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Fast learners

With just a few taps of your finger and the “We Kiddoos” app, it is now possible to find the right tutor in Hong Kong for yourself or your children.

“I just had the idea of making something which was simple enough for everyone to use, whether you’re a 15-year-old student or a 50-year-old mother or father,” says Vishal Surtani, the company’s co-founder and chief executive.

The basic premise of creating a platform to connect students with tutors and educational institutions first came to him in 2016. But it took until March this year for everything to fall into place. 

According to Surtani, he used to browse different websites searching for the kind of tutors his relatives were looking for. Finding someone who might be suitable was quite a hassle, and he remembers the general process as being inconvenient and time-consuming. In most cases, the on-screen interface was awful and the overall experience was far from user-friendly.

So, as an experienced tutor himself, Surtani decided to launch We Kiddoos, seeing the need for something better and realising there was an obvious gap in the market.

Company co-founder and chief operating officer Daljit Gill adds that it was all about bringing change to the education industry and doing things in more tech- savvy ways.

“No one wants to spend 30 minutes to an hour answering questions to find a tutor or to pay someone else a large amount of money to do it for you,” Gill says.  “We were sure there was a better way.”  

Surtani and Gill were both born in Hong Kong and completed their degrees at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. This is their first start-up business venture, but they came to it with some experience in sales and marketing.

From the outset, they were determined to create a platform that could disrupt the sector and had clear ideas about how best to do it.

“Simplicity is the best description,” says Surtani. “Now, you can open the app, register and log in, and within a few seconds, you can see what’s available and what to do.”

As with most start-ups, there were a few bumps along the way. The most notable was when a tech expert, who was supposed to help with the platform set-up, suddenly stopped answering their queries. 

“It was back to ground zero,” Gill says.

To make up for lost time, they searched high and low for an alternative and, eventually, opted to outsource the outstanding development work to a contact in India.

Launching the app brought a real sense of accomplishment, but the next test was to make sure the services offered were well defined and clearly understood by potential users.

Surtani notes that answering questions about the nationality of different tutors has been one of the biggest challenges. It seemed best to face the issue head on by putting the emphasis on teaching experience and qualifications, rather than anything else.

“There is a certain mentality in Hong Kong, which we can’t change overnight, about things like native and non-native language tutors,” Gil says. “We can only provide options to choose from and then go from there.”

There is no charge for browsing through the platform to assess the relative merits of available tutors. We Kiddoos earns revenues when customers post job advertisements on their app, which is a paid feature for building much faster and easier connections between customers and tutor.

“At this stage, we just want to focus on making ourselves better and being very customer-oriented,” Gill says. “But we also want to keep innovating, and any new features we think of are first shown to customers to ask for their opinion.”

For example, the app now includes a rating system for tutors, allowing customers to give a grade and worthwhile feedback for the benefit of future users. And if it happens that a tutor is not providing the expected type or level of service, their details will be removed from the platform.

So far, the subjects on offer include languages and primary and secondary school courses leading up to all the usual HKDSE, GCE, IGCSE or IB exams.  Just recently, the company has also added music and sports in response to growing demand from parents and students. 

The app also makes it possible for signed-up tutors to browse the “help wanted” notices posted by customers. This is one step towards making the app more interactive and immediate.  

So far, Surtani and Gill are the company’s only full-time employees and that’s likely to remain the case for a while. They are happy, though, to keep ironing out problems, both big and small, and are still passionate about what they are doing. 

“You never know what you can do until you try,” Gill says. “There is an element of risk, but you have to accept that.” 

For Surtani, the main thing is to ensure there is a solid foundation and to build on the success to date.

“The only way to stay ahead is by thinking about the customer first,” he says. “Money is very important, but what’s the use of money if customers are not happy?”