Dubai: Startup builds world’s largest community of private tutors, teaches 60,000 students around the world

Imbesat Ahmad, CEO of world’s only live tutoring platform Filo, recounts his incredible journey as the game-changing start-up debuts in the region



Representational image
Representational image
by

Mazhar Farooqui

Published: Fri 10 Jun 2022, 10:17 PM

Last updated: Sat 11 Jun 2022, 9:18 AM

Imbesat Ahmad has enjoyed teaching for as long as he could remember. As a child, he would hold mock classes in his modest house in Patna in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

When he went to college in 2010, he kept his passion alive by teaching students during semester breaks.

Today, the 30-year-old tutors over 60,000 students across 15 countries daily. And he performs this seemingly impossible task through a game-changing edutech app called Filo which he co-founded with fellow Indians Shadman Anwer and Rohit Kumar during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in November 2020.

The app connects students with live expert tutors in less than 60 seconds over a video call.

Terrific trio

All three founders of Filo are alumni of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) that has produced the likes of Twitter CEO Parag Agarwal, Google chief Sundar Pichai, Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen, Micron Technology’s Nikesh Arora and Sun Microsystems’ Vinod Khosla.

Ahmad, who has moved to Dubai to expand the startup’s reach, said they are nowhere close to the tech titans from their Alma Mater, but they are certainly on course to change the face of education by bringing the power of one-to-one high frequency learning to students.

The optimism is not misplaced. Already, Filo has 50,000 tutors available round the clock, making it the world’s largest community of private tutors. Between them, they conduct over 60,000 daily learning sessions across 10 curriculums in more than 30 subjects for 1.7 million students globally.

Earlier this year, Filo, which means friend in Greek, racked up $23 million in a Series A funding round led by Anthos Capital.

The disruptive instant live tutoring app is now ranked among the top five education apps on Google Playstore in the UAE. “This is a significant achievement considering we made a foray into the region barely three months ago with Filo Dubai as our regional headquarter,” said Ahmad, the CEO of the company.

He said they hope to play a vital role in the region by preparing students for competitive exams like SAT, ACT, A level, JEE, and NEET, while also solving their queries, clearing concepts, providing career counselling and conducting customised one-on-one sessions. Of late, Filo has also started catering to students across major curricula like IGCSE, IB, American, and CBSE education boards,

Ahmed said he decided to come up with the app while conducting educational workshops in remote villages across India with government and non-governmental organisations.

Life lessons

“From conflict-ridden Kashmir to Naxal-affected Bihar, a common theme stood out wherever I went: students were unable to grasp concepts or solve questions while studying in class. They would note down what was taught to them, but when they sat down for self-study and needed solutions in real-time, they had no one to turn to. The pandemic aggravated their problems as many educational online resources developed during that time came with expensive subscription fee, which many students couldn’t afford. It was this massive white space in learning that we wanted to bridge using innovation and technology,” he said.

Of course, Ahmed, was no greenhorn when it came to running an educational platform, having previously co-founded RISE, an acclaimed educational institute in Jammu and Kashmir which has been instrumental in getting scores of underprivileged students from the region land in IITs and IVY league colleges.

Ahmed, who himself cracked the IIT with the help of Rahmani 30, an educational programme for Indian Muslims, claims to have personally taught and mentored more than 25,000 students of whom over 500 have made it to premium institutes from IITs and NITs to Princeton, University of Penn., Purdue, and NYU among others.

For his efforts, Ahmad has been awarded the mBillionth Award, South Asia and Manthan South Asia Award.

Instant solutions

Shadman Anwer, Filo’s chief technology officer (CTO) said what that sets their app apart is its ability to connect millions of students with thousands of available tutors in real time using sophisticated machine learning algorithms based on students’ requirements, the learning sessions they had with tutors, analysis on feedback from both students and tutors, personalisation based on students’ aspirations, geography, peer-groups and more.

“Our systems are capable of handling thousands of classes simultaneously and can automatically scale to handle spikes in demand,” he said.

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Seasoned techie and chief product officer Rohit Kumar said their homegrown pedagogy model ensures that they always find the right tutor for a student without any human intervention.

We have restrained our baseline to the middle-eastern market. As the usage grows the matching adapts to the diverse requirements of the region,” he said.


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