Large-scale edtech adoption, triggered by the pandemic, is likely to push its market size from $2.8 Bn in 2020 to $10.4 Bn in 2025
To give a fillip to India’s burgeoning online education segment, cloud software for conversational commerce CM.com aims to help edtech players with its suite of solutions
In 2021, the company helped Kolkata-based ICA Edu Skills grow its conversion rate from 2x to 5x
A recent World Bank report says that the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted traditional education in more than 150 countries and affected 1.6 Bn students globally. In India, an estimated 250 Mn students suffered due to prolonged school shutdowns triggered by the outbreak. The primary requirement was to set up an edtech ecosystem – a remote learning infrastructure, to be precise – to deliver education at scale. It was a massive technology as fewer than one in 10 Indian students have access to the internet, and less than 50% of the households own a digital device. But it was equally tough in terms of pedagogical shifts as teachers had to redesign classroom book learning into innovative web-first and mobile-first learning modules.
With the new normal demanding a sustainable alternative to brick-and-mortar schooling, it was the perfect time for India’s edtech industry to address the e-learning woes and leapfrog the traditional system.
And so it did!
Edtech’s pan-India adoption in the wake of the pandemic is likely to push its market size from $2.8 Bn in 2020 to $10.4 Bn in 2025, an Inc42 report states. This rapid evolution, coupled with the Indian government’s rollout of the pro-digital NEP (New Education Policy 2020), puts the spotlight on Indian edtech companies and their efforts to deliver quality education.
But there is a glitch. Even if all goes well, will online learning be on a par with the offline environment and experience provided by classrooms? More importantly, can teachers bridge the virtual gap and monitor every student’s progress as before?
It is possible to blend online learning with a classroom-like experience, according to Chetan Borkar, country manager (India and Sri Lanka) at CM.com, a global communication and data solution provider. “In fact, conversational commerce can smoothly guide schools, colleges and edtech companies past the roadblocks of online learning,” he told Inc42.
Let us take a deep dive into how CM.com successfully syncs the requirements of technology, education and personalised approach to cater to a dynamic edtech ecosystem.
Why Edtech Is The Next Frontier
Traditionally, CM.com has helped retail companies personalise communication and automate marketing for a seamless customer experience. But with the outbreak of Covid-19, it noticed how the pandemic was widening the divide between people and service providers and disrupting the smooth communication flow. So, it decided to broaden its service offerings and cater to multiple industry segments.
In an earlier conversation with Inc42, the company expressed its interest to tap into India’s healthcare industry. It now aims to do the same for India’s schools, colleges, edtech companies and all other stakeholders in the education space.
“In the past few months, we have interacted with many edtech firms. We understand their pain points, and we can help them manage all communications between students, teachers and parents with our suite of automated solutions,” said Borkar.
Here is an interesting case study. ICA Edu Skills, a Kolkata-based vocational training and placement institute with more than 120 training centres across the country, literally struggled to keep track of its user data and how its services could be improved based on that data.
“Our customer data was generated across different systems, resulting in fragmentation and data silos. It was impossible to get valuable insights from such data and use it to our advantage,” said Seshadri Basak, national head of media at the institute.
Also, many students used WhatsApp as their preferred channel of communication and it was essential for ICA to have a strong presence on the messenger app to amplify engagement.
In August 2021, ICA sought CM.com’s services to automate user data collection and ensure better engagement with students on their favourite communication channel. Using its Customer Data Platform (CDP), ICA put all user data from multiple touchpoints to a centralised location and created individual customer profiles.
“With one unified platform to track and manage all customer journeys, we could save time and improve efficiency to help our marketing team,” said Basak. “Also, the Mobile Marketing Cloud (MMC is CM.com’s omnichannel marketing tool) helped us deliver relevant communication solutions after identifying each segment’s requirements,” he added.
CM.com claimed that by November 2021, ICA began witnessing great results. It was able to increase its WhatsApp engagement by 25% and recorded a jump in conversion rate from 2x to 5x.
Incidentally, its MMC service is available across all popular communication channels, including SMS, WhatsApp, email, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, so that these can be used to send out newsletters, homework assignments and upcoming courses. For instance, Amity University has been using its MMC service to run its campaigns on WhatsApp for admission to its Patna and Jharkhand branches since November last year, the company claims.
What’s more? Both services can work in tandem, said Borkar. “Within the database stored on the CDP, you can create segments and filters to target specific student categories,” he added.
Adding A ‘Personal Touch’ To E-Learning
Effective remote learning is a critical endeavour that requires meaningful, two-way interaction between students and teachers. But tracking a student’s progress online is difficult, given the lack of face-to-face interaction and monitoring happening in a classroom. Borkar explained how CM.com could help bring a sense of personal touch to drab online classes.
“If a student is not attending these classes regularly, our CDP will flag the same to the edtech platform. Then our automated software will send personalised nudges to those students and their parents, informing them about the default,” he said.
However, personal connections with students cannot be set up through AI-ML alone.
“I think it is essential for edtech companies to ensure a human connection. Parents want reassurance that their children are in good hands, and there is somebody answerable on the other side,” said Borkar.
Another way of achieving this is to leverage CM.com’s Mobile Service Cloud (MSC), the unique assimilation of automation and human touch. The omnichannel inbox is a centralised system that a human employee can easily operate to ensure fast and seamless interactions with customers on their preferred messaging channels.
Simply put, when students or their parents put queries on their most preferred channels, the human agent receives the same via the central system. Once the responses are submitted, these are sent to the students/parents via the channels where the queries were originally posted.
“The omnichannel inbox streamlines all conversations to increase quality and efficiency and cuts down the time to hop from one channel to another,” said Borkar.
The Future Of Learning Is Digital Or Hybrid, Say Experts
Although the intensity of the pandemic has subsided, new waves are reported almost every day, and the aftermath will have a far-reaching effect. Consequently, a complete shift from online to offline is unlikely in the near term. Although most educational institutions are slowly resuming their physical classes, the hybrid model, a convenient blending of online and offline learning, is increasingly accepted.
In fact, according to the HP Future of Learning Study 2022, 85% teachers want online learning to supplement classroom learning, while 94% parents think hybrid learning models can ensure continuous learning despite adverse cisrcumstances. Therefore, edtech companies will continue to flourish and pave the path for more sophisticated developments in the coming years. This can further contribute to India’s booming edtech industry, estimated to grow at a CAGR of 39% between 2020 and 2025.
In sync with the new digital age, brands will refine their service offerings in order to bridge the virtual gap and usher in new ways of personalised learning. It will be interesting to see how the traditional concepts of teaching, learning and everything in-between shape up in a soon-to-be-dominating metaverse where virtual, at times, gets too real.