Colleges

Pune start-up at the forefront as universities shift exams online

Team WeShineTech: (seated) Anupam Mangudkar, Chief Executive Officer, WeShineTech; (left, standing) Utkarsh Mangudkar, Chief Marketing Officer and co-founde; Ramkrishna Kulkarni, Chief Technical Officer.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

For long, the spectre of technical glitches, question paper leaks and proctoring woes have haunted universities and educational establishments struggling to conduct online examinations smoothly in a pandemic-racked world.

However, a Pune-based start-up may have the answer to these problems. Already a force to reckon with in its sphere, ‘WeShineTech’ was conceived by brothers Anupam and Utkarsh Mangudkar, along with tech expert Ramkrishna Kulkarni in a single-room apartment in Pune’s Bavdhan area, and is sweeping away the cobwebs of outmoded varsity exam processes.

Their modest website belies the innovation of their products: WeShineTech’s UniApps package — a suite of applications to automate university examination processes — assures secure conduct of exams in areas with erratic Internet connectivity using minimal infrastructure.

Their superior question paper delivery and assessment modules are revolutionising online conduct of exams in colleges and varsities in Maharashtra and other areas in the country’s rural hinterland.

“After completing my engineering, I began working with Persistent Systems in 2008. There, I discovered people struggling to use the Internal assessment tool for learning and training. Next, year, the CAT exams went online and almost immediately encountered technical problems. This got me seriously thinking about coming up with an ERP that would counter these glitches and the seeds of ‘WeShineTech’ were thus sown,” says Anupam Mangudkar, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), WeShineTech.

WeShine’s prototype was ready in 2011. But the trio’s vision made it among the few start-ups in the country to actually anticipate the exigencies of universities in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has rendered the physical conduct of exams virtually impossible.

“The world was changing and the online conduct of varsity exams and other competitive was here to stay. It was a potential market. While varsities and colleges eventually would have moved to the online format, the pandemic has proved to be the great disruptor, greatly accelerating the process,” says elder sibling Utkarsh Mangudkar, Chief Marketing Officer and co-Founder, WeShineTech.

Today, the start-up is currently catering to more nearly 20 State universities including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Goa, besides the Pune and Mumbai universities, with their ERP software modules being used to set, assess and deliver nearly 60,000 question papers on different subjects and exams.

“We started off with colleges and coaching classes in Pune and found we were rapidly converting orders. Our big break came in 2012, when the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) used our product to two engineering papers online on a pilot basis. Prior to the introduction of our products, system failure was rife. Very soon, more than 40,000 students from 100 colleges affiliated to the Pune University were taking exams using our ERP modules,” says Mr. Anupam Mangudkar, adding that a high point was reached in 2014, when nearly two lakh students took 20 lakh exams.

Rural hinterland

An ace in the hole that the brothers and Mr. Kulkarni had was to make their offering work perfectly with the bare minimum infrastructure requirement — inexpensive Android phones with a 2G connection and patchy Internet connectivity. This factor proved crucial while expanding into Maharashtra’s rural areas.

“From 2014 onwards, we started receiving positive signals from Maharashtra’s rural hinterland, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University in Aurangabad and the Nanded university, besides SPPU-affiliated colleges in Nashik and Ahmednagar districts. These provided a veritable training ground to perfect our products,” says Mr. Utkarsh Mangudkar, remarking that, soon, colleges in Beed and Buldhana took the Pune varsity’s lead and adopted their software.

The other knotty problem they have managed to counter successfully is maintaining the integrity of question papers.

“Paper leaks were galore in the traditional exam process owing to multiple change of hands, with exam papers delivered several days before exams and involving complex logistics and onerous storage and security arrangements like bank lockers, police personnel and so on. Furthermore, eleventh hour changes in the question papers are not possible and worryingly, there was no method to trace leaked question papers to their source within a short time. There was also no way to verify and ensure that only authorised personnel had access,” observes Mr. Anupam Mangudkar.

However, WeShineTech’s QP delivery (QPD) and management system facility, with its multiple leak-proof mechanisms such as biometric authentication (face and fingerprint recognition), IP restrictions, watermarking of downloaded question papers and an access control mechanism, along with a facility to enable question paper corrections, is proving to be a winner, with the exam integrity maintained even when the student is sitting at home.

“As a result of the QPD facility, over 25,000 question papers are being delivered every semester and the facility system is deployed at more than 2,000 colleges. Hundreds of papers are being delivered in a single session while paper audit logs help authorities in tracing in the event of a leak,” explains Mr. Utkarsh Mangudkar, adding that QPD helped authorities nab culprits in less than 24 hours after a leak was detected in a paper from a reputed university.

Developing a faster method of assessing a student’s theory paper was another problem, which was resolved by the on-screen marking system (OSM) module that drastically cut the lengthy time gap between exams and results.

‘We developed a simple, scalable system to get round this issue by sending daily SMS reminders to evaluators while allowing the Controller of Examination to monitor evaluation status in real time. Marking schemes can be created from a web user interface while evaluator access can be restricted by IPs. We are using the ‘book scanning’ method instead of ‘cut scanning’ to preserve integrity of answer paper booklet,” explains Mr. Kulkarni, informing that as many as 45 million images could be scanned per semester using the OSM module.

While post-lockdown, a number of IT behemoths have stormed the online exams market, ‘WeShineTech’ has managed to stand out with its ability to scale quickly by offering ‘configurable’ and ‘customisable’ modules, opines Mr. Anupam Mangudkar.

“We have had 100% customer retention since 2011. While it certainly is a very competitive market, with players like TCS iON and Mindlogicx having their own modularised system, we are very configurable. A problem with large players post-lockdown is that they could not move quickly by catering to rural educational needs while smaller players may have ideas but lack the wherewithal to scale up,” says Mr. Utkarsh Mangudkar.


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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 6:34:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/colleges/pune-start-up-at-the-forefront-as-universities-shift-exams-online/article35910313.ece

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