By
Sunitha Viswanathan, Vice President, Unitus Ventures
Sunitha Viswanathan, Vice President, Unitus Ventures

It is safe to say that 2020 was a big bang year for edtech startups in India. As the pandemic wreaked havoc across sectors and industries in the Indian market, even the traditional education system was brought to its knees. There was an urgent need for tech solutions to keep the flow of knowledge running to 335 million students enrolled in the country. 

Whether it was simple communication solutions like video conferencing or high-tech solutions built by India’s edtech giants, the traditional educational institutes were seen trying it all. 

A report by BARC India and Nielsen revealed that there has been a 30% increase in the time spent on education apps on smartphones since the lockdown. Meanwhile, a SimilarWeb survey showed that the edtech segment noted a 26% year-on-year increase in user visits between April 2019 and March 2020.

Since the lockdown, Byju’s has added over 33 million users on its platform to touch the 75 million mark. Meanwhile, rival and latest unicorn Unacademy’s user base has tripled to 40 million in the last nine months. 

Apart from the increase in user base and revenue flow, the sector has also been attracting a great deal of attention from investors. About $1.9 billion has been invested in the Indian edtech sector between January and November, with online test preparation and K12 segments leading the way. 

However, a few players attracted the lion’s share of the overall funding. Byju’s attracted 43% ($822 million) of the capital raised by the sector on a whole, whereas Unacademy got 7.8% ($150 million) and Vedantu 5% ($100 million). 

It is pretty clear that Byju’s has proved to be the behemoth in the edtech segment in 2020, but it has another feather to its cap. The company also gave the first multi-million dollar exit in edtech by acquiring WhiteHat Jr as coding for kids became a buzzword in 2020. 

In 2020, growing digital adoption has already disrupted the edtech segment. The trend is likely to continue in 2021. 

Trends for 2021

  • More tech adoption across schools

To provide better infrastructure and remote-learning opportunities for all students across rural and urban settings, the government of India has launched the National Education Policy 2020, which emphasises creating standards of learning in public and private schools. The policy also looks to mend edtech in public colleges and schools to increase access for disadvantaged groups, while making online learning content available in regional languages. 

It proposes virtual labs called National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) to help bring up more technological interventions in primary and higher education, and much more to make Indian education system more tech-friendly. The government is also focusing on continuous tracking of learning outcomes, conceptual learning, tech-enabled pedagogy in middle school, coding and more.

  • Virtual tuition to take lead 

As schools and tuition are going after tech integration, there is no reason for local tuition and coaching institutes to stay behind. The segment too will present itself with huge opportunities for companies that enable offline teachers/tuition centres to come online. 

As per a report by the National Sample Survey Office, one out of every four students in India takes private tuition. In a couple of states, the number goes up to 75%, with more than three out of every four students opting for it. 

  • Upskilling or reskilling an important factor

The impact of edtech will also go beyond schooling, into upskilling and reskilling. The pandmeic has shown us how quickly work itself can change. About 122 million people reportedly lost their jobs in India during the pandemic as of August.

In the wake of Covid-19, upskilling and reskilling remained agile. The trend is likely to continue in 2021 as Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated companies’ digital transformation. Organisations have started taking data-driven decisions. 

According to several reports, organisations are driving towards investments in artificial intelligence, analytics, automation, and digitisation to secure their future in a changing world. Besides this, there is an increase in demand for other opportunities across marketing.

  • Remote learning to take lead as edtech startups gear up

There are about 4,530 active edtech startups in India. With growing interest from the government, customers and investors, the sector is likely to witness even more entries across segments. 

There is also a growing opportunity in ‘study now, pay later’ for skill development, virtual simulation setups that can offer an interactive learning process and test preparation solutions as customers are more open to receiving online education. 

For the first time, edtech will enter on a strong footing in 2021. However, given the high concentration of funding among a few players, startups need to think about differentiation. Well-funded players will soon likely start offering solutions across all age-groups. Given this threat, investors will become more discerning while picking startups to fund at the early stage. 

Overall, the edtech sector of 2021 will be more welcoming, policy-friendly and full of opportunities for startups looking to make remote-learning more cost-effective, simple and accommodating. However, the disparity in access to the internet, electricity, and devices like computers/smartphones will still remain a major challenge.

Sunitha Viswanathan is vice-president at Unitus Ventures.

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