The Education sector witnessed a significant disruption with the onset of the pandemic. The industry that traditionally operates through physical classrooms, pen and paper, leapt suddenly and entirely onto the online space. EdTech is now indispensable, and learners took to their desktop screens and smartphones for their education.
Several EdTech providers then rushed to meet its demand-supply economics. As a result, scalability became a significant indicator of how well an EdTech company functions. Most of the pertinent questions that the EdTechs need to answer revolve around the success mantra, customer acquisition, and export opportunities.
At the 'Education Next: Tech Led Revolution In Education', a summit presented by CNBC-TV18 & Google and supported by Startup India, a host of industry leaders convened to discuss the future of education and shared their learnings and insight.
Sanjay Gupta, Country Manager and Vice President of Google India, said that 1 million education-related searches happen on the search engine from India daily. This indicates that technology is slowly bridging the gap between education and accessibility, with a smartphone present in almost every household. "Google streamlines education through its info hub, teaching from home in English and eight other languages," he said. "As a result, we have enabled one million teachers in 20,000 schools."
The success of any EdTech company lies in how well they incorporate their research and analytics to assess the areas that require attention in online education. For instance, Byju Raveendran, founder and CEO of BYJU's, started from a small town and knew exactly how wide the gap was between education and accessibility. Coming from a small town that did not have cutting-edge solutions nurtured a love for learning in him and the drive to create something for all educators and learners. "Till 2015, we operated offline. Today, we have more than 5 million students learning from our paid platforms. It is very important to create a thirst for knowledge," he said.
Children spending hours confined to their homes last year have thrown open fresh challenges in creating products that keep them engaged. Raveendran agrees that there was a need to figure out the balance between what they want and what is easy for them: "There is no playbook for success. We co-create in a segment where not much has been done before. Keep our focus student-centric as that is the consumer pool you are aiming for."
Acquisition of interested learners follows immediately, as Google's pan-India research with Kantar revealed. One in five consumers do their research online and look for reviews on YouTube before signing up for a course. Megha Thareja Tyagi, Director, e-commerce, fintech, conglomerates, education and govt, at Google India and Biswapriya Bhattacharjee, Executive Vice-President of the insights division at Kantar, pointed out that EdTech is the pathway to the democratisation of education. "Interest in online learning saw an unprecedented jump and continues to remain at elevated levels," said Tyagi.
There has been an 85% increase in online courses and 75% in certificate courses on Google. Almost all consumers use a digital channel at least once in their purchase journey. The pandemic has increased learners' reliance on online channels for research by an average of 10–15%. The key triggers are the search for something new and better career prospects. Parents are always on the lookout to give their school-going children the best online education, which is the first demographic that most EdTech companies target.
Once an EdTech company gets their inputs through a partnership with a leading search engine like Google, the next step is growth. Not all products will work, and existing ones will always need to be improved. The online medium allows large-scale experimentation. For a perfect product fit, watching learners and deducing what they want is very important for an EdTech company.
"Every product goes through its lifecycle, and every EdTech company goes through its evolution. The key is to better a product that does well. Early companies prioritise growth, but at some point, you need to look at profitability," said Krishna Kumar, founder of Simplilearn.
This brings an EdTech company to a juncture where they need to figure out a North Star vision for the right product. "There is no perfect fit because you must set the bar higher and improve on the existing products that you offer. It is easy to start something in the field of online education but difficult to scale. A referral is the biggest channel for profit. If your existing consumers like your product, they will be your brand ambassadors and get you more customers," said Mayank Kumar, co-founder and MD of upGrad.
It is not just students who take recourse to online learning but also professionals looking to upskill themselves. Vocational learning and skill-building courses are the best pathways to launch an EdTech company beyond borders and into the international arena.
Ashwin Damera, co-founder and CEO, Eruditus, has seen exponential success in this arena. He has taken his company to international success, and the path, though time-consuming, is not difficult for an EdTech company to go through. The first step towards an international venture is establishing market leadership in one's native country. "You have to adapt to the global market and take in locals under your wings. There are language and sociological barriers that need to be dealt with, and one cannot succeed in a global market without commitment and planning. You have to accept that you know very little about a new market. Have a local market leader, and they will build a team for you," he said during his chat with GV Ravishankar, Managing Director at Sequoia India.
The summit saw participation from other experts from EdTech and Google too: Shreyasi Singh, founder and CEO of Harappa Education; Pratik Mehta, Country Head – public sector, Google Cloud; and Anant Swami, Head of Industry, Education & Govt. at Google India. All the experts focused on the key takeaway for EdTech companies that want to scale faster: the system of referrals that come with an online presence. If your existing consumers like your product, they will be your brand ambassadors and get you more customers later.
This is a partnered post.
First Published: IST