the pandemic. Our viewership doubled when the Israel-Palestine issue was at its peak this year, which is when we touched 85 million views because people wanted to know more about it. Our content on the Israel-Palestine conflict really went viral then. We have been growing for the last few years and, on average, we get about two and a half million views a day.
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Did your team experience professional hurdles during the pandemic?
We have 15 full-time YouTube creators but we have a staff of 115 people. Everyone has their own pace and the frequency at which they upload videos depends on the difficulty of the subject. Teachers on our platform have been working from home for a while now. It wasn't as difficult for our teachers to adjust to the pandemic, at least on a professional level. We launched our mobile app around the time the pandemic hit and it tripled our revenue. So, the financial year 2020-21 was the most productive year for the company.
Study IQ's faculty Supriya Singhal has cracked #Rajasthan Civil Services (RAS) exam and she has secured Rank 422.— Dr Gaurav Garg (@DrGauravGarg4) July 21, 2021
We are very proud of her.
She has created many courses for us like NCERT Economy and also worked for 2 years on UPSC IQ magazine. #RAS #RAS2018 pic.twitter.com/gHH59Aw22a
How do you ensure objectivity and a balanced perspective when covering an issue?
I am responsible for ensuring that whatever we put out is neutral and balanced. We mentor our teachers and these things take their own time. We tell them not to bring ideologies into the lectures. Objectivity is required in all your government exams and we upload videos explaining both sides on a particular topic. Besides, the audience is very smart. If we cater to only one side of a topic, they will realise quickly and perhaps not watch our content. If I name a news channel and ask people about it, they will immediately tell me which side it is on. So, the audience is very smart. We have been successful and trustworthy because we have been very objective.
Do people reach out to you with their success stories?
We have thousands of people who reach out to us with their success stories. We receive at least 5-10 emails a day, and our mailbox is flooded on the day of results. I recently received an email from one of our viewers telling us how our videos helped him crack the Rajasthan Administrative Service exam. Every story is extremely inspiring, it is satisfying to know that we are changing someone's life by helping them achieve their objectives. Most of our content is free but we also have paid content for a sustainable revenue model. We put out current affairs videos in the public domain but we keep subjects like History behind the paywall, We upload approximately 1,000 videos a month.
Reach out to them on their official YouTube Study IQ education channel here: https://bit.ly/3zIh8iT