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How I Built This: An Interview With Masud Parvez Raju, Founder and CEO, Caretutors.com

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Masud Parvez Raju is the founder and CEO of Caretutors.com, an online tutor matching platform based in Dhaka. Started in 2012, Caretutors.com is now one of the largest online tutor providing platforms in the country. The platform has now over 50,000 tutor’s profile and receives over 600 queries per month.

Mr. Raju is a relentless learner and a passionate entrepreneur. He started Caretutors when he was in university to solve a personal problem of finding tuitions for himself and tutors for students and teachers. When he graduated, Caretutors was not in a position to accommodate him as a full-time employee, instead, he took on a full-time job at a leading advertising agency in Dhaka, where he worked for two years while working on his business on the side.

Caretutors initially started with matching tutors for academic subjects only such as teachers for K12, SSC, HSC etc and now slowly expanding into other areas covering a wide variety of subjects from academic to skill-based areas like music and cooking. This is an interesting idea given that often finding teachers or trainers is a challenging affair and the market for such a business is infinitely big. Over the past years, the startup has grown significantly, from a team of a two-person team to a team of 12 and has expanded to Chittagong and also exploring further expansion plans.

We recently sat down Mr. Raju to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey, which still is a challenging pursuit for young people in Bangladesh, why he started a tutor matching platform, the early challenges that he had to endure, the current state of Caretutors, its challenges, business and growth strategy, and his ambition for the venture, how he deals with challenges as an entrepreneur and his personal development strategy and his lessons from his journey so far. - Md. Tashnim

Future Startup

Tell us briefly about your journey to what you are doing today.

Masud Parvez Raju

I am Masud Parvez Raju. I was born and brought up in Chittagong. I came to Dhaka when I started my University. I studied Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. After graduation, I joined a leading advertising agency as a Management Trainee where I worked for almost 2 years.

I started Caretutors in August 2012. The idea came from a personal struggle. When I came to Dhaka for higher studies, like many students I wanted to earn some extra money to maintain my expenses. One of the common ways young students earn money is through home/private tutoring, teaching students part-time. The challenge, however, was I could not find a tuition. I came from Chittagong, naturally, I did not have a network which made it even more difficult for me. There were sources called tuition media but after trying a few of them I realized that most of the time the exercise is futile. Many of them were not either trustworthy or capable.

That’s when I realized that finding tuition is not a problem for me alone, it is a problem for many other students like me who are looking for private tuition. At the same, it is also a challenge for parents because they also can’t reach out to capable tutors. I realized that if I could build a platform that connects potential tutors with students and parents, it would solve the entire problem. That’s how the idea of Caretutors came.

I shared the idea with one of my friends who agreed to join-force with me to put the idea into work. It took us the next one year to organize things and start the operations at a small scale.

I completed my graduation in 2014. At that time Caretutors was not a stable business yet, so I took on a job while working on Caretutors on the side. After doing it for one year, I realized that I have to make a decision and choose to do one thing if I want to make progress. I can not do the both - pursue a full-time job and run a business on the side.

After much thought, I decided to quit my job at the end of 2015 and started full-time at Caretutors. We were almost a three years old company at that time.

Initially, it was a challenging affair personally. I could no longer draw a fixed monthly salary at the end of the month. It is an utterly uncomfortable feeling when you realize that nothing is certain and there is no monthly salary unless you earn. Initially, I had to work hard to resist these thoughts. I wanted to take the challenge of creating something of my own.

After joining full-time, my first priority was giving the business a more professional shape which we could not manage to give in the past three years. In the following two years, we changed our whole strategy from a mere tuition provider to a tutor matching platform.

Today, we don’t call Caretutors a tuition provider anymore; rather an online tutor matching platform that enables a great learning and educational experience. We connect potential tutors with students and parents. In fact, we are the first online tutor matching platform in the country.

We do not engage in teaching ourselves. We connect the teachers with the students. For instance, you may want to learn how to swim, how to cook, how to sew, or even about digital marketing, and you are looking for a tutor who can teach you these skills. Our job is to connect you with a potential teacher.

Essentially, we have broadened the concept of private tutoring which usually means connecting school going students with university students as teachers. Instead, we are proposing that you may need a private tutor for purposes other than teaching a kid, such as for learning music or a language or some other skills, we are here to help with all that.

We are connecting teachers and students through our online platform and then they go and connect in the real life. Our ambition is to connect people who want to teach with people who want to learn and bring them together through our platform, regardless of what the subject or skill is.

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Today, we don’t call Caretutors a tuition provider anymore; rather an online tutor matching platform that enables a great learning and educational experience. We connect potential tutors with students and parents. In fact, we are the first online tutor matching platform in the country.

Future Startup

That means you have evolved from your initial idea of connecting private tutors with students and parents for an academic purpose to now a broader platform where along with private academic tutors one can find skill-based trainers and other types of tutors that go with learning something starting from cooking to music.

Masud Parvez Raju

Everything that can be learned or can be taught is a subject of Caretutors. The ambition is to make sure that you find tutors for almost every possible subject or skill.

For instance, you are doing CA or ACCA or CFA and need a teacher, we can help you to find one. Same applies for GMAT, GRE, and IELTS. Then you want to learn Chinese language or Korean language or English, we can help with that too.

Recently, we have added private Quran tutor as well. We are now adding music, guitar, harmonium and dance teachers on our platform.

At Caretutors.com, our goal is to unleash a new type of learning revolution where you can directly find and connect with skilled teachers and trainers for any subject starting from academic courses to music to sports.

Future Startup

Why did you choose to start a business in this sector?

Masud Parvez Raju

As I mentioned earlier, this is an outcome of a personal struggle. While at university, I struggled with finding tuition and paid to many tuition medias to get a tuition but most of the time the experience was not simply good.

On the other hand, you would see small ads and notices of seeking tutors and tuition on the streets of Dhaka. I realized that this is not a problem for me alone, this is a problem for many students who are looking for tuition and at the same time, for many parents who are looking for tutors. I just wanted to solve this market inefficiency.

I thought that if we could build an online platform - like BDjobs.com that connects recruiters and employees - which will connect teachers and students or the trainers and trainees. It will solve my problem as well as will open up new possibilities for many other people. For the past few years, we have just been doing that.

Future Startup

How and where did you get the initial funding to start your operations?

Masud Parvez Raju

We started with a total capital of TK. 18,000 where I had invested TK. 10,000 and my friend contributed the rest.

The first thing we did was opening a Facebook page, which was free. Then we built a website at a cost of BDT 5000. We made some leaflets that we distributed ourselves and did a little bit of Facebook marketing.

After a while, we slowly started to receive responses. Being a student has its own advantage, our time was not expensive. We started to generate a small revenue from the day one which was enough to run the operations as well earn some extra income for ourselves.

After a while, we realized that we need to scale and in order to scale our service, we need further investment. In 2014, we took a small investment of few thousands taka from an investor which we invested entirely to revamp our web platform and in marketing.

We were quite inexperienced about running a business and investment and other things at that time. We had a small office which was enough for 3 of us to sit and work. I used to look after the client servicing and my other two partners used to look after Facebook page and the website.

Things were good but not that good. All of us were young and of the same age and were doing a full-time job while running the business on the side. It was a difficult journey. After working for a while in 2016, we had a discussion among founders and two of my partners decided not to continue with the business which led to the decision that I take over the entire business. They agreed and since then I have been running the business. Afterward, we raised another round of seed investment from two investors.

Team Caretutors
Team Caretutors

Future Startup

How does your business process work? Also, please give us an overview of your operations and size of business.

Masud Parvez Raju

This process is quite simple. Let me give you an example. If a university student wants a tuition, he/she can go to our website and open a free account and create a profile giving his/her details. Having a profile on our platform allows you to see all the available jobs on the platform and then apply for the ones you see fit. That’s for people who are looking for an opportunity to teach.

On the other end, we allow people who are seeking for tutors/trainers to post jobs. For instance, if you are looking for a tutor or trainer, whether you are a student or a guardian of a student, you can post a job. We verify all the jobs and authenticate whether they are real or not before allowing applications.

When we receive applications from a tutor or teacher, we check all the requirements of the job and match them with the teacher accordingly.

We have a special team who are responsible for ensuring the best possible match for each job. Besides, we have put some tests on our platform that helps us to gather data about the skills of applicants. Taking these tests is mandatory for any potential tutor or teacher when they open a profile on the platform.

On top of that, we verify their educational qualifications, particularly, SSC and HSC result from their transcript uploaded in their profiles. We also collect national ID, parents contact details, emergency contact details and address and other related information for security verification in order to ensure authenticity as well as to avoid unwanted incidents. Moreover, to prevent false representation, we verify student ID cards of the tutors.

When you post a job on our platform, on an average we send you 5 CV after proper screening against one single job post. Afterward, you can choose the tutor you want to work with. Since we are an online platform, we try to match students and tutors and allow both to see whether they fit or not through trial teaching, if such is required.

Over the past few years, we have grown materially. Our monthly revenue is about a couple of hundred thousand taka. Since we are a small team, we are operationally okay.

In the next few years, our goal is to take our service to all the major cities in Bangladesh and to as many people as possible.

When we started, we were just two people. Today, we are a team of 12 people and have experience of 5 years of building a platform from scratch. We now have over 50,000 profiles of teachers on our platform who are mostly students of reputed universities in Dhaka. We have served over 5,000 customers.

We are now expanding our service to other cities. We have launched our first outside Dhaka operations in Chittagong recently, the response is overwhelming. We are also eyeing another division.

Last month alone, we received over 600 job requests of which we fulfilled only about 50%. Several reasons cause unfulfilled requests such as mismatch in skills of tutors and salary expectation. On an average, we can fulfill 50% requests and other 50% job requests get bounced for different reasons. We have been working hard to reduce this bounce rate.

We are trying to build a community of skilled teachers as well as educate our clients about the payment and other issues that cause job bounce from the teachers' end.

When we started, we were just two people. Today, we are a team of 12 people and have experience of 5 years of building a platform from scratch. We now have over 50,000 profiles of teachers on our platform who are mostly students of reputed universities in Dhaka. We have served over 5,000 customers.

Future Startup

What is your revenue model?

Masud Parvez Raju

We charge a small fee from tutors. There is no uniform fee as such. It largely depends on the value of the tuition. However, we don’t charge recurringly. Most charges are one-time in nature.

We have a payment collection team who collects the fees from tutors. People can also make payment online. Our website is integrated with a payment gateway. Both the parties can use the payment gateway. The clients can send the monthly salary through us to the tutor and the tutor can also pay the service charge through the gateway. Otherwise, our payment collectors go physically to collect the payment.

However, we have plans to reduce our service charge from tutors as we grow and scale our service which will allow us to take the advantage of scale.

Future Startup

What about the guardian side? Aren’t they getting the service and value as well? Why don’t you charging them?

Masud Parvez Raju

We are not charging service receiver at the time because we feel that we cannot just charge both the parties at the same time.

Almost all the platform businesses are similar, you don’t charge the both parties. For instance, bdjobs.com does not charge job seekers, they charge the employer for posting their job openings on the site. For now, we are charging tutors or trainers because that’s how the informal market operates at this moment.

Future startup

You have been working on Caretutors for over 5 years now. What were the challenges in the early days? What are your challenges now?

Masud Parvez Raju

Initially, everything was a challenge. We just had an idea that we wanted to implement. But we did not know much about how to go about the implementation. We eventually figured these things out but initially, these things felt like mountains to climb.

Another challenge was doing it all yourself. We had to manage all the works by ourselves. We learned how to maintain a Facebook page and design. Since we were business students, we had no idea how to code and develop a website. We had to learn it from people we knew and put in hours. Gradually, we learned how to code and make a functional website.

Many of the skills such as Facebook boosting, we learned from watching YouTube videos and asking for help from other people. We went to our seniors for suggestions, to our mentors for guidelines.

One of the major challenges is the mindset. First of all, many guardians treat Caretutors.com as a tuition medium that provides tutors like many of other similar offline businesses. This creates a few problems for us as guardians sometimes don’t trust us due to their subpar experience with many tuition media before and don’t take us with enough seriousness. Awareness regarding how technology or an online platform can solve their problems is not there yet. We are working hard to make people understand that Caretutors.com is not a mere tuition medium, we are providing you a service which is connecting you with the right tutor or the trainer for anything and everything that you want to learn along with other benefits such as qualification matching and of course verification.

Secondly, we don't have a problem dealing with our tutors online. Most of them are tech-savvy and we can communicate with them through online and they are satisfied with it. However, many guardians are not that tech savvy and don’t feel comfortable with using Facebook and other platforms which creates challenges for us.

Finally, overall technology adoption is not that high in Bangladesh. The trend is growing and it will go up further in the coming days. But for now, it is a challenge for us. Moreover, tech adoption also varies depending on sectors. For instance, the online job posting is a mainstream thing now but someone who knows cooking may not want to teach it yet through giving online ad or parents are not yet comfortable to find teachers through putting an ad on a matching platform like Caretutors. But we are hopeful. Things are changing and we hope things will get even better in the coming days.

Caretutors office snapshot
Caretutors office snapshot

Future Startup

You have already said a lot of things about challenges you are facing and the way you are dealing with them. Apart from what you have said, is there any other strategies you are using?

Masud Parvez Raju

We are focusing on Arabic and Quran teacher acquisition along with a few other categories that have a growing demand in the market.

We have a team responsible for acquisition of teachers and skilled people. For example, there is a driver who is very good at teaching driving but he will never open his profile online for teaching driving. So we find him offline and train him and ask him to open a profile on our website. That’s what we are doing for acquiring more talents from diverse sectors.

We are devising a plan for running campaigns in different schools in order to create awareness. We have already done this in different university campuses in order to create awareness among potential tutors about our platform. We have conducted a campaign at IUB recently. Next month, we are going to North South University and East-West University. We will continue this to push our growth on the both ends.

To deal with the technology-averse guardians, our teams are physically meeting guardians and educating about our services. The guardians can know more about us in details which helps to grow trust in our platform. We now also allow people to take our service that is post a job on our platform by just calling us.

Future Startup

How does your marketing and communication work? How do you reach out to your users?

Masud Parvez Raju

I have already mentioned a few of the initiatives we have taken to reach out to more users.

Apart from that, we are partnering with libraries and stationery shops to promote our service though putting up banners and other promotional materials through them.

We have noticed that students and parents often visit libraries and stationery shops which offer an interesting opportunity to communicate with them. We are also getting into a sort of affiliate marketing model with these libraries and shops where we share commission when they send leads to us.

We're doing a lot of work offline. We are also using social media as well.

Future Startup

Is there seasonality any effect in your business?

Masud Parvez Raju

There is a seasonality effect in our business. We get relatively limited responses from Bangla and English medium schools in December because that’s when school season ends.

However, since we have diversified our focus to other areas such as students of SSC, HSC and admission test, GRE, GMAT, and IELTS and other skill-based areas, this seasonality is not affecting our overall business that much in the recent times.

We are also getting into more categories and skilled based areas. In the coming years, this phenomenon will be more insignificant as our business grows bigger in other areas.

Future Startup

How do you ensure the safety of female tutors? Is there any special measure you take for them?

Masud Parvez Raju

We have safety guidelines for female tutors. Especially, when a female tutor first goes to teach, we suggest them to take their parent or relative or any known person with them.

Afterward, if they find the place and location convenient, timing, parents, family, and student good enough then they can start the job. If she feels that the job is not safe or she cannot teach or she feels insecure, we give her an opportunity to discontinue.

These guidelines are public and available on our platform. Then and again, we remind when a female tutor starts a job, send them SMS in their mobile for following our guidelines and safety procedure.

Future Startup

How do you differentiate Caretutors from other competitors in the market?

Masud Parvez Raju

Firstly, we are the first of our kind in Bangladesh. As a platform, our technology is superior to any other similar initiatives in the market. Many of the similar initiatives that are in the market are mostly Facebook-based or run offline. We are also expanding into more categories like skilled-based areas.

Secondly, we do a proper background check before posting a job or when we send CVs of tutors to parents. Proper verification and authentication are one of our key value propositions which very few other players offer as rigorously as we do.

Thirdly, we ensure the safety of the tutors as well. We ensure whether a place is safe for a tutor or not. We are also helping out the female tutors in this way.

Fourthly, we work hard to provide extra benefits and best possible customer service to our users. Our client servicing team is always ready to answer, help and suggest our users. We provide useful information and knowledge through our various platform for teachers as well as students and parents such as how to teach effectively, how to deal with tutors, and much more.

Finally, the supportive attitude towards the tutors. If you lose your job then what will happen? For example, you have already paid a payment for the job to us then the job gets canceled anyhow. Generally, many companies don’t refund in these instances. But we do. We fully refund the money to the tutors.

We do a proper background check before posting a job or when we send CVs of tutors to parents. Proper verification and authentication are one of our key value propositions which very few other players offer as rigorously as we do.

Future Startup

What are your future plans for Caretutors?

Masud Parvez Raju

Our ambition is high. We plan to work in every sector of learning. If there is anything that can be learned, we want people to come to our platform to find a tutor for that.

We also plan to get into online education in the near future. These are the two major plans around the product.

Business-wise, we are working on the expansion, as I mentioned earlier. We are also investing in marketing to reach out to more users.

Future Startup

What are the major lessons from your journey as a young entrepreneur so far?

Masud Parvez Raju

It has been a tough journey and I’m aware that there will be more challenges in the future. The lesson: you have to be patient. Patience is incredibly important for any entrepreneur.

In 2015, I held on to this business alone for one whole year. I was alone and I had to do almost everything myself. It was an extremely difficult period but it taught me something invaluable: it is our difficult days that make us who we become. That time has made me stronger than any time before. I have told myself that I cannot give up and I can endure. Now no challenge seems too hard anymore.

There is no alternative to learning and personal development. So use time in learning new skills, a new way of working and doing things. The main thing is to learn. Always.

Honesty is the core value of any business. You can not sustain in the market if you are dishonest. I learned that by seeing other businesses.

Future Startup

What do you read to make yourself a better entrepreneur and business professional? How do you deal with personal development?

Masud Parvez Raju

Personally, I watch documentaries and read articles on entrepreneurs and their life story. I generally don't follow someone specifically. I follow different people for different reasons as everyone has their specialty. People who are now successful entrepreneurs and have made a difference, I try to follow them such as Alibaba's Jack Ma then there was Steve Jobs, then there is Google’s Larry Page. We have Bill Gates of Microsoft. I try to learn from their experience, how have they overcome their problems and obstacles? I study these things.

I always try to study things which are relevant to my business which is education and skill development sectors. When you understand your sector properly, it becomes easier for you to make better decisions.

I regularly learn from Abdul Matin Emon, CEO of Doctorola. He struggled and went through his share of difficult time. I try to learn from his strategies to deal with difficult times of life and also how he leads a team of 40 to 50 people and deals with his partners and employees.

Dealing with people is one of the most critical skills of being an entrepreneur. I try to learn these things.

I discuss things with my seniors and regularly seek advice from my mentors who are successful in their field. That’s basically it.

Future Startup

What do you think about the startup eco-system of Bangladesh?

Masud Parvez Raju

The beginners face a lot of problems starting from funding to skill development to knowledge. However, from my limited understanding, I think many of these challenges that early stage entrepreneurs face can be solved through policy initiatives as well as through collaboration and support network.

Another challenge is the mindset. There is a tendency to do things overnight which is not possible. Building a business takes a long time. We need more education and awareness building activities around this.

That said, a lot of positive changes are taking place. We are seeing a slow growth in the venture funding in the country. There are a lot of private and public initiatives to support entrepreneurship. The government is proactively doing many things. In 2015, we were one of the winners of a competition called 'Connecting StartUps Bangladesh'. We were given an office at Panthapath along with other benefits from the Government. There is room for improvements and we have a long way to go but we have made quite significant progress over the past years.

There is no alternative to learning and personal development. So use time in learning new skills, a new way of working and doing things. The main thing is to learn. Always.

Corrections, September 23: Name of Caretutors.com was misspelled in a previous version of the story, it has been updated. Also, information about Mr. Raju's past workplace has also been updated.

(Interview: Md. Tashnim, Transcription: Khaleda Husna Fariha, Ruhul Kader contributed to this interview, image courtesy Caretutors)

(Note: this title, How I Built This, is inspired by an NPR podcast of the same title)

Tashnim is a Final year-Finance major of BBA department at Bangladesh University of Professionals. His interest revolves around entrepreneurs, their stories and taking an initiative to change society. Tashnim likes to think about technology with its impact on our business and lives. Say 'hi' to him at tasnimdrmc14@yahoo.com

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