If you had to wake up early on weekends to travel to your different tutors’ homes when you were in primary or secondary school, you aren’t alone.
Vice-versa, if you had to rush “tuition homework” before your tutor arrives at your home.
You may also have had this experience of buying just one drink at McDonald’s or Starbucks to ‘chope‘ your seat (or seats) to study there all day (or all night).
There’s just so many little inconveniences when it comes to finding a conducive environment to study at – not just for students, but also for tutors.
Here’s where That Tuition Café (TTC) comes in.
Established in early 2019, we got to speak to Aparna Shivpuri, co-founder of TTC, to learn more about how her “café” can create a better environment for students and tutors.
Using Tech To Improve Productivity
Singaporeans Aparna and her business partner had always been keen to be a part of the tuition industry in Singapore.
Her business partner has tutored numerous students when he was in university and they both noticed “a growing trend of students choosing to study in public spaces”.
“We both noted that not only was it not conducive, it was also provoking the ire of the public,” she said.
“Thus, we hit upon the idea of creating a conducive learning space where students could meet tutors and take charge of their learning.”
The idea was conceived in late 2016 and Aparna and her co-founder incorporated the company in 2017, investing a six-figure sum to launch TTC.
They also developed an app for students to select their tutors and arrange for a tuition session easily.
App development began in 2017 but took almost 15 months to complete as they were testing it out to ensure that it works for tutors and students, Aparna said.
“We also began to find a space for TTC in that year. We were very particular about finding the right space as our main function is to offer up an ideal learning space for the students,” she added.
“That took us a year to find the best space possible to provide a conducive environment and an accessible location.”
Renovation and furnishing took another four more months and they launched in March 2019.
Book A Tutor In 5 Simple Steps
A student looking for a tutor can easily book one in just five steps.
Download the app.Sign up and register their account.Connect a PayPal account, either theirs or their parents’.Search for tuition sessions based on level of study and subject.Select preferred date and time, and choose available tutors.
“Once session is booked, they [will] meet at TTC, and the café manager will guide them to their allocated table,” Aparna described.
When the tuition session is over, the student, tutor, and the café manager have to acknowledge that the lesson has taken place in order to complete the payment.
Once the three-way verification is done, the tutor automatically receives their fees for the session into their registered account.
As for tutors, they have to register online through the TTC website.
They are then vetted by the TTC team based on their profiles that they’ll upload on the app.
After each session, tutors will also be rated by students based on punctuality, communication skills, and knowledge of the subject, and these are updated in real-time on tutors’ profiles.
The review system will allow students to make better-informed decisions on which tutor would suit their style or needs.
On the other hand, tutors can also use the feedback from reviews to improve on their skills.
Aparna explained that this would help TTC “maintain [a] qualified pool of tutors to ensure that [they] are providing the best for [their] students”.
PayPal was chosen as the preferred payment gateway because it has the option to use Singapore Dollar as the native currency and it is PCI DSS compliant.
“In future, we might consider other payment gateways if they are more popular in Singapore,” Aparna said.
An Opportunity Of A Venture
The 38-year-old entrepreneur also runs her own company she started three years ago, Alster Marketing Management, where she handles the media and research for various government organisations, banks, and private companies.
She has worked in various international firms over the last 15 years, including stints at the United Nations (UN) in Bangkok and the World Trade Organisation in Geneva.
Aparna shared that she’s always had the entrepreneurial streak in her, having had set up a couple of businesses in her lifetime.
“When my business partner and I got together, discussing [about starting] up TTC was right up my alley,” she recalled.
“I’ve also had a great interest in the education of young minds in our country, and it made me even more keen to kickstart TTC.”
As a freelancer who’s not confined to the bonds of the 9-to-5 grind, Aparna has the flexibility to juggle time between caring for her businesses, family, and herself, she shared.
She feels that she has developed a keen sense on adapting to different situations, identifying opportunities, and analysing how the industry is changing.
Her past experience working in various industries has also helped her with the conceptualisation to the materialisation of TTC.
Aim To Cater To 350 Students
Living up to the expectation to be a ‘coworking space for the tuition industry’, TTC not only functions as a tuition café, it also allows students to rent spaces on an hourly basis without tutors.
Included in this package are free Wi-Fi and some simple refreshments.
Rates start from S$8 per student per hour, depending on the number of hours needed, and if students wish to rent long-term, TTC can offer discounted rates.
At the moment, TTC only lets students book 1-to-1 sessions on the app, but they are looking to add more features such as letting students opt for a group class of up to three students in a session.
Aparna said that as TTC “is a new concept” in Singapore, it took some time to convince tutors to be a part of their teaching team.
“We invited tutors and students to various ‘open house’ days where they could experience what the café had to offer and learn about the goals of TTC,” she said.
“Slowly, but surely, the concept is being accepted and becoming popular amongst tutors and students alike.”
In the next six months, TTC aims to have 200 tutors on the platform and cater to 300 to 350 students.
They plan to open more cafés in Singapore in the coming years so tutors and students can choose places that are convenient for them.
“We are also looking to expand regionally and take the TTC concept to students and tutors in Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, and India,” Aparna said.
Featured Image Credit: That Tuition Café