‘Many companies in EdTech thrive on fear of exams’: Sabin Mathew, Director at Lesics Engineers Pvt Ltd & Sabins School

‘Many companies in EdTech thrive on fear of exams’: Sabin Mathew, Director at Lesics Engineers Pvt Ltd & Sabins School

He runs his courses on the platform free of cost as he likes to make ‘learning engineering’ an absorbing experience for those who enjoy the application of science, design, mathematics, and manufacturing

Lajwanti D'souzaUpdated: Thursday, June 02, 2022, 11:21 PM IST

What was your first job?

My first job was that of a site engineer. I was doing the assembly and commissioning of particular equipment called an incinerator. It was an okay kind of job after my B.Tech. I didn’t learn much technically from that job. However, I learned people management skills and human psychology. The site job was a baptism in fire for me. Managing different types of people all at one go.

When did you start this company and why the name?

The name is Lesics because I wanted a unique name. I have a lot of business plans in my mind. If you want to understand the meaning behind the name Lesics, it can be explained as Learn Engineering through phySICS. However, I don’t want any meaning behind this name, it should be a meaningless and unique name so that it is trademarkable. Whenever someone says Lesics, our channel or content should come to their mind.

We are not in test preparation. My business model is slightly different from other EdTech companies. They are focusing on competitive exams or securing good marks in your schools. However, my business idea is more about making the current education interesting, especially the engineering education. Hence, we don’t focus on test preparation at all. People who are preparing for tests, if they watch our videos, they may not perform well in their exams.

Tell us about the journey.

The journey has been wonderful so far. We had a humble beginning eight years ago with me as the only employee of the company. Now we have around 25 employees. There were many ups and downs. Especially our main revenue source YouTube Adsense revenue is not a stable source of revenue. Making it a stable revenue stream was one of my main challenges. To make the revenue more stable, I had to start ten more channels - these are dubbed channels of Lesics in various world languages. The other main change that happened was the change in video production style. When I started this channel I believed that animation is the best way to convey your ideas about engineering. However, now I realize that experiments are the real way to convince and teach people. Our recent videos with experiments are doing well on YouTube

What were the numbers and sales? What is the strategy to stay afloat amid the competition? 

About the number of sales, we don’t sell courses. Our educational content is free for everyone. Over the years, this content is reaching more people. In 2021, we reached around 120 million people. We haven’t yet reached the halfway point of 2022 and we have crossed the 200 million mark. The view count is increasing. My company doesn’t have any sales numbers for courses. My revenue source is Google AdSense revenue.

We are seeing quite a few acquisitions in the EdTech space, is that the path ahead?

No, I don’t want my company to get acquired by a giant. I want to stay independent. The reason is that there are many giants in the current EdTech space but their vision is different. They are after the fear of exams or the fear of not getting a job. However, my style of teaching is different. If you enjoy the learning process, if you enjoy engineering you can come to Lesics and learn. Because of this, I don’t want to get acquired by the EdTech giants. I will try to stay independent.

What are the trends you are seeing in education — more women or demographics?

The trend is quite clear: The future of online education is structured-paid courses. The free YouTube education I run currently won’t work after a point. I feel that I have already hit the saturation point of YouTube education. If you want to make a good impact on somebody’s career, it has to be a detailed and structured course.

Is it easy getting tech and teacher support? 

We don’t want teacher support. If the teachers are from IITs, it is welcome. From the other institute, we don’t want teacher support. It’s difficult to get teacher support from IITs. I know a few professors in IITs. They are almost all my friends, even though they are quite busy. Whenever I call them, the first thing I ask is, ‘Sir, are you free now? Can I take five minutes?’

What are your aspirations?

My immediate plan is to move away from YouTube. I have been in the YouTube business for the last 10 years. I know how to stay in the YouTube business, but it’s exhausting. The YouTube algorithm is preferring entertainment content over educational content. I hope after two-three years YouTubers who mix entertainment with educational content will only remain on this platform. All the serious educators will move to some other structured platform. I am considering the possibility of Linked Learning seriously.

Apart from the change, I have several business plans for Lesics. These plans are different from the current EdTech companies. These are surprises. So, just wait and see there will be more wonders in the coming years. I want to build the company as a different company. We will be in the EdTech space, but providing different kinds of services and products. These are surprises, just wait for two-three years.

It is said also the EdTech companies have turned the noble art of teaching into a business.

I am also running a business because of education. What to do? Education is a business now. If the EdTech companies keep on increasing their course prices, there will be a good impact on economically not so privileged people. Let’s hope with time and more customers in their kitty, they will reduce the course prices. My service will remain free but I don’t think YouTube is a great platform to continue. Their revenue is highly fluctuating. Slowly I will also be moving to the paid-course model because I don’t see much future for the YouTube business. However, Lesics will continue in some other way. Education has become a business; I am a part of that. We are helpless here.

Your videos are accessible to all, how do you make money?

One good aspect of Google or AdSense is that they identify good content and promote it across their platforms. You don’t have to market your videos. However, AdSense revenue is not so steady and huge. That’s the reason why I deliberately kept my team size small. It’s impossible to take your business to the next level just by relying on AdSense revenue. Moreover, the future of the internet is not Google, it’s Microsoft. I see a great business opportunity in Linked Learning — it is owned by Microsoft. I have already started my work on developing detailed courses on Linked Learning. We are going to make amazing courses.

How will EdTech fare going ahead?

I cannot predict anything. I hope the EdTech companies have a great future. That’s why I am also in the business. If you check my company, we have been in this field for eight years. It has been a slow and steady growth, not an exponential growth. I don’t see any sudden collapse for my company. We have strong fundamentals and a wide reach. Since the growth has been slow and steady, even failure will be slow and steady. There won’t be sudden death. About the larger EdTech space, I think there is no alternative, people are liking it. The quality of the content of online education is improving. I think it will continue.

Tell us about your family.

My wife’s name is Priyanka Sabin and my three sons are Harsh, Josh and Yash. We are one happy family based in Pune.

Would you say your IIT days got you to where you are or was it your passion for engineering?

Even before getting into IIT, I was passionate about science and engineering. The IIT made a huge impact on me, especially the professors. If the industries can tap the expertise and knowledge of our IIT professors there will be an economic boom in India. During my IIT days, my fundamental subject knowledge became stronger and I learned how to analyse problems more logically.

Your videos speak about everyday occurrences and usage like car wipers. Is there a thought behind this?

Yes, that’s the style of our videos. People use technology in their daily lives. They are naturally curious about it. We quench their curiosity with the fundamentals of physics. This is why our videos are doing well on YouTube.


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