The LearnApp team is based out of New Delhi and has turned a profit in just two years. (HT PHOTO)
The LearnApp team is based out of New Delhi and has turned a profit in just two years. (HT PHOTO)

Startup mantra: Punekars stock-up on share market lessons

LearnApp is a subscription-based online financial education platform, that has 0.5 million Pune residents registered- most of them women. The online education startup has seen a huge surge in first-time investors
By Salil Urunkar
PUBLISHED ON MAY 02, 2021 04:10 PM IST

When the national lockdown was announced last year in March, everyone was figuring out the best way to “spend” their time.

Counting the actual number of chips in a packets; count the words repeated in a song… but, there were others who tried to start “earning” with the extra time during the lockdown.

Most searched for information available online related to investing and trading. It was a strange coincidence that when the wheels of the economy had stopped moving, the stock markets were going through the roof.

The common man could not understand this irony and many thought it was just a bubble created by some crazy investors.

However, one year down the line, it has now been established with data and statistics that even during the harshest lockdown, common people overcame the “market-fear” and were willing to invest money and trade online. One such trend has also been highlighted by subscription-based online financial education platform

The online education start-up founded by Prateek Singh has seen a huge surge in first-time investors who have subscribed to learn about trading and investing.

0.15 million Puneites registered for a variety of courses in the one year of the pandemic, 2020-21, on the platform.

This is 2x higher than the subscribers from Mumbai. Their data also reveals that 8 per cent of these subscribers are women, aged between 25-34 years of age. While the world was crippled with financial insecurities, first-time investors from Pune saw this as an opportunity to learn something new and grow.

In the beginning...

Singh says, “In the summer of 2007, I had my first tryst with the whole concept of trading. My father opened a Demat account for me, and my first trade was in a company called Milk Food. That was followed by the global market crash of 2008 and from there on, it took me about six years to achieve profitability consistently. Ideally, it shouldn’t have taken that long, but the reality was there weren’t any resources to learn from for a new market participant. I had to make those mistakes and learn from them.”

“Not only was I passionate about trading, but I also wanted to build a platform where people can learn from my experience. I founded a start-up called Market Scientist in 2014, with the idea of creating videos and blogs teaching personal finance, business, investing and trading. There were a bunch of people who thought videos will never work. As an entrepreneur, I wanted to build something and measure the results with real users, rather than spend my time listening to opinions. I moved on from Market Scientist and decided to launch LearnApp in 2018 with Ankush Oberoi, Swati Sharma and Sohail Alam.”

Lockdown experience

When the lockdown was announced, people had more time since they were working from home, and at the same time, there was a lot of activity in the stock market as well. Says Singh, “This is where we saw two changes in customer behaviour - first, online became an acceptable mode of learning; second, online webinars became an extended form of learning. We were already leaders in the financial space and with the help of these two, we were able to reach more people.”

“In the initial days of the lockdown we saw a spike in users, but the same users didn’t stay with us by end of April. To be honest, until last year there were several small issues that needed to be fixed because of which we saw lower completion rates. We had to fix that, and the only way we could that was by speaking to each of our users by taking their feedback and iterating each of our courses. It took us a while to fix these bugs, but as soon as they were fixed, our completion rates went from less than 30 per cent to over 50 per cent.”

Explaining further, he says, “Our yearly subscription model also helped increase the completion rate and acquire new subscribers during the lockdown. Users had more time to explore the platform and they began to love the content we were creating, giving us a great completion rate. Many new users who were looking forward to learning about markets reached out to LearnApp and took their first online course with us.”

Taking care of his team was also a priority for Singh. He said, “The environment in March 2020 was uncertain and a lot of businesses were shutting down. To make sure our teammates do not have to worry about their jobs we started paying salaries two days early and offered micro-loans if someone needed help in their family. This really helped build trust and remove uncertainties that they may have had about their future. In the end, it is the team and the consumers, and catering to them is what kept the business afloat even in the worst of the crisis.”

Millenial Money: a global trend

According to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) data, new dematerialised or demat account additions rose to an all-time high of 10.7 million between April 2020 and April 2021. This is an increase of 2x in new demat accounts opened in FY20-21. Interestingly, not only has there been a surge in the first-time users, global data trends have also shown that in the post pandemic world, younger or millennial investors in India have started opening demat accounts to start trading, in sync with the global trend.

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