At the beginning of 2020, the edtech market found itself at a turning point. There had already been huge leaps forward in education technology, and investment-led interest had naturally followed, with $1.7 billion raised in 2019 alone. There was no going back now; edtech had made an indelible mark on classrooms around the world and now with the acceleration of hybrid learning as a result of COVID-19, technology is set to further redefine the very shape, purpose and meaning of our academic institutions for the foreseeable future.
In other words, entrepreneurs have a wealth of opportunity available to them, but all within an increasingly competitive and fast-evolving space. With that in mind, we chose to use the first session of our 2021 edtech webinar series to understand what markets held the most potential for ventures looking to scale, starting with India.
With one of the largest populations in the world, a sizeable 1.4 billion, India certainly appears to present a countless number of opportunities for growth. However, along with those billions of potential users and beneficiaries, comes a diverse and nuanced set of needs and challenges.
First, core learning skills across the country are at an all-time low within K-12 and this is indicative of a problem that is prevalent at all levels of education; the perceived importance of exam success. While at a university level, test-prep and training counts as an advantage for edtech providers looking for an easy entry point, at K-12 this offers somewhat of a dead-end road for both the start-up and its users. Instead, Smita Deorah, Co-Founder & COO of LEAD school, suggests that edtech entrepreneurs take up the challenge of building 21st-century skills. Although the journey may feel slower to begin with, Smita underlines the connection between delivering concrete personalized outcomes, user retention, and the stickiness of a product.
The topic of personalization of course also speaks to the changing dynamics within higher education, with students looking for differentiated pathways to the labour market. Phalgun Kompalli, Co-Founder of UpGrad, describes in this session how the lifecycle of each piece of content within UpGrad begins first with determining who might engage with the product, what milestones they will likely look to achieve over the course of their usage and how their profile might change after having completed the module. In doing so, the team is able to pre-empt the types of content that users should interact with next in order to sustain ongoing levels of progress. What Phalgun describes here is more than just an analysis of data and algorithms, it is a deep understanding of people.
Technology over the last decade may have learned how to assess our patterns of behavior, but the human insights we share between us still seem to shape the direction of innovation within India’s edtech market. As Akshay Chaturvedi, Founder & CEO of Leverage Edu describes, appreciating the user as a complex whole – not just a customer – affords edtech evolving scopes of work to tap into. For Akshay and the Leverage Edu team, the graduates who come to them do not exist in isolation but rather, are global citizens whose needs are influenced by shifts and changes seen across the world, not just here at home. By recognizing this, edtech entrepreneurs should be able to anticipate these emerging needs and leverage existing innovation to meet them.