Pandemic has created a seminal moment in education evolution

Even though most edtech products are priced at a premium, this has not deterred parents from adopting them

Arpan Sheth, Arpan Sheth, Lalit Reddy, Aditya Shukla
Updated21 Aug 2020
Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

Byju’s $300-million acquisition of WhiteHat Jr. is a milestone in India’s edtech space and the ascendance of consolidation for a segment that can transform the education sector. While covid-19 forced institutions to explore online teaching options, the accelerated adoption of technology catalysed edtech’s emergence, too.

India has over 330 million K-12 students—75 million of whom adopted supplementary education. Our estimate indicates another 30-40 million students don’t have access to quality supplementary education despite their ability to afford it. Consequently, the supplementary education market size is about $15 billion with less than 5% digital penetration. So, there is significant headroom for edtech solutions to grow and covid-19 has only expedited its adoption.

Alleviating some early, but critical challenges, such as lack of trust and efficacy of digital solutions in education, edtech players like Byju’s, Vedantu, Toppr and Unacademy gradually scaled up their presence.

With students experiencing a notable improvement in performance, there was a steady increase in digital penetration of education in India, even before covid-19.

Legacy challenges associated with offline education, such as inconsistent quality of teaching, crowded classrooms, higher teacher-student ratios and intense competition among students, further fuelled the demand for high-quality education—a value proposition that is fundamentally addressed by edtech-driven online models.

Graphic: Paras Jain/Mint

The increasing awareness of digital supplementary education popularized edtech. Higher adoption due to growing internet penetration led to rising income levels for edtech players, which in turn enabled higher affordability of their offerings, deepening their penetration levels.

Through the early expansion, local edtech players have largely maintained their USP of offering high-quality education; a few emerging Indian edtech players are world-class in terms of their product design, comparable to leading global players like Yuanfudao, TAL and GSX Techedu.

The pandemic has created a seminal moment in the evolution of edtech in India. With schools and coaching classes shutting down, edtech majors registered a significant spike in daily active users from the K-12 group, as well as other sub-sectors such as test prep and competitive exams. Edtech players capitalized on the opportunity by offering free access to select content, while stepping up digital as well as on-ground sales. Several rival archetypes have emerged in the B2C edtech space—from K-12 digital content, test preps and live tutoring to doubt-solving and niche skills like coding.

Separately, schools and tuition centres, which remain offline, are also looking for digital solutions to augment knowledge dissemination. Several new edtech companies like Classplus have addressed these needs and are rapidly scaling. Schools are adopting technology, starting with UCaaS solutions like Zoom for live classes and graduating to newer ways of using tech.

Though much of the covid-19 impact has given a boost to B2C edtech firms, we expect B2B edtech to also take off in the future with the advent of digital enablers and learning management systems.

Some of India’s reputable edtech players have high retention rates. Once parents and students get access to digital education tools, they typically see the multiple benefits the model has to offer. Even though most edtech products are priced at a premium, this has not deterred parents from adopting these solutions. Bain and Co.’s experience with both investors and leading edtech companies reveal that parents and students are increasingly acknowledging the advantages of edtech solutions.

Advantages like easy to navigate interface, personalized learning journeys, inculcation of higher interest in education, learning of new skills and improved academic results will continue to expand the footprint of edtech companies. A large number of today’s ‘free’ users will start paying even if for single-year courses.

Arpan Sheth, Lalit Reddy and Aditya Shukla are Partners are Bain & Company. They are leaders in the firm’s Private Equity practice.

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