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January 2007

TutorVista’s big catch

An India-based business process outsourcing project which is currently making big waves in the US is distance education, especially cost-effective private tuition delivered to American school kids online by Indian teachers. In particular the modestly priced ($99.99 per month) online tutoring services in maths, sciences and even English being provided to over 2,000 all-American students by the Bangalore-based TutorVista Pvt Ltd — promoted in 2005 by the serial entrepreneur K. Ganesh — has attracted serious media attention in the US. Major television networks and newspapers have provided extensive coverage of this mind-boggling role reversal of third world Indian teachers tutoring American students.

And it’s a measure of the excitement that TutorVista has generated in the US that polymath entrepreneur-cum software designer-cum management expert Dr. John Stuppy has signed up with the company as its president and US-based chief executive.

An alumnus of Stanford (biological sciences and education), University of Southern California (medicine), Kent College (management) and the University of California at Los Angeles (education policy), Stuppy is a model continuous learner who interrupted his formal education on several occasions to build one of the first ever personal computers (1976) and promote and operationalise a medical practice management software company which he sold for $3 million in 1988. In the late 1980s after reading management guru Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence, he developed an interest in measuring education inputs and outcomes and signed up to write his doctoral thesis on the subject at UCLA.

Subsequently in the mid 1990s before the height of the dotcom boom Stuppy was among the first pioneers to register patents for internet-based distance learning software and developed a web-based system for tutoring. Thereafter he worked with several of the largest American companies in the education space including Sylvan Learning, ETS, STI and The Princeton Review prior to signing up with TutorVista recently. "Our goal is to develop a large pool of experienced educators who will provide interactive tuition to students anywhere in the world at a standard affordable price," he says.

According to Stuppy, TutorVista which already has a pool of 250 experienced teachers well-trained in the art of delivering tuition online — of whom 90 percent are India based — has infinite capacity for expansion of operations and global reach. Currently the company has over 2,000 students in 13 countries around the world including the US, UK, Canada, Turkey, Australia and China. By June next year, Stuppy expects the number of students enrolled with the company for personalised online tutoring to rise to 10,000.

Unsurprisingly, Stuppy believes that the sky’s the limit for TutorVista in terms of business potential and growth, particularly since he has come aboard to lead the company’s charge in the US and European markets where private tuition is typically priced at $45 per hour as against TutorVista’s $99.99 per month for unlimited tutoring. "My forecast is that in the near future online tutoring will become like cable television — factored into family budgets and on call whenever needed. The implications of this development for the knowledge revolution are mind-boggling," he predicts.

And it’s only a matter of time before Stuppy discovers that TutorVista’s biggest market may be right here in India, where teaching-learning standards are in free fall.

About TutorVista

TutorVista's mission is to provide world class tutoring and high-quality content to students around the world. TutorVista is the premier online destination for affordable education-anytime, anywhere, in any subject. Students access TutorVista from the convenience of their home or in school and use TutorVista's comprehensive lessons and question bank to master any subject with access to a live tutor around the clock. The TutorVista idea: help students to excel in school and at competitive examinations. The management team consists of professionals from education, training and Internet fields whose expertise spans eLearning, instructional design, technology-based learning, professional services management, and Internet technologies. For more information, go to