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A reality check for EdTech after boom

EdTech became the third most funded sector in India, attracting $4.7 bn in 2021, with the industry’s market size expanding to $2 bn. The global Edtech market was valued at $88 bn and is expected to grow to $320 bn by 2029.

Lay-offs in industry stress need for players to shun short-term thinking in the post-pandemic era
Lay-offs in industry stress need for players to shun short-term thinking in the post-pandemic era

By Uma Ganesh

EdTech was touted to be one of the most promising sectors because of its impact on customers in India. While several tech and hybrid models were attempted in the past for the education sector, it was not easy to scale and build a sustainable proposition. The Indian market and the opportunity to acquire customers presented a lot of promise, but the hesitation of the stakeholders to adopt digital methods of learning remained a challenge. All of this changed with the onset of the pandemic – with parents, students, teachers and education administrators starting to embrace technology.

Thus, the EdTech sector could find a large community of adopters in just a few months. Despite not being prepared or trained to deliver or receive learning using digital tools, teachers and students adapted to the unexpected pandemic situation by sharing the know-how to become digitally literate and devices to access learning and making use of MOOCs and other such freely available content.

As a result, EdTech became the third most funded sector in India, attracting $4.7 bn in 2021, with the industry’s market size expanding to $2 bn. The global Edtech market was valued at $88 bn and is expected to grow to $320 bn by 2029. To meet the immediate demands of the market, Edtech ventures focused on acquiring customers and serving learners even though their offerings were not complete or rooted in the long-term thinking of how to delight and retain customers.

The EdTech industry in India experienced four unicorns emerging in just two years. However, after the initial euphoria, rumblings are being heard in the industry, with large layoffs announced by leading Edtech companies. The ambitious growth that was expected in the post pandemic era has eluded most EdTech firms, leading to a review of their business models.

EdTech is beginning to feel once again the resistance to digital teaching-learning. Not only are students finding it difficult to concentrate for long hours in front of digital devices, the learning quality is also being debated. The primary reason for this is that, more often than not, physical learning processes have been simply transferred to the online medium without much thought for engagement with the learners.

The much-talked-about mass customisation has also been missing in the teaching-delivery process despite the advent of exciting digital support in the form of chatbots, analytics, AI and virtual reality. Success will come to those ventures which are able to move away from the quick-fix mentality to offer a long-term value proposition. Winners would be those who are able to disrupt learning processes and innovate, so that the outcomes are vastly superior to classroom-led learning. Instead of just focusing on rich content, engaging the learners in their entire learning journey would be necessary to create unique experiences and measurable outcomes.

Finally, the startup philosophy is different from the academic mindset, with the former being focused on features, views, USPs and returns. Ensuring teachers’ viewpoints are integrated into the education solutions and they are made part of the teams developing and delivering solutions is therefore essential for start-ups to build a sustainable value proposition.

The author is chairperson, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions firm

Read also: AIM hopeful to achieve its target to establish 10,000 ATLs in schools in next three months

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