Borkowski’s brain-child

EducationWorld April 2019 | People

An economics graduate of the Warsaw School of Economics (Poland), Michal Borkowski is the promoter-chief executive of Brainly Inc (estb. 2009), a closely-held private limited liability company registered in New York and Kraków, Poland (pop.38 million).

Borkowski was recently in India — “our fastest growing market” — to appraise the Indian public and the student community about Brainly which hosts the “world’s largest social learning community”. This fast-track company encourages and enables collaborative peer-to-peer learning for students in the 13-19 age group worldwide.

History. The idea of monetising collaborative peer-to-peer learning (the essence of ancient India’s gurukul system of education in which a guru would intensively train his brightest students to mentor fellow students) on a global scale utilising new digital technologies, dawned upon Borkowski and his friends Tomasz Kraus and Łukasz Haluch.

In 2009, they promoted a company under the name and style of Brainly.pl. in Poland inviting teenage students to post academic questions online to be answered and explained by their peers in Poland with the young graduates vetting and improving the answers. Since then, the community of free-of-charge registered students has multiplied to 150 million in 35 countries with questions being posed and answered in 12 languages including Hindi. Moreover this high-potential company has raised $38 million (Rs.262 crore) from investors in the US, Europe and South Africa to scale its operations and induct sophisticated new technologies.

Business model. Although Brainly encourages students who believe they have answers and solutions to academic problems to help their peers around the world, the answers posted online by them are vetted, modified and curated by the company’s ‘moderators’ (regular users of the Brainly platform who are identified as shiny pennies) and ‘administrators’ (company employees who are experienced teachers and academics). They modify and curate students’ answers for clarity and accuracy or reject them altogether. Revenue generation is by way of online and onsite advertising. Since it is an unlisted private company, Brainly is not obliged to reveal revenue and profit particulars, says Borkowski.

Direct talk. “Brainly has been operational in India for the past two years during which we have registered over 15 million students who are sharing knowledge and learning collaboratively with peers around the world and in India in English and Hindi. We are very bullish about India where students have a historical memory of peer-to-peer learning. And given that India has 29 major languages, we are examining ways and means to enable peer learning in other languages. India could well become our largest market,” says Borkowski.

Future plans. With Brainly’s peer-to-peer learning model supported by moderators and administrators having proved itself as viable and sustainable, Borkowski is optimistic about the company’s future. “The Brainly collaborative learning model is not merely an academic advancement enterprise. Apart from enhancing students’ learning, it also connects youth around the world and enables them to build friendship networks while carving career paths for students invited by us to become moderators. In this way Brainly also satisfies some emotional needs of people on our platform while simultaneously augmenting and disseminating the stock of human knowledge. That’s why I believe this company has a very bright future in the new digitalised global marketplace of the 21st century,” says Borkowski.

Wind in your sails!

Dilip Thakore (Bangalore)

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