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India’s Edtech Boom: A Tale Of Digitisation, Engagement And The Covid-19 Effect


The edtech sector has risen to new heights due to the rapid adoption and penetration brought on by the lockdown and the impact of the pandemic

While the growth has been huge, the industry suffers from challenges such as scaling up sustainably, overcoming infrastructure hurdles and retaining growth

Edtech startups such as Cuemath, Testbook, Toppr and Simplilearn have turned to marketing automation platform WebEngage to solve the retention challenges

While the countrywide lockdown — due to the pandemic — wreaked havoc across sectors and industries in the Indian market, the shutting down of schools and colleges saw the emergence of many edtech products and services and a rise in adoption. 

Based on a study of 35 top online learning platforms, a SimilarWeb survey revealed that between April 2019 to March 2020, edtech segment saw an increase in user visits by 26% compared to the same period between 2018-19.

The survey further went to state that while before the pandemic, school-level online learning platforms such as Vedantu, LearnCBSE, BYJU’S, Toppr, Tiwari Academy, Meritnation and Gradeup collectively captured 51.25% of the traffic share. This share shifted towards massive open online courses (MOOC) — such as Udemy, Coursera and Toppr in the first 28 days post the lockdown.

India’s Edtech Boom: A Tale Of Digitisation, Engagement And Covid-19




Not only this but Toppr also claimed to have a 100% growth in paid users month on month and 50% growth in traffic during Covid-19. 

“Since the lockdown, we have seen a four-fold increase in paid subscriptions. We also saw a growth in our web-traffic rising to more than 25 Mn sessions last month (May 2020), with an average of 800K sessions per day,” elaborated Zishaan Hayath, founder and CEO, Toppr.

But these are not the only platforms that have seen unprecedented growth in their adoption and traction.

“In this period, our organic inbound interest went up by 3x, conversions increased 5-fold and the overall online adoption and acceptability increased as well. We also witnessed a boost in our reach in international markets with our network of over 5K teachers, addressing the gap of finding affordable, highly qualified math tutors in the US, UK and Canada to name a few,” said Manan Khurma, founder & CEO, Cuemath.

While Krishna Kumar, founder and CEO of Simplilearn added, “During this time and post lockdown, we have seen a massive jump with a record 30% increase in the number of enrolments on the platform. With the lockdown giving professionals a little extra time on hand, many have taken to investing this time on upskilling programmes in order to gain that competitive edge versus peers.”

Thus, the expectation that India’s online learning market will be worth $1.96 Bn by 2021, as stated by the edtech report by DataLabs by Inc42+, might just be realised sooner than anticipated.

The Story And Struggle Behind The Edtech Growth

Coupled with the lockdown, helping the edtech sector is the penetration of the internet in India. A TRAI report revealed that in 2019 alone, the total number of internet subscribers increased from over 665 Mn in June end to over 687 Mn by the end of September, registering a quarterly growth rate of 3.35%. The numbers indicate the high level of internet reach and penetration, which has made it easier for edtech players to tap the potential across the country.

Another factor playing a major role in the growth of the sector is the ever-growing demand for skill development from tech and tech-allied industries. And while the pandemic has eased one of the biggest hurdles for the startups acquisition of new users and thus, their investment in marketing — it has also given rise to new ones — the increase in layoffs and the lack of jobs and the resultant decrease in disposable incomes.

“There are limitations in terms of infrastructure which serve as the primary inhibitors. Availability of decent internet, access to laptops or tech with optimal screen size, means to purchase devices for the family are just a few of these issues,” explained Khurma.

However, that’s not the only challenge for the industry. While it witnesses an unprecedented growth in the number of users and the adoption, the sector is struggling with managing and retaining this adoption and growth. And that is where marketing automation platforms such as WebEngage are playing a key role.

Crediting its engagement with edtech startups, for more than 1.5 years, WebEngage realised the marketing and engagement challenges faced by them early on, and that is what led to the launch of an edtech-specific set of solutions.

With these solutions, WebEngage is helping over 15 edtech startups effectively engage with all the three core members involved in the platforms, namely, the students, the parents and the teachers. Along the same lines, it has also released a set of guides and playbooks to help them navigate the process of better engagement.

How Edtech Platforms Leveraged WebEngage Solutions For Growth


“Consumers being children and customers being parents, esp with shared devices, makes the brand positioning and media planning a little more complicated. Adding to that, making children study has always been challenging, and engaging with them to spend their screen-time on studies is even more challenging,” said Labdhi Chopda, head of market operations, Cuemath, on the marketing-led challenges for edtech startups.

While Kumar had another issue to point out. The Simplilearn founder told Inc42 that even though businesses are aware of drivers of high engagement, these drivers are difficult to operationalise.

“You need a deep understanding of each learner and drive individualised experiences and outreach based on exactly where they are in their journey. Having a deep reservoir of high quality, highly relevant content is also critical. The final piece of the puzzle is understanding the economics at every stage,” he added. 

But that is not all, considering the kind of adoption and subscribers the platform has, it is also vitally important for these startups to constantly maintain engagement with their user, which is both parents and the students.

“The major challenges faced by the edtech industry are monetising the new segment of users, delivering an exceptional level of customer experience and satisfaction, ensuring that systems don’t break down and getting new tutors and online educators, to name a few,” explained the founder of WebEngage, Avlesh Singh, who has a been working with various edtech startups from across segments.

Singh further told Inc42 that edtech startups often have to sit back and work hard on engagement and retaining their existing users — considering the number of players involved — so as to get success in the long term. And this is where long term relations with existing clients become really important.

“Engagement is really important, and more important is the targeted engagement of the right profile. For instance, you can’t spam students to pay the fee, you need to know how to reach the parents effectively for that. One way to do that could be showcasing how well the child is doing on the platform and the areas he could do better, to show them why they need to continue with the platform,” explained Singh.

The startup claims its Journey Designer feature to be the most used and preferred form of engagement for edtech players as it helps them target the end-user more effectively. Backing that claim is Kumar, who explained, “The Journey Designer feature armed the Simplilearn team with the ability to craft really complex lifecycle marketing campaigns with ease. Its campaigns resulted in the improvement of attendance rates and reactivating dormant users on the platform.”

To help its clients with better engagement and penetration strategies, WebEngage has divided its solutions into three broad categories, namely, pre & K-12 learning, online certification, and test preparation. With this specific approach, the startup claims to have helped the edtech industry engage over 15 Mn learners daily, increase course completion by 27%, reactivate dormant learners by 23% and witness and uplift in paid subscriptions by 133%.

Providing value to both the casual and serious learner is critical, as is having a sophisticated CRM capability to keep them engaged. That’s where a tool like WebEngage became valuable, helping us create learner segments and reach them across multiple channels. This resulted in a rapidly growing user base that efficiently moves from casual to paid users,” added Kumar.

Future Of Indian Edtech Landscape

According to DataLabs by Inc42+, since 2014, 186 different edtech startups have raised a total of $1.73 Bn in funding, with the likes of BYJU’s, Vedantu and Toppr dominating the landscape. This landscape has only seen further growth and rise in 2020, 

The report not only revealed that the country’s online education system comprised a mere 0.56% of the overall education sector but also stated that “A large chunk of the total online education space will be captured by K-12 startups, which are growing at a CAGR of 60% currently.”

This growth is also the result of the startups innovating and launching new products and services. For instance, Cuemath said that it is currently working on replicating the best aspects of offline learning in the online context through group study sessions, peer-to-peer learning, healthy competition, challenges, leaderboards and more.

With such inclusion of newer innovations and tech in their offerings, it is no surprise that these startups are not worried about the world post coronavirus at all. The startups believe that with the lockdown making online education the go-to solution for learning continuity, the post-Covid-19 world will witness these platforms becoming a supporting feature in the curriculum in schools and colleges.

“Online learning is here to stay and at the very least seriously disrupt how education is handled in the world. Parents at first were reluctant to take up online learning but if kids are going to end up using screens it’s better to substitute useless screen time with something more useful and productive. After a couple of months, more parents are going to realise that this model is fairly viable, more convenient, and more effective.” explained Cuemath’s Khurma.

Additionally, another school of thought that prevails in the startups is that with the lockdown showcasing the parents and the kids with the benefits of online learning, the need for a traditional school is going to change.

Adding to the same, Hayat said, “As students and parents continue to engage and explore various features of online learning, they’ll realise that online learning is a lot more powerful than an offline coaching class. This shift in user behaviour toward online education is here to stay.”

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