“We want to be the Amazon of the Programming space,” says Masa Kato, founder and CEO of Japanese edtech startup Progate, which embarked on its India journey in October last year.
Founded in 2014 by Masa Kato, then a 21-year-old computer science student at the University of Tokyo, Progate is an online platform for beginners to learn coding, programming, and languages. Progate, which boasts over 300K users in Japan, has already attracted around 50K users in India since its launch in October, last year.
Even as the conventional educational system of India has hit a new low with over 50% of the teachers’ posts at most central universities and IITs lying vacant for years, edtech startups are trying to fill up the gap. They’re providing students with relevant skills through courses on their user-friendly, tech-enabled platforms and are fast evolving as an alternate mode of learning.
Online education in India, which is expected to witness approximately 8x growth in the next five years, will have a significant impact on the edtech market, which has a potential to touch $1.96 Bn by 2021, a Google and KPMG report said.
BYJU’s, Unacademy, and Embibe are some of the edtech startups that are not only successfully reaching their target users but have also attracted huge funds from the world over. Looking at the massive potential and increased interests of online education in India, international companies such as Udacity, Coursera, Udemy have also rushed to the Indian market with their innovative online offerings.
Naturally, Progate, one of Japan’s leading edtech startups, is looking to cash in on this gigantic market.
India: A New Market With New Challenges For Progate
At the time he founded Progate in Japan, Kato hadn’t even remotely thought one day he would launch Progate in India. “However, as soon as we launched our products and services, we received so many queries from India that we just knew we had to come here. It’s the word-of-mouth and energy of India that brought us here,” he said.
Progate seeks to make learning interesting by employing ‘Intuitive Slides’ that can help students grasp information visually, and learn at their own pace. It also enables students to ‘Learn by Doing’ — it offers a full programming environment so that students can immediately apply what they’ve learnt. Its courses are on offer in 12 countries and it has seen its lessons completed 720,000 times.
The company has also recently launched its mobile app (English version) for its Indian and US users. It is looking to localise its courses to suit the needs of Indian users and industries even as it adds more and more lessons on the platform.
Apart from Japan and India, Progate has launched its branch in the US. The company claims to have got also users from the UK and from Spain. “We are planning to launch our products and services in China too,” Kato said.
However, the expansion to the India and US markets has been challenging in terms of the adaptation and translation of all the courses to English. “We didn’t know anybody in India or the US. We had to find the right people, hire them. Then, hosting various events to educate and spread awareness about our platform has been another challenge,” he said.
Progate Users: Japan Vs India
Speaking about Progate users in India, Kato said Indian users are price-conscious compared to Japanese ones,
“There is a lot of difference between the Japanese market and the Indian one. Japanese users are readily willing to pay for the subscription. However, in India, people ain’t really willing pay for knowledge, but for jobs and certification that they could show to get further promotions in their jobs.”
“It’s been challenging for us to convey the message. However, to cater to Indian demands, we have now added certificates for our Programming courses as well,” he said. Students can now download a Progate Certificate after completing each lesson.
According to Kato, in Japan, Progate is more of a B2C and less of a B2B platform. In India, it’s turning out to be more of a B2B platform, as B2C appears to be costly for users. Progate has already collaborated with more 20 universities and institutions across India, mostly from Bengaluru and Delhi.
The company is also organising workshops across the country to spread awareness and channelise its products through educational institutions in India. In Japan, Progate has a team of 25 people, most of which are engineers. In India, it has so far hired four people.
The Indian Edtech Market And Scripting A Plan To Stay
Having raised its Pre-Series A funding last year, and looking to raise Series A now, Progate had a comparatively smooth launch in Japan than in India due to two reasons. First, Japan was the home turf of Kato, hence language friendly, and second, there was hardly any competitors in the segment when the platform was launched.
However, coming to India was a very different story due to the presence of huge competition from deep-pocketed edtech startups here. To capture the market, the company is leveraging the offline route and is conducting workshops as well to get noticed by Indian users/students.
Unacademy and Udemy are some of the startups that offer similar courses, but the target audience differs slightly. “Their target is to offer jobs and certificates through their online courses. We are more into teaching programming and languages (computer) to beginners.”
Progate also plans to introduce professional-level courses as well.
“We will be launching 500 new courses in the next two years keeping Indian users at the centre. We will be also adding blockchain, Bitcoin, and Ethereum courses as part of the plan,” said Kato, revealing his future plans relating to the Indian market.
Given the fact that the paid user base in India is set to grow 6X from 1.6 Mn users in 2016 to 9.6 Mn users in 2021, Progate’s fast-track expansion plans are understandable.
The Japanese startup is also building a community of coders and students. “Learning programme by yourself is very difficult. But, if you’re a part of the programming community, the process gets easier,” Kato explained.
With an eye on scripting long-term chapter in India, Progate appears to tick all the right boxes to become a name to reckon with in the Indian edtech sector. Let’s see if how the Japanese startup fares in a couple of years.