“Up until grade 7 my teachers believed that I would not do anything substantial in my life,” says Taran Singh, Founder and CEO of Melvano, a free app that is based on an Artificial Intelligence(AI)-driven adaptive learning platform where aspirants can practice, discuss and search for questions for entrance exams like JEE Mains, JEE Advanced and CBSE Boards.
Born and brought up in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Taran describes his upbringing as “modest” and says that his life was “terribly normal.” What he was most interested in was tinkering around with electronics and even made a television set once.
Change of heart in Grade 9
It was when Taran was in Grade 9 that he started showing an interest in academics.
“I was a below-average student, and I couldn’t sustain any interest in Math and Science,” he says. When asked what changed, Taran says that he was often pulled up by the teachers and cited as an example of how not to be, and it was this constant hauling up and being made an example of what not to be is what changed him.
“I worked extremely hard and even pushed my parents to enroll me in various classes to help me academically. I did not want to be a negative example any more.”
From being called ‘dumb’ to making it to IIT Madras
There was no looking back for Taran after that, his hard work and determination culminated into a wonderful accomplishment in 2014— getting into IIT Madras.
He attributes a lot of his success to the wonderful set of teachers he had in his higher grades. “My interest and love for Math grew only because of the teachers. Thanks to them, from being called ‘dumb,’ I managed to secure the highest score in Math in my city during the JEE Advanced examination,” he says.
It was in his second year at IIT Madras that Taran started taking an interest in teaching and started designing an app, which could help students learn.
“I was studying under complete scholarship, and even for the hostel and other expenses, I wanted to manage on my own and not trouble my parents. That is how I started my teaching journey.”
Learnings from teaching
“The biggest lesson I learnt while tutoring aspiring engineering students was that a one size fits all model does not work. The need of each student is very specific and to address that, in 2018 Melvano came into existence,” says Taran.
In the same year, the company also managed to raise its first seed funding. As an alumnus of IIT Madras, Taran says that he was also fortunate to have gotten support from IIT Madras’ Nirmaan (a pre-incubation cell) programme.
In 2019, as Taran graduated from IIT Madras, he did so as an entrepreneur and shares with pride that IIT Madras also conferred him with the Sri Chinmay Deodhar award for the most innovative student project.
What is Melvano?
Explaining the nomenclature, Taran says, “The term Malivana in Tamil means affordable and cheap, and that is exactly what the app is. It has been designed keeping in mind every single student and their needs.”
One thing that Taran kept in mind while designing the app was his humble background. As a result, putting out an affordable product was of topmost priority for him. “I did not want any student to even think twice before downloading the app and using it,” he asserts.
Explaining how the app works, Taran says, “Once the student downloads the app, there are some questions which need to be answered. Based on the performance, the artificial intelligence charts out the best learning plan for the student.”
The app, therefore, will suggest the best learning path for the student based on their performance. It also helps students address their problem areas by suggesting discussions and questions for them to attempt. This helps them to work on their problem areas and hone their hold over the topics they are good at.
One of the USP of this programme is that current and former students of IIT create the questions. Having already gone through the study process and successfully clearing the examination, they have a fair idea of what to expect.
How to download the app?
Currently, the app is only available for Android devices and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. It is free for students as of now, and Taran says that it will remain this way for until the end of June 2020.
When asked about his plans of making the app a chargeable product, he says, “We will continue to have free access to many of our features and the premium access, which will include unlimited test preparatory material will be charged at Rs 199 a month.”
Just as we conclude our conversation, Taran says, “This year, 2 of our students have placed in the top 1 percentile, and over 20+ students have scored 95+ percentile in the JEE Mains examination. These results are proof of all the hard work that goes into making Melvano a success.”
With over 60 thousand users already, Taran is looking at reaching the 1 lakh mark soon.
If you wish to find out more about the programme and enroll for it, you can download the app here.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)