Islamabad: As the once-in-a-century pandemic brought unprecedented changes to the world of education, two Pakistani entrepreneurs, Rooshan Aziz and Taha Ahmed, found their purpose and built an edtech (educational technology) platform called Maqsad, which is the Urdu word for “purpose”.
Ahmed and Aziz, graduates of the London School of Economics, left their jobs in strategy consulting and investment banking in London and returned to Karachi to pursue their shared aspiration of making a meaningful impact back in Pakistan.
Being aware of the challenges of the Pakistani education system, the two childhood friends seized the opportunity during the pandemic disruption and founded Maqsad in 2021 with a mission to provide a lifeline for millions of students and allow them to access educational resources from their homes.
Within the last six months, the Maqsad app reached 1 million, has answered 4 million queries, and continues to be ranked as the top education app in Pakistan on the Google app store. But that is only the beginning. Maqsad aims to make education more accessible to 100 million Pakistani students through its mobile-only learning platform.
Features of learning platform
“Maqsad is a very comprehensive learning platform that does three things for students: Explain concepts, test knowledge and answer queries,” the co-founder Rooshan Aziz explained to Gulf News. The app provides comprehensive after-school academic content in both English and Urdu.
It offers teaching, testing, and query resolution for grades 9-12 students, focusing on the content of local educational boards – Sindh, Punjab, and Federal boards currently but aims to expand its reach to more boards and grades in the future.
The app’s query-solving technology and interactive testing provide a valuable solution for students who lack access to quality instructors. With the app’s enhanced assessment feature, students can confidently self-evaluate, resulting in a consistent month-on-month growth of 150 per cent in the number of questions attempted by students, Aziz shared.
Personalised after-school academic support
The mobile app is emerging as a potential solution to help reduce reliance on private tuition in Pakistan. Many students, including those studying in private schools, often turn to private tuition to provide individualised attention and support to help them keep up with the curriculum.
The Maqsad co-founders understand these challenges very well. Aziz struggled with dyslexia (learning disability) and largely depended on after-school academic support to complete his education. When he grew up, Aziz realised that this support was largely out of reach for the majority of students in Pakistan. Ahmed, who comes from a middle-class background, recalled that his family dedicated over half of the family’s income towards education, and securing scholarships helped alter the course of his life.
“Maqsad serves as a substitute for offline tuition, which may be inaccessible or unaffordable for many families. This is a major concern for girls who face accessibility issues due to limited public transport infrastructure and reliance on other family members,” said the Maqsad co-founder Ahmed. Another goal of the platform is to address Pakistan’s unequal education landscape, where poor education standards prevail for a large number of students, he says.
‘Game-changer’ for students
Maqsad app has been hailed as a “game-changer” for students who struggle to receive personalised support due to the country’s highest student-teacher ratios in the world with only 1 teacher for every 44 students. Ahmed emphasises that “focus on student problems is at the core of our mission, and we have collected feedback from over 20,000 students and teachers across Pakistan to ensure learning outcomes are being achieved”.
The app has been particularly beneficial for female students allowing them to receive the support they need to excel academically. A ninth-grade female student, who recently scored an impressive 73 out of 75 in Maths, attributed her success to the personalised support at Maqsad available free of cost.
Medical student Nimra Khan (student’s name changed upon request) said she used the app to prepare for college admission test and was able to join her dream university “thanks to high-quality services by Maqsad, which were provided for free, unlike other learning applications that charged significant amounts of money.” The app provides free access to the majority of the lessons but there are also paid options for advanced content at a fraction of the price of comparable alternatives.
Many teachers are also reportedly using the app as a source of knowledge and to offer after-school support who don’t have direct access to the app or Internet.
Maqsad secures $2.8 million in seed funding
The leading edtech, Maqsad, recently raised $2.8 million in a seed funding round led by Speedinvest, one of Europe’s largest seed investors, and returning investor Indus Valley Capital. Philip Specht, a partner at Speedinvest, said the firm invested because of Maqsad’s “potential to disrupt the education ecosystem and touch the lives of millions of students”. They believe that Maqsad is “on track to be one of the most successful businesses in Pakistan.”
Indus Valley Capital, a Pakistan-focused early-stage venture capital fund, has increased its investment in Maqsad due to its compelling vision for education in Pakistan. This investment has raised Maqsad’s total capital to $4.9 million, solidifying its position as the best-funded edtech platform in Pakistan.
The Maqsad team will use funding “to invest in more content for younger classes and cutting-edge technologies to make learning more personalised” and introduce AI-based solutions to enhance the platform’s capabilities and expand the subject offerings. “We are laser-focused on delivering a personalised learning experience at scale and have a number of exciting AI-based initiatives in the pipeline,” he said.
The edtech startup is also exploring potential partnerships with schools and is currently running a pilot with one of the largest school networks in the country. Sharing the long-term vision, Aziz said Maqsad aims to transform the country’s education ecosystem with content and technology solutions that are not limited by constraints such as financial issues or unavailability of teachers in rural regions.