In a country with a population of 1.3 Bn — set to overtake China as the most populous country in the world by 2024 — educational infrastructure can hardly ever be enough. As far as jobs are concerned, India’s inadequate education system is churning out young professionals with insufficient skills and knowledge — according to recent studies, only 7% of engineering graduates and only one out of 10 MBAs in the country are employable.
For the past couple of years, edtech startups have been looking to fill this gaping hole created by conventional educational institutions, courses, and degrees. While edtech startup BYJU’s quietly turned a Unicorn, other edtech startups such as Embibe, Unacademy, iNurture, and Littlemore have registered a healthy growth in terms of number of users as well as funding.
Meanwhile, international startups such as Udacity, Coursera, Udemy, and Progate, are looking to dig their teeth into a slice of the Indian edtech market. One such US-based edtech startup, Springboard, now plans to enter the country to hone graduates to produce a job-ready skilled workforce in India.
Springboard, founded by Parul Gupta and Gautam Tambay in 2013, offers online courses and one-on-one online mentorship programmes in hot new-age domains such as data science, digital marketing, UX design, business analytics, and others.
The startup, which raised $9.5 Mn in Series A funding at the end of last year, has around 10,000 users from 80 countries the world over. Its major markets are the US, the UK, India, and Australia.
The startup now is also looking to introduce some brand new courses as well as one-on-one mentorship programmes for its Indian users.
Inc42 spoke to the co-founder of Springboard, Parul Gupta, to get insights into the company’s plans and courses for Indian users.
Springboard: The India Chapter
The Indian education market is vast, complex, and has innumerable existing gaps. So, despite the proliferation of both Indian and foreign edtech companies, there is enough scope to start up in this space.
Online education in India is expected to see approximately 8X growth in the next five years.
According to a report by Google and KPMG, the edtech market is expected to have a significant impact on the online education sector, which has a potential to touch $1.96 Bn by 2021 from $247 Mn at present.
And Springboard is well aware of the opportunity.
“We believe there is a big opportunity in India because it has an advantage in terms of demographics. At present, we have about 100 users from India subscribed to various courses, and are in the early stage of understanding and evaluating Indian users and the market here through one-on-one conversations about users’ exact needs, their motivations, what options they’ve considered so far.”
The purpose of this exercise is to get deep insights and a better understanding of the Indian market so as to formulate educational courses and services designed especially for India. Springboard plans to launch its India-specific courses and support services in the next few months.
Back To The Book: What Courses Does Springboard Offer?
The courses on the Springboard platform are mostly designed and developed for graduating students, graduates looking for jobs, and professionals looking for to upgrade their skills for better job opportunities. In keeping with this, the startup offers courses in new-age domains such as data science, digital marketing, cybersecurity, business analytics, UX designs, or others.
All of Springboard’s courses at present are in the English medium. Gupta says it works for the startup as its target users demand courses in English.
But is the company looking to cash in on the vernacular market? “Definitely, localisation is one of the cards we might look at later; however, it’s not the priority at present,” says Gupta.
No matter what the market potential for edtech in India is, the fact of the matter is that there is a large number of companies offering free and subscription-based online courses in these domains. How does Springboard seek to differentiate itself in this busy market?
Gupta explains that Springboard’s courses have been scientifically designed by industry experts to bridge the employability gap, up the employability quotient for better job profiles. In addition, what’s unique at Springboard is the one-on-one mentorship programmes it offers.
“While many of the courses currently available at Springboard are free, the mentorship programme is a paid one. We enable our students to access mentorship from the best experts from across the world in relevant subjects, says Gupta.
Springboard has further categorised its courses into two tracks: one is for students who want to do the course simply to improve their knowledge of and skills in the subject and the second is for students who want to do courses to enhance their career prospects. “They may be wanting to get a job or switch careers such as from a software developer to a data scientist,” added Gupta.
The Edtech Market Scenario
Driven by digital technology, edtech startups are not limited by geographical boundaries. This is one of the reasons the sector has grown exponentially. In 2017, edtech witnessed a 30% hike in terms of investments with international funding touching a new record of $9.52 Bn. Last year, 813 edtech companies received funding across the globe.
According to Research and Markets, the global educational technology market crossed $17.7 Bn in revenue in 2017 and is expected to grow to $40.9 Bn by 2022, at a CAGR of 18.3%.
As mentioned, the Indian edtech market will see approximately 8x growth in the next five years and is set to touch $1.96 Bn by 2021 from the existing $247 Mn.
Gupta says that India is fast becoming a technology-driven knowledge economy and, therefore, there is a huge potential for edtech startups here. Springboard is evaluating the Indian market demands and figuring out what its users want. In addition to existing courses, the company is also planning to launch courses in blockchain, AI, IoT, product management etc, which have become a buzz in the Indian market.
Springboard: Learning Along The Way
But the Indian market is price conscious and not an easy one to sell any subscription-based products, even in the domain of learning. While Japan, the US, Europe, and many other countries have a lot of takers for more subscription-based premium online courses, Indians, at large, don’t want to pay just to learn online, unless they can earn certificates or secure some job security.
Aware of the challenges in the Indian edtech market, Gupta explains how the startup plans to get around the problem. “For them (Indian users), we will not only teach them the concepts and courses but will also provide apt placement support. We have a team of career coaches who help them with career counselling until they get what they want,” she says.
Most Indian edtech startups are yet to strike the fine balance between freemium and profitability. However, in concurrence with what British academician and educationist Claus Moser once said — “Education costs money, but then so does ignorance” — Gupta asserts that people would be willing to pay courses once they see the edge paid courses can provide in terms of career and skill development.
The new economy needs a new approach to education. Education is no longer a one-time investment at the beginning of one’s career, it’s a lifelong pursuit. Springboard aims to build an educational experience that empowers its students and users to thrive in this new world order.