'The decision to cancel 12th board exams has put an end to all confusions, and it seems to make a positive impact on the competitive examinations they are going to appear in, especially JEE Mains and Advanced.'
Kota was a town bustling with young students and aspirants from all over the country. Like everything else in the world, Covid-19 lockdowns brought the city and its coaching business to a screeching halt. Students went back home as state buses scrambled towards Kota to rescue those stranded due to lockdown. While most of the coaching activity has shifted to online, the ancillary activities like hostels, PGs, tiffin centres, etc., are collecting dust. In an exclusive conversation with Financial Express Online Nitin Vijay, MD – Motion Education Pvt Ltd and VP – Byju’s JEE NEET Division talked about Covid-19’s impact on Kota coaching activities, cancellation of board exams and more. Excerpts:
How has COVID impacted the coaching industry, especially in Kota known as the hub for the preparations of competitive examinations?
It’s true that the Corona Pandemic brings massive problems to almost every sector, but rapid digitalization in the education sector has mitigated its effects to a great extent. Undoubtedly, Kota’s coaching industry promptly protected itself with swift and agile digital transformation. During 2020-21, nearly 100,000 students have enrolled for Kota’s online coaching. Whereas, the average annual influx of students was around 150,ooo in pre-Covid times.
What was the size of business in Kota pre-COVID, after the first wave, and now?
Kota has some 300-odd coaching institutes. Every year Kota embraces nearly 150,000 students, and their average spending falls between ₹200,000-250,000 per year. This included around ₹100,000 for coaching fees and a similar amount on accommodation and food. So, the coaching industry’s annual revenue totaled around ₹3200 crores. With this, ancillary enterprises also thrived. There are around 25,000 paying guest facilities, 3,000 hostels and 1,800 student kitchen facilities in Kota. These ancillary businesses are the worst hit by the pandemic. Backed by virtual infrastructure and hybrid modules, coaching institutes have exhibited better immunity against the current crisis.
With the uncertainties around, how the industry conditions and what will be the focus for FY 2021- 2022?
We are certainly reinventing and restructuring. The emerging trends in the industry have necessitated such measures. We are focusing on the use of technology that can be human-driven. We are innovating in our services, teaching methodology, study material, and academic analytics. Offline classes cannot be replaced in their value and efficacy by online, however, in this current dynamic situation; digital offers an effective solution and a hybrid model by combining it with online would make coaching more affordable and accessible.
Can you tell us in percentage how much decline the industry has faced? How are the numbers for online classes? Give us the percentage change in post the first wave and now with the second wave?
Kota’s coaching industry has experienced 25-30% contraction after the first wave. A significant improvement was noticed in the first-two months of 2021. Though April and May were the sluggish months, we expect a sharp surge in online classes for the new session. Armed with smart technologies and practical solutions, Kota’s coaching industry is all set to flourish soon.
When do you think offline class mode will be back in full swing?
Be it offline or online, learning shouldn’t stop. Besides, as the number of Covid cases are declining steeply since the mid of May, things will be normalised by June end. But, a lot depends on how fast students receive vaccines to fight against the pandemic. So, for complete restoration, complete vaccination is a must.
What student-centric initiatives have you taken during the pandemic? What is the impact of it?
First of all, it is our target that all those students who are 18-year-old or above should get their first jab by July 15. On the other hand, adaptation to innovative Ed-Tech is the foremost need of the hour and we are rigorously upgrading ourselves on this front. A majority of our students are still availing our services using hybrid coaching models. Apart from unhindered study, another big advantage of hybrid coaching model for students is zero transportation and accommodation cost.
Can online learning help Kota revive its economy, as many other businesses are dependent on coaching institutes?
The coaching sector would continue to thrive and dominate India’s education sector as supplemental academic activities. Going forward, the digital form of coaching may dominate over classroom coaching. But, big players in the field have already started re-inventing and now all set for classroom coaching, online classes and a hybrid coaching model. As it is, the online coaching fee is way below the classroom rates in Kota. But, allied businesses such as hostels, PGs, and food catering may bear a big brunt of this rapid transformation in the coaching industry.
What will be the impact of cancellation of 12th board exam on JEE and other competitive exam’s preparations?
For the past few weeks, students were in a state of confusion regarding the possibilities of board exams. The decision of the honorary PM has put an end to all confusions, and it seems to make a positive impact on the competitive examinations they are going to appear in, especially JEE Mains and Advanced. Hence, aspirants can single-mindedly focus on their next target. Those who have secured a good percentile in JEE Mains should concentrate on the JEE Advanced exam which is expected in August or September. This means they have at least two more months to revise and brush up on important topics. So, for students wishing to crack JEE with good ranks, this grace period is a big opportunity, and they must avail it with smart tactics and hard work.