Indian EdTech: The Unicorn’s Fall from Grace.

March 2020: Reluctantly preparing for my final year papers, I repeatedly peeked into my phone, checking the Education Minister for Maharashtra’s Twitter handle yearning for an update on the exam situation. Although, in my heart of hearts I absolutely wanted to fling my textbook away and chomp on a trashy snack while watching Netflix. In my moment of carefreeness, I absolutely forgot about the question concerning my postgraduate education.
“What Next?” began to haunt me. UpGrad came to my rescue. The Indian EdTech industry skyrocketed during the pandemic. Being a consumer of their offering, I owe them two whole years of my postgraduate education.

The unicorn of the Edtech Industry in India has galloped swiftly, sprinkling pixie dust on the way. The Industry through the extended pandemic was nothing short of a dream. Imagine being a wizard donning a funnily-shaped conical hat and vigorously stirring together a magic potion. This potion is a success recipe for the Indian Edtech. Add to the mix— increased internet penetration thanks to the arrival of Reliance Jio in 2016, a surge in accessibility owed to mobile phones, backed by strong government initiatives like SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active–Learning for Young Aspiring Minds), and the catalyst—Covid-19.
There you have it— A concoction better than Hogwarts’ Butterbeer!
In FY2020, India became one of the fastest growing Edtech Economies with about 360 million learners. The year 2021 added 4 Edtech giants to the unicorn club— UpGrad, Vedantu, Unacademy, and Eruditus. For venture capitalists, the Edtech economy in India showed tremendous potential. VC-backed massive funding rounds helped businesses like Byju’s and Unacademy acquire several smaller Edtech companies in 2021. 

An overview of Indian Startup Funding in CY21,
Credits: Business Standard

The extensive acquisition strategy is the proverbial “Big fish eats small fish”. Or, if you can’t beat them, buy them. Unsurprisingly, Edtech became one of the most funded sectors in FY21. (Refer to above graphic) 

But, these big fish can sometimes bite off more than they can chew.
The key difference between well-established companies and startups is patience. Startups attempt to achieve the organic growth of older firms over time, in merely 5 years. Evidently, the Edtech sector took a serious hit as the pandemic dwindled, with layoffs of approximately 1000 people across companies. Edtech Startups aim to identify and solve pre-existing issues like a grade-oriented approach unsuited to fit the diverse cognitive needs of students.

Owing to inadequate training, Indian students are often unprepared to enter the job market, A report by KPMG on The Rise of Digital in the Indian education sector, mentions over 82% of Indian children reported a loss of their learning, conceptual clarity, and foundational capacity caused by digital learning.

The rapid growth of the Edtech industry is the result of a successful marriage of technology and education. But this integration is to succeed, only if technology is complementary to learning, and not a replacement for it. While the Edtech startups were quick to adapt to the growing preference for offline classes, it’s about time they manoeuvred their business model, shifting focus from rapid to sustainable growth.

Author: Digital Onca

Digital Onca is a blog that documents the concepts of Digital Marketing and Public Relations. Digital Onca is the effort to stay with the times, understand more deeply, more closely the working of a digital space that is steadfastly emerging around us.

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