Sirif Rusian Fikry was just 15 years old when he started college at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), where he majored in electrical engineering. Subsequently, the Ph.D. Candidate at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He met an old friend, Mohammad Iksan, who was pursuing his doctorate in Singapore. in the city-state and the two launched an educational YouTube channel in 2016 called Hujan Tanda Tanya.
“We created content around popular science-related topics in a random and interactive way. As Ph.D. candidates, we were forced to take teaching classes, so we wanted to practice our teaching skills on the channel. The channel grew so fast, we won YouTube NextUp Indonesia in 2017,” said Fikri. CASIA.
The videos received many comments from students. Fekri said many of them were able to understand basic sciences better at Hujan Tanda Tanya than at school, why Indonesia is prone to earthquakes, or how machine learning works, and more. Students started asking for some topics to discuss especially during exam season.
“From there, we realized that there was great value in combining science, teaching and filmmaking to help students better understand the subject,” he said.
Back in Indonesia, Fikiri and Iksan meet a friend from college named Adriana Albert, a game designer who owns a boutique game studio in the West Java city of Bandung. In the year In 2018, they decided to found an education technology startup called Pahamifi.
The startup’s mission is to improve students’ performance in school through educational videos, live tutorials and test preparation. He also wants to help students fulfill their potential by finding the joy of learning, Fikiri said. “I eventually dropped out of my Ph.D. Because he showed great interest in teaching program and this startup,” he added.
As an online learning platform for K-12 students covering science and social studies, Pahamify has four key products. Live practice tests for Indonesian national exams; Question banks; Live teaching sessions; and online learning content with videos, quizzes, flashcards and more. What sets the startup apart from the competition is the inclusion of animation and gamification for a more engaging learning experience, Fikry said.
“All of our content is produced in-house, and follows the standard Indonesian curriculum,” he continued.
Pahamify’s user base grew fifty-fold in 2020, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced young people to study from home. The number of paid subscribers increased tenfold compared to the same period in 2019.
Pahamify uses a freemium model with various subscription options. Users can enjoy a selection of videos for free, but must subscribe to access the full library as well as live practice tests. A one-time live practice test session costs IDR 20,000 (USD 1.40), while users can enjoy a full-year package for IDR 40,000 (USD 2.82) for a one-month subscription or IDR 400,000 (USD 28.24).
During the outbreak, the platform has been offering various promotions and discounts, which has contributed to the increase in the number of users, Fikiri explained.
Fikri added that one of the current challenges for the edtech platform is convincing parents to switch from offline to online education. “Parents are willing to pay for offline tutoring which is very expensive, often more than 15 million birr (US$1,059) per year. But when it comes to online tutoring, they are more hesitant to spend money. So getting paid subscribers is still a challenge and there is some way to change this mindset. I think it will take time.
Pahamifi was part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2020 cohort. It raised undisclosed Series A funding in November from investors including Shuway Capital, Insignia Venture Partners and Lien Family Office. The company will use the new investment to expand its content library and increase its headcount, especially in the content and technology sectors, said Fikri.
Going forward, Pahamifi is looking at a new group of students. “While we are currently focusing on high schools, we receive many inquiries from elementary and high school students. This shows that many children enjoy our content even if they are not yet our target audience.
Although Pahamifi competes with mature players in the industry such as Ruangguru and Zenius, Fikiri believes that the edtech revolution has just begun in Indonesia. Currently, with the increasing unemployment rate in Indonesia, there is an opportunity to expand the content to other areas, including vocational training of professionals. “Edtech has a broad spectrum and we are exploring many opportunities in online education.”
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where KrASIA writers talk to founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.