How Telegram's groups and channels, with their free hacked content and supergroup function, are becoming popular in India for test preparation

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"Mentor" Harshit has a bit of Byju Raveendran in him. As a teenager, as he grew up in Kanpur, Harshit Shukla was a math follower, teaching his friends and even helping to create a math club at school. Later, B.Sc. Graduate in Mathematics, he began teaching large groups of people preparing for exams for government and public sector jobs. Shukla had found his call.

But very soon, the test preparation tutor began to find limits to traditional classroom instruction. Several edtech startups were appearing and Shukla was quick to embark on the Unacademy online learning platform, putting online lessons and exam preparation material for jobs. in banks and administrations.

Two years ago, Shukla changed course again, turning to the encrypted Telegram messaging platform to help candidates prepare better. The 24-year-old has his own closed group of telegrams called Maths Doubt and is one of four mentors who manage the open telegram group "IBPSGuide", which has more than 7,000 members trying to get through banking exams. (IBPS is the abbreviation of the selection examination of the staff of the Institute of Banks.)

For the uninitiated, Telegram is an encrypted email application based in the United Kingdom, founded in 2013 by the Russian brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov. It has more than 200 million active users per month in 84 countries, including about 40 million in India, making this country its largest user base.

IBPSGuide and Railways Study Material telegram group, PDF file sharing channel and discussion of issues

Of course, these numbers are derisory compared to those of WhatsApp, which has 1.5 billion monthly active users worldwide, including over 200 million in India.

Despite everything, Telegram marks. Features such as supergroups that can accommodate up to 200,000 members each, channels that can broadcast an unlimited number of audiences and file sharing up to 1.5 GB each have made Telegram the India's leading test preparation platform, especially beyond metros. and other big cities.

Admittedly, Telegram does not disrupt the online learning market in India, despite the thousands of groups and channels devoted to test preparation. But the phenomenon has grown so much that startups and edtech coaching centers have also embarked on the messaging application to reach a wider audience.

"Telegram has become a meeting place for many aspirants who want free material," says Abhishek Patil, founder of Oliveboard, one of the country's largest online exam preparation platforms. "Especially for the public service, the aspirants will find (a lot of material) on Telegram."

Globally, Telegram is a great way to share movies, music, humor and other entertainment content with channels targeting millions of subscribers, according to Telegram analytics data. . But the growing popularity of the platform has made it a hot source of pirated content.

Although there is no official data on the number of candidates for these tests, experts estimate that about 70 million candidates each year in the following categories: government, railways, banks and insurance. Last year, nearly 24 million people participated in the recruitment examination in the railways.

Not surprisingly, India's test preparation market reaches $ 515 million by 2021, up from $ 43 million in 2016, according to Google-KPMG's "Online Education in India: 2021" report.

Ratios subscribers to ridiculously high printing

The most valuable edtech platform in Byju, India, and a few other startups, including Unacademy and Cuemath, have definitely conquered the subway minds for school exams and admission tests for professional courses. But for small town testers, Telegram is where discovery, discussion, and content preparation take place in extremely focused groups and channels.

Take, for example, IBPSGuide. At any time of the day, 400 of 7,000 or more group members are online, comparing notes on quantitative aptitude issues, answering general knowledge questions, and taking part in quizzes every few minutes. hours. "The next quiz starts at 4 pm Topic – Statistics and Bank ", Supraja Supu, a group administrator, recently published an article. This was followed by a series of responses, "admin Tq."

IBPSGuide is one of thousands of community-led test preparation groups and chains that have emerged on Telegram. Their members may seem insignificant compared to the hundreds of thousands of subscribers to entertainment and movie groups and channels, but the most popular are almost always busy. India Bhai Channel, which focuses on public exam preparation, has only 2,000 subscribers, but the shared Niti Aayog Strategy has garnered more than 37,000 views. A ridiculously high subscriber / print ratio.

List of the most popular Indian channels on Telegram – Education and Together.

Whether to seek information for the examination of railway officers in Bihar, the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission or the examination of the gendarmes of the protection forces Railways, several groups and telegram channels have multiplied to meet the needs of candidates for the examination. in their own languages.

"In Telegram, it's all about exchanging notes and clarifying doubts. "Mentor Harshit," said "Mentor Harshit." "These groups are intended solely for discussions related to examinations, exam notifications and the exchange of handwritten notes, books and reference materials."

To stay on top, Shukla passes at least five tests each year – from the IBPS Clerk exam to an entrance test for the position of scientist at the Indian Meteorology Department. Of course, he has them all. Shukla juggles with teaching at the Royal Guidance Institute of Coaching Institute in Kanpur during the day, downloads videos on Unacademy at night and dispels any doubts about Telegram. "Being on Telegram," he says, "is a matter of building the brand."

The attraction of "free"

To understand what thrills Telegram for serious testers, you have to be part of the madness of preparation.

Bhanu Shekhar, 25, from Patna, Bihar, passed the US Civil Service Commission (UPC) Preliminary Test for Public Service last year, but did not go into the public service. failed to qualify for the main examination. He is now preparing for a second attempt. Shekhar is a member of 14 to 15 groups on Telegram, where he receives daily news and updates for his exams, simulation tests and video conferences.

"I have been using Telegram for about 3 years. I did not join any coaching institute. My friend did and paid 1 lakh Rs as a training fee. I prepare with the same material as him and I got them for free with Telegram, "says Shekhar.

In test preparation circles, such instances are more the norm than the exceptions. The benefits of traveling to Telegram include groups and channels on the application downloading paid content, private lectures by professors from reputable training institutes, and even PDF files of major Indian newspapers.

Some of the popular government exam preparation channels

VS Selvan of Kurinjipadi City in Tamil Nadu, who opted for philosophy as the optional subject of the UPSC exam, was able to watch a series of lectures of 60 videos on the subject from the 39, one of Telegram's many channels of which it is part. The series would have cost him at least 50,000 rupees if he had bought it at a coaching center, he said.

Telegram groups are more popular among users with relatively less purchasing power, says Alok Katiyar, general manager of MadGuy Labs, a test-preparation application for government jobs. "Most students are between 18 and 30 years old. This is the mid-range for PO banking, railways, SPC (Personnel Selection Board for Government Jobs), etc. They will only spend Rs 1,000. "

MadGuy Labs offers Telegram test preparation channels in four different languages, with Kannada being the most popular. "My audience is made up of aspirants to a level 2 or 3 government position. If they are on Telegram, then I, too, should be on Telegram," said Katiyar, adding that he had was surprised to see that about 25,000 of the 85,000 registered users of his app also had Telegram on their phone.

The Google-KPMG report on online education found that nearly 46% of Indians were between the ages of 15 and 40, and that strong aspirations but lower incomes were a good target market for online education. He added that with nearly 470 million smartphone users expected in India by 2021, test preparation would be the fastest growing category in online education between 2017. and 2021.

This growth, he said, would result from a strong adoption of online channels by a growing number of contest contestants.

The belly of Telegram-learning

The proliferation of test-ready telegram groups that share access to exclusive video conferencing, paid dummy test questions, and paid information is an antithesis to captive sharing of knowledge on learning platforms. online.

"Whole books are also available," says Shivam Nayyar, a civil service candidate from Trivandrum, Kerala. The recent book by Ramachandra Guha, "Gandhi: The Years That Have Changed the World, 1914-1948" costs about Rs. I found a PDF of the book on Telegram and downloaded it and read it for free. "

UPSCPDF, PDF4Exam, E-library for exams are some popular channels on Telegram

Telegram is selling as the most secure messaging application. But his interest in privacy has led him to gain notoriety as a messaging application of choice for terrorist groups seeking support and recruiting activists.

The other important problem is hacking. The disadvantage of an end-to-end encrypted platform that allows for large file sharing is the proliferation of groups and channels whose sole purpose is to illegally distribute movies, TV shows , music, apps and other media.

The education channels are not different. One of the most popular test prep channels on Telegram, www.UPSCPDF.com, explicitly states in its description: "Free UPSC material for needy students. I'm just trying to help the company that can not afford to buy expensive study materials. "

The administrator has published a list of five links to a Google Drive account offering video lessons from Lukmaan IAS, a popular tutor of the test circuit. "By this I share all the courses that people have been selling for thousands of years," said the administrator, after which he shared a video explaining how to download these videos from shared disks.

A few hours later, the administrator had an update: "Google has blocked due to 1,000 downloads at the same time. They stopped the link sharing. Clear indication that Google's algorithms block the download of pirated content. FactorDaily has contacted Telegram for a comment and will update the copy as soon as we have received a response.

Why Telegram, not WhatsApp or Facebook?

If a resource-rich peer group is the sole differentiator of Telegram, should platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook with larger networks not be more popular among aspiring and institutes? Yes and no.

Telegram's "supergroups" allow administrators to pin key messages such as test ads, delete messages from all members, view the full chat history, and greet everyone until they reach the end. to 200,000 people. WhatsApp limits the number of members of a group to 256.

The telegram has another powerful feature that many ignore, says Katiyar. It allows third-party developers to create robots. An administrator can schedule a bot account for scheduled publications, as well as respond to messages and mentions, which is convenient for managing and improving group usability and efficiency.

Using robots and polls in a group / channel

"For an encoder, writing all the rules for the programmable bot is a two-day job," Katiyar says. MadGuy Labs is programming a robot to eject participants who publish unrelated links in their study groups. "If we continue to publish unrelated links, we schedule the bot to warn it once, and if we repeat it, the participant will automatically be ousted."

The polling function of Telegram is also a powerful engagement tool. Following a government review, applicants can create a survey to assess the likely threshold or situation of their peers. "Sometimes there is a pop quiz session (multiple choice questions) where we use polls. It's very useful and user-friendly, "says Patna's Gulshan Raj, who is preparing for a banking review.

For holders, a growth hack

The main operators in the government job test pre-job market are coaching centers such as Paramount Coaching, KD Campus and VisionIAS, deeply rooted in local ecosystems. Many of these institutes have launched blogs, telegram groups and hardware sharing channels. Online platforms include sites such as Testbook.com, OnlineTyari.com, Sarkaripariksha.com and MadGuy Labs.

Telegram is a growth hack for institutes like IBPSGuide in Erode, Tamil Nadu. "We had 100 different WhatsApp groups up until recently. We have now consolidated Telegram. An open group where students help each other brings us more traffic. In addition, although being in Erode, 80% of my enrolled students come from northern India, "says Sukumar Elangovan, head of IBPSGuide.

However, when it comes to content consumption, the most popular platforms for testers are video conferences on YouTube and Unacademy.

Unacademy, supported by Sequoia, has become India's largest learning platform and has invited teachers to teach tests for jobs in the public and government sectors. More than 1,600 educators create tutorial videos on the platform. Although Unacademy does not have a popular Telegram channel, general manager Gaurav Munjal said: "Many Unacademy educators have their own Telegram channels to broadcast their conference videos."

Alok Katiyar, CEO of MadGuy Labs

To be clear, Telegram does not lower the market share of incumbent operators. On the contrary, it helps them to project their content to a wider audience.

"Telegram is for us a platform for acquiring viral clients," said Bhola Meena, CEO of OnlineTyari. "It's the best discovery platform and the best distribution channel. But over time, it is necessary that the user who sees your content come on your platform. "

The Website and the OnlineTyari application bring together more than 8 million registered users, including 40,000 paying subscribers.

According to Oliveboard's Patil, the start-up acquires customers by broadcasting content adapted to a specific support. "We use Telegram as students want. They want us to share PDF files, fake questionnaires and other study papers on Telegram. On channels such as Facebook and Instagram, we share information because it is mainly visuals and images. "

Oliveboard has about 4 million registered users on its platform and nearly 6,000 subscribers for its Telegram channel. "Telegram has started to become popular among testers for about a year. It's about the time we arrived on the platform, "says Patil. "All other players also have their own Telegram channels and also participate in open groups."

Patil is clearly not disturbed by the growing popularity of Telegram as a testing platform. Of course, "many rely on Telegram to get some of their notes, material, mockery, etc.," he says, but "I've never heard of a case where I'm not sure. we were only preparing for Telegram. It's still an unstructured platform. "


Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which includes Accele Partners, Blume Ventures, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Jay Vijayan and Girish Mathrubootham. Accel Partners and Blume Ventures are venture capital firms investing in several companies. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. Jay Vijayan and Girish Mathrubootham are entrepreneurs and angel investors. None of FactorDaily's investors has any influence on his reports on technology and the ecosystem of start-ups in India.