While ‘Growth’ and ‘Boost’ are not terms which are synonymous with any sector during a global pandemic, yet there are the fortuitous few, who find themselves fitting the description, one such sector being Ed-Tech.
While ‘Growth’ and ‘Boost’ are not terms which are synonymous with any sector during a global pandemic, yet there are the fortuitous few, who find themselves fitting the description, one such sector being education technology (“Ed-Tech”). The organic growth which the Ed-Tech sector was witnessing by complementing and supplementing the conventional educational segments of K-12 education, entrance tests etc., has been catapulted into the future, due to the unforeseen advent of coronavirus.
Soaring but not peaking?
Reports of Datalabs by Inc42 suggest that there are approximately 4450 start-ups in the Ed-Tech sector, with Byju’s leading the pack with a proposed valuation of more than USD 10 billion. Having said that, while India is one of the leading countries in terms of funding received in this sector, paradoxically it also had to close down 1,150 start-ups due to varied complications. While this may not be suggestive of the reality of the Ed-Tech sector, it does indicate deficiencies in the sector.
Improvise, Adapt and Overcome
The conventional educational institutions catering to low to medium income groups, have been at a disadvantage due to reasons ranging from the lack of infrastructure to scarcity of teachers. This presents the Ed-Tech sector with a unique opportunity to aid the metamorphization of the education sector, of course with the support and financing of the state governments. While we may not win the congeniality contest for mentioning China here, some inspiration can be drawn from their education sector. With the aid of its government, China is in the process of transforming its education sector through the aggressive use of Artificial Intelligence, utilising the data assimilated in learning sessions and personalizing the delivery of education. The flaws which exist in the Indian education system ranging from the lack of a teaching force to the outdated mode of education, may be cured by the usage of Artificial Intelligence providing real-time solutions.
This may be easier said than done though, as the data from the 2017-18 National Sample Survey reflects the inherent fallacy of the movement, that is only 23.8% of Indian households had internet access, whilst the rural households, which represent 66% of the population, had only 14.9% access to the internet. Whilst the report is outdated and India has seen an exponential growth in the number of users , it does highlight the grave underlying impediment of infrastructure, faced by the Ed-Tech companies, to support this spurt of growth. This coupled with the predicament pertaining to the number of instruments capable of accessing data per household, represents a lethal combination, which has been severely emphasized, during this pandemic, hindering the sprint of the Ed-Tech sector.
While the fundamental issues outlined above cannot be disregarded, the exponential increase in the users/visits of the Ed-Tech companies which has fuelled the funding during this economic slump, does reflect an optimistic future for the sector. Furthermore, the home-grown start-ups, are cognizant of the advantage which the Indian education system presents, including the multi-language barrier and the mixture of the state boards and central boards based pedagogy in the country. To make the most of this opportunity, the Ed-Tech companies are adapting their infrastructure incessantly by providing services in offline or low-data mode or free of cost as opposed to a subscription based model.
Sprint to the finish line
The initiatives of the government such as Swayam, Diksha and E-Vidya, during the coronavirus, reflect the awareness of the government that the transformation of the education sector is the “Need of the Hour” and that the Ed-Techcompanies are the ones that have the most significant role to play in the same. So, while the Ed-Tech companies have their chariots ready for the sprint to reach the finish line, the government has the daunting task of oiling and greasing the wheels to get them over the line for a podium finish.
Anuj Bhasme is Partner, General Corporate, Avichal Mathur, Senior Associate and Apeksha Narula is Associate, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.