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In India’s high stakes test-prep sector, in-person learning is taking on digital’s might.

Dubai: Online teaching portals and apps have their uses, but nothing beats old-fashioned hands-on in-person coaching methods. That’s according to one of the biggest names in India’s ultra-competitive education space.

“Apps don’t have the same rigour for the kind of preparation needed by students,” said Keshav Maheshwari, Managing Director of Allen Overseas, which earlier this year got a $600 million boost from Bodhi Tree Systems, backed by James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and Uday Shankar, former head of Star and Disney India.

These are high stakes involved for the students attending these classes, and as such, offline learning should be prioritized.

- Keshav Maheshwari of Allen Overseas

Allen Career Institute sure is sticking by the words, with 180 locations in 42 cities within India. And recently, it made the first overseas move, into the UAE, with five locations. These centres take on coaching for students from grades 6-12, and helping the senior ones with STEM aspirations to get through engineering or medicine courses.

The Murdoch-Shanker funding will be used for further centres, 230 in 65 Indian cities and 45 centres in 18 cities within the Gulf.

India’s outside-of-school coaching has been in the global investor spotlight through these two to three years. Byju’s is an obvious one, with its focus on learning via apps. (These days, the app has extended its user base to cater to the very young too.)

Build up the portfolio

Allen Career Institute too has plans to broaden its base – but at a more advanced end of the education spectrum. “We will definitely get there, offer TOFEL and profile-building support for candidates,” said Maheshwari. “This is something we have had discussions about, probably it will take a year for it be implemented.”

On whether the company will go all in for in-person classes or choose hybrid, the official said: “In what we offer, there will be a big chunk of digital capabilities, and includes hiring top talent,” said Maheshwari. “This is where the Bodhi Tree funds help.

“We are not in this to be unicorns (startups with $1 billion valuations). We have a serious business model that caters to constant demand for better and direct coaching support.”

On whether there could be an IPO in the near horizon, he said: “Based on the business requirements, there might be another round. For now, we are running at positive EBITDA. And there will be no talk of an IPO for the next three years.”

Allen’s got the track-record
Allen Career Institute might have hit the investor spotlight after Bodhi Tree confirmed a $600 million investment. But the company is no newly emerged startup. It was founded by Rajesh Maheshwari in 1988 and has tutored 2.5 million students since.

Bodhi Tree Systems was launched by James Murdoch and Uday Shankar and also has the Qatar wealth fund as an investor.