COVID-19: A New Dawn for the Indian Edtech Space

The term EdTech has off late come to encompass a wide variety of business models and value propositions. As the global schooling model slowly warms up to the idea of technology enabled learning, the Indian market space too is showing a promising trajectory with massive investments being funneled towards Edtech initiatives. Both public and private players are rapidly diversifying to design and innovate more efficient ways of teaching and learning indicating a radical shift in market understanding.

As the pandemic hit the country, about 5 million students in schools were impacted. Schools had no contingency plans to tackle such events and the education system was on the verge of collapse. In an effort to salvage student learning, schools switched to online video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype etc. to push classroom teaching. These tools however, were never really designed for live lesson delivery and therefore lacked immensely in functionality and aesthetic. Moreover, students were able to take advantage of their schools unpreparedness and indulged in mischief and unscrupulous activities thereby completely defeating the true purpose of learning.

A closer look however, also brought forth a few schools that had invested in the idea of online learning and were able to swiftly move their curriculum online. Their teachers were well trained to use these learning environments and students were acquainted with E-Learning during normal schooling which cumulatively lead to minimal impact on student learning when the pandemic hit. Such incidents however, are a dime a dozen, and there is a vast majority of the Indian market space that is still searching for online learning models to support their recommencement plans.

In order to leverage staggering spike in demand, Indian Edtech firms have started offering a wide variety of features such as personalized learning, and expert led sessions as an alternative to traditional schooling. While these services were only supporting student learning prior to the pandemic, they have now been repositioned to be a replacement to regular schooling altogether. Leading Edtech players such as Byju’s, Vedantu, Unacademy etc. have expanded the scope of their services to offer live lesson delivery, digital lesson planning and personalization of learning paths for students to take advantage of. In fact, their efforts have yielded shocking results with some firms reporting a consistent month on month user base increase of 60%. Even top investors have significantly increased their investments in the Indian Edtech space which is estimated to be valued at over US$200 billion.

Learning management solutions are now being leveraged by schools for front end classroom delivery activities. Geared purely towards E-learning, Learning Management solutions are cloud based frameworks that emulate regular schooling activities, digitally. Schools can schedule classes, assign teachers, supervise lesson delivery while students can view their timetables, attend live classrooms and submit assignments all through the use of this learning management system. In fact, important aspects such as attendance, assessments and course material provisions are also possible through these learning management solutions. Global giants such as Google and Microsoft have also launched their schooling solutions to address front end aspects of schooling and cash in the momentum of the Edtech space.

In India, several universities have also adopted the use of highly sophisticated proctoring solutions to conduct their online examinations. These solutions provide web based candidate authentication and AI based supervision services which can perfectly be integrated with almost all leading Learning Management Solution providers. Government departments have also started using these proctoring solutions to conduct important competitive entrance exams such as those related to banking and finance.

Indian startups that primarily operate in the exam preparation market have also significantly increased their contribution to the overall Edtech pie. There has been an increase of over 14% in their addressable base in the last year. Studies also indicate that test preparation and online certification firms earned a whopping US$1.6 billion as revenue in FY19 and had the highest capital inflow in Edtech. This surge in adoption has also given rise to innovative propositions such AI based doubt clearing applications, designing of learning applications for the visually impaired etc.

It is safe to assume that the EdTech space in India is perhaps one of the most attractive sectors to be in at the moment. Even in the face of a worldwide outbreak, investors have been able to exit big and early stage startups have been able to ride the wave of technology driven learning. This trajectory is clearly setting precedent for the absolute requirement of online curriculum support systems and digital literacy in the education space in general. This is a great opportunity for thought leaders and critical thinkers to venture into uncharted territory to identify niche segments that can be developed into self sustaining verticals.

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