New Delhi: Leveraging the spread of its broadband network, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, or BSNL, has entered the online tutoring business as part of its efforts to increase revenues from value-added services.
BSNL, which aims to enroll some 200,000 students to its branded service, Livetutor, in three years, faces flattening revenues as more customers give up their fixed-line phones, the mainstay of its business, in favour of mobile phones.
The state-owned firm, which has tied up with Hyderabad’s Smartlinx Voip Networks Pvt. Ltd to sign up customers and teachers, plans to differentiate its service with personalized online tuitions via a videophone or Web camera.
Indians spend an estimated $40 billion (around Rs2 trillion) a year on education and training services, according to estimates made by CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in March 2008. Online tuitions form a tiny sliver of that demand but is growing explosively. Estimates by the brokerage firm put the total tuition market at around $27 million with projections of $280 million by 2012.
Students seeking tutoring lessons, ranging from a month to a year, will have to register at www.livetutor.in to start with, a senior BSNL executive said. “He or she will then be given a choice of teachers along with qualifications, experience and rates. The student will make a choice after which the chosen teacher will call the potential student and complete the selection and appointment formalities,” said Anil Jain, deputy director general, broadband, BSNL. “The student and teacher (will then) fix a time and date to start.”
The service, which is priced at between Rs50 and Rs400 an hour depending on the level of studies (ranging from type of classes to quality of teachers) needed, requires a BSNL broadband connection and a videophone or webcam set up in place. Livetutor aims to sign on around 50,000 teachers for the service.
The videophone, which will not require a computer, will be sold at Rs9,999 or students will have an option of software version for computers priced at Rs2,500, Job Thomas, vice-president at Smartlinx said, adding that the project will break even with 200,000 students.
Smartlinx has forged franchisee relationships with around 20 distributors in Andhra Pradesh and will focus on the states in the south. “In this year we are looking at the four southern states, Gujarat and Maharashtra, which form around 60% of BSNL’s broadband base. By next year we will be looking at the northern and eastern parts of the country,” Thomas said.
Though BSNL has a dominant share in broadband connections in the country—some 55% of 5.5 million connections with speeds of at least 256 kilobytes per second—Livetutor is entering a market teeming with players including TutorVista Global Pvt. Ltd, NIIT Ltd, Everonn Systems India Ltd, eTutelage Eduservices Pvt. Ltd, among others, though several of these address the overseas market.
“India is still low key as compared to the rest of the world in its uptake for online tuitions,” Sujai G. Pillai, a consultant with Chennai-based 2tion Online Services Pvt. Ltd. “We get a lot of interest from students in the Gulf regions and the US but not much in India,” he said. 2tion.com has at least 17,000 teachers registered and close to 46,000 students using its services.