Interview with Deepak Dargade, Co-Founder at ClassPro

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The Indian education industry is really soaring with tremendous pace and is currently valued at more than Rs 20000 crores. In spite of the large size and fierce competition in the industry it is still not pretty much organized and catering to the needs of this growing industry is a startup called Classpro. Classpro is India’s leading online software that helps in the seamless management of coaching classes. With 500+ coaching classes using it daily in 25+ cities across India and UAE, it is changing the way coaching classes manage their business.

Founded by Jayesh Gopalan, Vijay Surywanshi and Deepak Dargade to solve an internal problem faced by them while running a coaching institute for IT Graduates, Classpro is a web-based SaaS application that enables owners to manage their coaching classes with much ease and efficiency. The software does not require any installation and users can just sign-up to start using the application. Some of the many useful features of the software include managing student admissions, auto fees reminders, managing data of different branches, etc.

Let’s listen to the story behind this exciting startup from its co-founder, Deepak Dargade, himself.

Give us a snapshot of your professional journey till now.

I was introduced to computers and internet when I was in 9th standard. From then on I was fascinated by computers. I built my first computer in 10th standard. This lead me to join graduation courses in IT and that’s how I met with Jayesh and Vijay in College. After graduation, Vijay called me and Jayesh for a business Idea about secondfone.com. We were trying to build ebay for Mobile Phones. Later we ran into Financial issues, so we started with Software training to the fellow students of our college.

The secondfone did not get any traction, but we got started with the first version of Classpro to solve an internal problem that we faced while running the coaching classes. At that time, we applied to Morpheus Accelerator Program and got selected in the Batch 6, we got in touch with Sameer Guglani and Nandini Hirianniah who have helped us till now with their valued guidance.

When & how did the entrepreneurial bug bite you?

It all started with the call from Vijay Surywanwashi to start or build a business of our own, to be different from what our peers were doing. We started with secondfone.com, lightthebulb facebook game and later started the coaching class which eventually helped us build Classpro. And with the guidance from Sameer and Nandini, we are still learning new aspects of building a profitable company.

classpro

What were the early days at ClassPro like?

The early days of Classpro started with the software coaching class. We tried to solve our own problem of managing student’s admissions and payments. And given our background in tech, we tried to do that with technology. The first version was made in .Net. But it was not scalable, so we moved on to online app on Appengine in Java language. Later we were introduced to Ruby on Rails by Jidesh Gopalan, the elder brother of Jayesh, and we built the newer and improved MVP ready version of classpro in just 1 month with admissions and payments feature powered with SMS. I still remember the long nights and the excitement of building the app with my colleagues.

After one month we were ready with the product and then we had a tough chat with Nandini who pushed us towards the future. As per the skills we divided the task among ourselves and each one of us took the responsibility of a certain role in the growing company. Initially we were three musketeers trying to get into the SaaS market. In the first year we had 11 paid customers with 30+ on trial.

Can you please describe what a typical day at office is like?

A typical day at Classpro starts with a morning meeting about what have we done the last day and what we are going to do today. We are a team of 9 people, so we have a clear picture of what we are going to achieve on a particular day. The rest of the day includes support calls from the customers along with development work at Classpro. At the evening Vijay and I get our hand dirty on the new library or framework in Technology.

Deepak Dargade And VIjay Suryawanshi

Can you tell us about the technology stack used at ClassPro?

For Classpro we tried many tech stacks, starting with .NET windows app to Java (Spring and Hibernate) and later building an online app on Google App Engine.

Later we moved to Ruby on Rails. We opted for promising new technology that would deliver an awesome experience to our Customers. This is pretty far from any of the work we’ve done earlier. So from a technical perspective, Classpro has been quite an adventure.

Ruby On Rails helped us in the faster development as it has a strong ecosystem with active community, handy tools and a plenty of gems and deployment platforms. The amount of developer productivity is huge and it enables us in delivering an awesome experience to our users.

The Server

Ruby on Rails

MySQL

Nginx with Phusion Passenger

The Client

Jquery (DOM manipulation)

Handlebars (templating language)

Software versioning and Revision control system

Git and Github

Team Communication

Slack and Github IssuesThis excellent set of open-source projects has speeded up our development, left us with a solid and maintainable code base that we’re eager to move forward with, and has made Classpro a more responsive and beautiful app.

Is there any technology that you’re personally betting on to help you scale up?

We think of technology as an enabler. But at the end, it is the great product experience and an excellent support, which helps in growing our SaaS company. We are focusing more on building a team, our work process and work culture. Be it Sales, Marketing or Development, the technology helps in better communication within the team and tracking customer issues.

How are you using Business Intelligence and analytics at your company?

We have our own inhouse CRM and Finance application ‘Zion’ which is integrated with Slack and Github to manage all the aspect of our Business.

How else does technology help your company stand apart from its rivals?

When we started, most of the competition we got was from Desktop based applications. We were first to introduce the SaaS based model to the coaching classes. The technology helped us to provide the service which the rival applications were not able to provide. We were able to provide the analytical reports on the go and users were able to access the information on their phone via sms and emails. They don’t have to be present at their office to view all the report and status.

What has been the biggest technical challenge you’ve faced while running ClassPro?

There have been many ups and down since the time we started. The biggest technical challenge faced by me while running Classpro was recently 1 month ago.

Last month on second sunday, we faced the issue of Site Overload. We have a high end server with latest web and application server and it is backed by solid gigs of RAM and hard core CPU processing. The overload was due to escalated number of requests per second. I started digging into it and the issue was solved by improving the existing code and server configuration.

What are some of the attributes you look out for in prospective technology employees?

We look for people who are self learners, who are not afraid of getting their hands dirty with new stuff and are self motivated.

Team

How do you keep up to date with the latest happenings in the technology world?

Internet is huge. Platforms such as Github and various newsletters in different technology helps me keep up to date with the latest happenings.

What gets you excited about coming to work every day?

Classpro is the solution to the problem we have faced ourselves. It’s still getting improvised on a daily basis. There are many technology developments which can be implemented and that alone keeps me excited everyday.

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What sets ClassPro engineering culture apart?

We believe in shipping daily with product updates that delights our customers the most.

We focus on the customer’s request & issues, and then brainstorm on the ideas or solutions for the right way to solve it. Also, one of our focus is on speed with which we can deliver an awesome experience to our customers. Nobody wants a slower service.

Once we have a solution in our hand, we work on how we can solve it with Technology. We have automated tasks for almost every process such as team communication, customer feedbacks, retention, etc. in the company.

Team 5

Which ClassPro value resonates best with you?

To deliver an awesome experience to the users through our product and support.

Any piece of advice for the techies out there?

Focus on delivering excellent experience to your users through the product or service and rather than the technology stack you are using focus more on your customers. You can always move to a different technology, but delivering service and support  to your customers is utmost important.

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