From An Intern To An Educator : Pranav Pundarik's Unacademy Journey
Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.
– Dwayne Johnson
Pranav Pundarik, a final year student from the Department of Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering is a piece of living evidence to the above saying. Starting his journey in Unacademy as an experiment, he turned out to be the #1 educator on Unacademy within a few months. Since then he is holding the same position in NEET-UG category. Team Monday Morning had a tete-a-tete with Pranav in virtual mode to know about his rousing journey. Excerpts of the interview:
Monday Morning (MM): You joined Unacademy as an intern in 2017 when it was in its nascent stage. How was your experience back then, and how has it changed over the years?
Pranav Pundarik (PP): In the beginning, Unacademy was just like a startup, it had a YouTube channel, and after that, an app was made, and we were making offline recorded videos. No one knew about the name Unacademy. We just knew the CEO cum Co-founder, Roman Saini, the youngest IAS in India, and with his brand name, we worked.
In the first year, we had very few views, but we focused on the quality of content delivered free of cost, so eventually, learners joined in, and the platform grew. As of now, Unacademy is one of the leading brands in the ed-tech field.
MM: Tell us about your journey from being an intern at Unacademy to being one of the most famous educators on the platform. Were you part of some other teaching platforms? How was your experience with that?
PP: I joined as an intern in 2017. Initially, there were 30-35 educators, and my ranking started from last. I struggled to get views. I asked my friends to download the app and watch the videos to get more views. I had a great reporting manager who suggested me to build a community on different social platforms. I started contacting my juniors and other learners to join those communities. Eventually, people started loving the videos, and the followers count increased. From 1k to 10k followers, it almost took 5 to 6 months to grow, but after this, just in a month, the count jumped to 50-60k.
Subsequently, Unacademy was converted into a paid platform and paid, or plus courses were launched. I teach under the NEET UG category, so I took the first plus course, and it had around 190 enrollments, and the cost of the course was 17 thousand rupees. I was in my third year, and getting so many enrollments was an outstanding achievement. From January 2018, I am ranked number 1 educator on Unacademy in Biology category. Initially, I was an Anatomy Physiology expert on Chegg. I started solving question on Chegg, but I left as it took a lot of my time.
MM: How did you develop your inclination from the very beginning in being a part of an ed-tech startup as an educator, which is now one of the most popular ed-tech startups in the nation?
PP: I am a big fan of Roman Saini. He left the most prestigious job to create this revolution. I watched a few of his videos, and then I applied for the internship. I had a telephonic interview with Roman Sir, and I got selected.
Teaching wasn't my cup of tea before that, but as time progressed, I learned a lot. After that, I got many appraisals and appreciation from learners, which made me kept going. The zeal for revolution is the most significant source of inspiration.
MM: Why did you start teaching biology on the platform? Did you have an inclination towards the subject?
PP: Since I was not rigid in my decision whether to opt for Medical Science or Engineering, I appeared for both NEET and IIT-JEE. Initially, I wanted to pursue a research career, and hence opted for Biomedical Engineering, which offers an opportunity to study biology and physics for exploring the research aspects. I was also selected for the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) consecutively in 2016 and 2017.
So, my inclination towards biology always remains high. Also, from my preparation time, I had some great notes and understanding of the subject, which made me choose biology at Unacademy as well.
MM: How do you manage to strike a balance between the rigorous academic curriculum at NIT Rourkela and your work at Unacademy?
PP: During my sophomore, I was only involved in the offline lectures, which means posting recorded videos and not the live ones. Every day I recorded videos in the night till 2-3 AM, which did not bother me much. Then we shifted to a live class format for which I conduct two classes per day, the first one at 8:30 PM and the other at 10:30 PM. So, according to me, dedicating 2-2.5 hours a day for some productive work is better than sitting idly!
MM: Do you wish to make this your profession after graduating from NIT Rourkela? Tell us about your future goals.
PP: I believe that my goals are shifting a lot! Initially, I wanted to delve into the research option, but later on, I got involved in the teaching profession, which fascinates me now. So, teaching will always be a priority for me. More often, I am also inclined towards Civil Services. Using this Unacademy platform, I interacted with many Civil Servants. These great personalities inspired me to do something outstanding, which can change the working of the system rather than going with the flow of it.
Hence, a commitment of 2 hours daily is not an issue for me, so I’ll continue teaching in the future.
MM: You have a gargantuan total watch time of over 70 million minutes on Unacademy. How has this success changed you as a person?
PP: I am still the same! (chuckles). As far as my teaching is concerned, I have developed quite a bit. Having taught the same curriculum over 15 times, I can clearly and concisely present my content to the students to make the class hours more productive. I have come across and interacted with many great people like Top UPSC educators who had cleared UPSC with awe-inspiring ranks and tried to inculcate their best habits in me.
MM: What does Unacademy do better than its competition and one aspect where it is still lagging?
PP: We are looking towards expanding our areas of focus. We are looking towards starting an "Unacademy Pro" platform similar to LinkedIn, which will help professionals find jobs. We are also trying to develop a book depository where people can access the best books for different career domains. In my opinion, the only part where we are lagging a bit is in the publicity and marketing of some critical sections like the GATE section. There is certainly room for improvement in that area.
MM: Do you think E-learning platforms are going to replace traditional classroom learning eventually?
PP: COVID-19 has taught us that the rigid offline curriculum is not as necessary. Classroom learning has now changed to Online learning over various Video Conferencing platforms. The interaction level of the teacher in E-learning is another story altogether. Whether he interacts with his students and keeps the class engaged or played a recording of his lecture is entirely up to him. However, I believe that E-learning can flourish with the proper preparation and cooperation from both sides.
MM: Any message for aspiring Unacademy Educators.
Most aspiring educators ask me how to be a top educator with a massive number of followers. Even I asked these questions when I started as a content creator, but I eventually started focusing on improving my content. If you teach well, the students you have taught will tell their juniors about learning from you, and this is how one can grow into being a successful online educator.
MM: What message do you have for your juniors?
There are many students who are unaware of the things they love to do. They just choose the field of Medical Science or Engineering because everyone else is also doing the same. So, I will advise them to explore what you exactly need to do. Once they figure out their interest, everything will go smooth!
Team Monday Morning wishes Pranav Pundarik the best of luck for all his future ventures.