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Edtech Startups Look For Permanence Beyond The Covid-19 Lockdown Boom

Edtech Startups Look For Permanence Beyond The Covid-19 Lockdown Boom

Since the lockdown, Indian edtech companies have reported major spikes in their user registrations and engagement

Upskilling has emerged as a growing trend among Indian adults as the lockdown increased downtime for employees

Edtech startups believe that online learning will be largely immune to the post-lockdown decline in digital adoption

It’s no surprise that the countrywide school and college shutdown has brought edtech to the fore. While earlier, it felt like a luxury, online learning is pretty much the only option now for students, teachers and schools. Right from the very first week of the lockdown in India, edtech platforms moved to capitalise on the growth wave and it resulted in an unprecedented spike in user registrations and time spent on online learning platforms. 

According to SimilarWeb, based on a study of 35 top online learning platforms, the edtech segment saw a 26% increase in user visits between April 2019 to March 2020, as compared to April 2018 – March 2019. Further, the first 28 days of lockdown in India edtech segment saw 128.8 Mn visits (on average, 4.6Mn daily visits) as compared to 102.2 Mn average visits between April 2019 – Feb 2020. 

As schools and colleges shifted to online classes and resources to continue educating students amid the pandemic, the engagement metrics of the segments have also improved. Bounce rate saw an improvement of 8.5% after lockdown and usage pattern also shifted from 68.29% mobile web users till February 2020 to 51.75% users on desktop during the lockdown. 

Rising Tide Lifts All Edtech Players

According to the report, before Covid-19 lockdown, seven out of 10 top edtech players were focussed on school-level online learning. Vedantu, LearnCBSE, BYJU’S, Toppr, Tiwari Academy, Meritnation and Gradeup collectively captured 51.25% of the traffic share. In comparison, the two most popular test prep startups Unacademy and Embibe attracted 13.05% of the traffic. Udemy (9.29%) was the only massive open online courses (MOOC) platform to feature in the top 10 list. 

Post lockdown during the first 28 days, the traffic share has significantly shifted towards MOOC platforms like Udemy (17.81%) and Coursera (10.10%), who have tripled their paid marketing spends in the lockdown period. This could also be justified by people’s growing interest in taking up online courses to either make use of the extra time or to get upskilled in the changing market conditions.  

Coursera has reported a 325% YoY hike in new registration, 284% YoY in overall enrollment and 1747% hike in public health content in the last 30 days till April 3.  However, K-12 learning platforms have the biggest lead when it comes to growth in adoption.

Another interesting trend observed during the lockdown period is the decline in traffic on offline-to-online platforms like Vedantu (5.9%) and Tiwari Academy(1.55%). However, Aakash stood out as an exception by showing growth in online traffic as compared to earlier figures, despite the fact that it is still heavily dependent on revenue from offline coaching. 

Upskilling Gains Ground As Downtime Increases 

With most of India’s workforce working from home over the past two months, there has been plenty of downtime for many in the 9-to-5 jobs. India saw the most number of searches for online courses post lockdown showing people’s growing interest in upskilling. And rightly so, Covid-19 has led to the drying up of both supply and demand channels for most businesses — also causing a major spike in unemployment across the world. According to the IMF forecast, the global economy is estimated to fall by 3% in 2020, making it the worst recessionary period in several decades.

In any recession, companies start cutting out inefficient resources and many among those laid off will have to upskill or reskill themselves to survive in the post-Covid world, which is predicted to become more and more automated to eliminate inefficient functions and limit human interactions in light of social distancing. 

Indian workers have also recognised the importance of upskilling in the current environment. Python and data science have been the two trending search topics during the lockdown. Pre-lockdown, UPSC syllabus was one of the most searched keywords, which has now seen a drop in traffic. 

Upskilling platforms have also noted this increase in traffic during the lockdown. upGrad has recently reported shifting start dates for all its 40 courses to start every month instead of quarterly, to take on the surge in demand from working professionals. 

“Last month we reached 500K learners for our online programs. Yet, we are only at the very start of addressing a market of over 100 Mn working professionals and graduates,” said Ronnie Screwvala, cofounder and executive chairman of upGrad. 

Similarly, Udacity CEO Gabriel Dalporto had also noted in an earlier conversation that the number of weekly nanodegree graduates from India has more than tripled between March 22 and April 15. The trend is similar for the rest of the world too. In India, the edtech platform has seen rising demand for AI, data science and data analytics nanodegree programs from enterprises.

India’s Edtech Potential Finally Coming To The Fore?

With over 665 Mn wireless internet subscribers according to a TRAI January 2020 report, India is a huge market for edtech apps, products and services, especially because of the high importance that Indians place on education at every level.  According to DataLabs By Inc42, Indian online learning market is expected to be worth $1.96 Bn by 2021. 

This sudden shift from classroom education to online has increased the user registrations for all edtech platforms. Earlier this week, K-12 edtech platform Toppr reported a 100% growth in paid users month on month and 50% growth in traffic even after most of the school exams are over. 

BYJU’s also noted a 150% surge with 6 Mn new students on the platform in March 2020. 

Going by the continued uncertainty around opening of schools and colleges, these trends do seem to be on their way to becoming more embedded among consumers. Edtech platforms also believe that the ease of access, the quality of teaching and comparatively low-cost investment in online learning will motivate people to stick with online alternatives even after the pandemic has passed. 

However, educators will have to reinvent their curriculums and teaching style to suit the digital learning environment. One of the resonating demands of educators has been the need for more interactive and engaging edtech solutions for teachers themselves, to enable better learning outcomes in students. This does open a lot of possibilities for edtech players, GV Ravishankar, MD of Sequoia Capital India also noted in an earlier conversation with Inc42 that, such wide-scale adoption of edtech will create demand for tools which will allow people to map student’s engagement level, maybe even tools that are able to read people’s faces to see how well they understood something or not. 

Correction Note | 11:23, May 20, 2020

The estimated market size of the online learning market in India was erroneously mentioned as $2Mn in the earlier version of this article. We have updated it to the correct estimation of $1.96 Bn. We apologise for the mistake.

Note: We at Inc42 take our ethics very seriously. More information about it can be found here.