Sikumna: This teaching-learning startup is more than an online tutorial

online learning Representational image. Photo: Pixabay
Representational image. Photo: Pixabay

In the 2020 summer, Darshan Hada, a 37-year-old graphic designer in Kathmandu, thought of learning Facebook advertising and marketing tools to add one more dimension to his job.

“That had been essential for me to get updated so that I can remain competitive among graphic designers in the market,” he says.

In fact, he had already tried his hand at social media marketing after learning some skills from free tutorials on YouTube and other websites that he found via Google. “But, I hadn’t received good feedback from the clients nor was I satisfied with myself.”

Meanwhile, he happened to see an advertisement for a course on his Facebook timeline. It was posted by Sikumna, a company that he had never heard of. But still, “I then contacted them, inquired about the course and joined it.”

Sikumna’s course was quite effective as it was more detailed than other free tutorials available on the internet, and it has given him many benefits professionally, says Hada.

Sikumna, proving true to its name (that means ‘let’s learn’ in Nepali), as a new startup, is providing an effective online platform for instruction and learning to many tutors and learners in the country. Using pre-designed online packages to take instructors among the students that are beyond now-common online classes, the company is setting itself as an example in the sector.

The perk of pandemic

Behind Hada’s achievement was Saugat Basnet, 27, who had quitted a well-paying job as a digital marketing executive in a company in early March 2020 to launch his own business providing similar digital marketing services.

Saugat Basnet, Founder of Sikumna. Photo: Sikumna

However, the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown from March 24 that year had come as a roadblock in front of Basnet’s plan. He had to shut his newly-begun venture. During the lockdown days, as he was with nominal works, he ran short of money, he lamented if only he had not left the job, he could not have faced the situation.

“I was frustrated and fed up. But soon, an idea struck my mind that would make use of my skills,” he says, adding he thought of making a Facebook advertisement and marketing course and selling it at Rs 1,000 per person to 50 people so that he would earn as much as Rs 50,000 quickly.

He invested 15 days to design his course, informed his friend about his plan and asked them to let interested people know. Likewise, he created a Facebook page to promote his course among the potential learners.

“Surprisingly, within 10 days, over 100 people expressed interest in my course and bought it. Adding to his excitement, within a month, more than 700 people bought it.”

This success motivated him to start Sikumna, says Basnet.

However, Sikumna is not the byproduct of the lockdown only, it has passed an entire phase of business idea development and planning, according to him.

“Many degree holders in Nepal are finding it hard to get a job or make money in Nepal as they lack practical knowledge and skills, which are barely taught in schools, colleges, and universities of Nepal,”  Basnet, a management student who says he earned the skill of digital marketing from his workplaces, continues, “Thus, in order to bridge that gap, I took the initiative to start Sikumna where learners can learn various courses based on practical skills that they can immediately apply and make something out of them for living.”

Even though the company was operating since the lockdown, Basnet only registered the company on December 10, 2020.

Started with one course to be delivered by himself, Sikumna now offers more than 15 courses and has a team of seven staff, according to Basnet. In the company, the tutors design and develop courses in a multimedia format which the learners can buy anytime anywhere.

Need for awareness

But still, Basnet feels that many people have not been able to understand this idea, and it stands as the topmost challenge for his company. “Due to that, we are having hard times finding and enrolling tutors on our platform.”

Basket says his company offers potential tutors an opportunity to earn for a lifetime by investing their knowledge and time just once. But, many still do not understand this and liken it to the now-common online classes.

Photo: Sikumna/Website

Basnet claims such courses developed by Sikumna tutors are unique and different from openly available resources. “Out of 100, only about 20 learners say we can find a similar course on YouTube. But, we have our defences for them also: we have set up the course for practical use with exercises and assignments.”

“On the private group of Sikumna on Facebook, learners can put forth any queries regarding their courses and the tutors will answer, which can rarely be the feature of any YouTube tutorial,” he claims.

For most startups, arranging funds is the most challenging part. However, Basnet says his story was different.

“I was completely broke at the time I started this company. But, I thought that I would make money from this and invest it again in the company. And, that is what I did and am doing till date.”

Basnet says he invested around Rs 700,000 on Facebook ads and Sikumna’s website, all by earning from the company itself.

Steady rise

According to Basnet, Sikumna markets its services majorly via paid Facebook advertisements. Besides, it also asks the enrolled tutors to share their experiences with Sikumna and with other tutors so that they can have an idea of what Sikumna is trying to do.

Within just six months of its establishment, this company has already sold over 2,500 units of different courses.

A Sikumna course costs between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500.

During the initial days, Sikumna received booming response and sales. Basnet states, “We used to sell about 20 units daily. However, it has reduced to about five courses per day (after the lifting of the lockdown).”

He feels, “This is probably because we used to have only one or two courses in the beginning and we used to put all our focus on marketing them. However, now, we have more courses and it is quite difficult to do the same now.”

Still, Basnet is hopeful to make this company a hub for learning all the practical skills and knowledge by enrolling more and more tutors in this platform.

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Budhathoki was a correspondent at Onlinekhabar from February 2020 to February 2022.

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