The online tutoring market in India is growing apace by the day. The startups in the space are not only grabbing market share from offline tutorials but also creating new markets that don’t exist offline. With marquee investors sharpening their focus on India’s startup ecosystem and internet service providers continuously raising the bar with high-speed internet, edtech startups are disrupting the education sector.
“We can expect at least 10% of the 250 Mn K-12 base or 25Mn students to be enrolled in online tutorials within the next two years as the service will be offered at all price ranges and targeted across all levels of the income pyramid,” said Sahil Sheth, founder, Lido Learning.
Lido enables students, from class 5 to class 9, to connect online with live teachers who offer maths and science tutorials. Parents pay a subscription fee for their kids to attend small group classes through real-time interactions with teachers. The platform also provides students access to offline content to practise classroom lessons. Besides maths and science, Lido is looking to launch English tutorials in the first quarter of 2020.
“We have identified that even though students might be in an English medium school, they struggle with English. We actually have ended up adding Hinglish as a language option for classes since the level of comfort and understanding of English for most of our students is low.”
Sheth told us he has been looking to entrench in the edtech space for the last eight years. His first company was focussed on disrupting the self-paced textbook learning market by giving students access to video lessons mapped to their curriculum from a mobile app.
The company was acquired by BYJU’s in 2015, where Sheth worked for more than two years as a vice president. While at BYJU’s, he realised that most students enjoyed watching these self-paced videos, but they enjoyed going to their tuition classes with their friends far more. “There was something special about being with other kids and the discipline and motivation that came from the teacher. But I was sure that there was a way to move this online and into the 21st century,” said Sheth.
So he spent a month in China, understanding how the entire tutoring market had moved online. He saw how much more convenient and safe it was, especially for younger kids; and how parents could truly understand how much their child was learning through advanced analytics; and how learning could be improved through tracking student’s performance and using interactive mediums. This is how the idea for Lido Learning was born.
Democratising Education Through Technology
After building the platform in 73 days, Sheth set out to do trials with students in Delhi, Mumbai first and then Chandigarh and Lucknow. During the pilot, the founders realised that the idea was more engaging and interesting than their regular tuitions. They also found that the parents in smaller towns were more than happy to be getting the quality education that kids in metros get.
“Students in smaller towns were thrilled to be getting the same product and the same quality of teachers that students in the bigger cities were getting. That is when Lido’s vision changed — it was not just about making tuition classes convenient anymore, it was about democratising education for all,” Sheth told Inc42.
This is when Lido decided to deliver high-quality education, usually enjoyed by kids living in metro cities and children going to expensive private schools, to less privileged students across India and decided to rapidly start expanding with this vision.
Lido’s teachers are trained on the Teach for India’s training model and are the main point of contact with the kids and parents. The startup has onboarded over 1,500 customers since its sales operations commenced in June 2019. The platform has employed over 100 qualified teachers. Since the platform runs only post 3:30 pm, it allows teachers to work part-time, after returning from school, for example. It also gives them an opportunity to supplement their income, which is a big consideration for many teachers.
The Mumbai-based startup also conducts training so that teachers know their roles, and it also tracks teacher performance. Teachers are provided with continuous feedback and upskilling sessions as well.
Lido also has academic advisors assigned to every student to help guide them and their parents through the learning journey. The advisor is a constant resource from assessing the student’s learning levels to understanding the chapter and delivering class reports.
Addressing India’s Skewed Education System
The Indian education system is focussed on marks and teaching for test grades. However, unlike education systems in other countries, this style of education does not prepare students for real life. This is the pain point most edtech startups are trying to solve.
“At Lido, we aim to take a system that is marks driven and make it learning driven by teaching 21st-century skills — analytical thinking, critical reasoning, communication, collaboration, creativity – instead of focussing on 20th-century topics so that students are able to excel in and out of school,” said Sheth.
It has been widely observed that many Indian students leave school with theoretical knowledge gained through rote learning and very little knowledge to be applied in an “out of textbook” context.
Lido tries to focus on parents as today’s parents are a lot more invested in the child’s education. The startup thus offers a parent app that shares easily understandable analytics about the progress of their child with the parents. With this, parents on Lido can track learning outcomes at a microlevel.
“Another issue is the opacity of what is happening in the classroom both in school and out of school. Parents and students have no clue if they are learning and how they can improve. We allow parents to really understand where they are going wrong. And the advent of AI will really push interventions to students at the right time. If you get a 35/50 in Math, we will know which geometry and algebra concepts you are struggling with and your homework will focus primarily on these,” he added.
Talking about competition in the sector, Sheth said, “The current e-learning apps or platforms that are in the market attempt to fix this problem, however, they usually only replace one aspect; such as textbooks or doubt solving. None offer a complete solution.”
Staying Ahead In The Crowded Edtech Market
According to Datalabs by Inc42, in 2019, K-12 and test prep startups such as BYJU’s, Unacademy and Vedantu attracted the most amount of venture capital funding. The combined capital inflow into the three startups for the year 2019 was more than $274 Mn.
Overall the dominance of these sub-sectors in the funding landscape of edtech startups has declined a little. The share of online test preparation startups to the total funding amount in 2019 was 66% ($284 Mn) out of the total $433 Mn plus in total funding amount for the year.
With a huge demand for tech intervention in the school curriculum, hiring the right fit of teachers is the toughest task for most K-12 focussed startups. “Like any company looking to hire good talent, we too face challenges in putting together a team that is both talented and a good fit for Lido! Our biggest challenge is finding qualified teachers. There is a huge demand in the industry for well-qualified teachers but there aren’t many, so our goal is to actually invest a lot in teacher training,” Sheth said.
Apart from building a better quality product, maintaining high service quality levels will be a key deliverable to sustain in the highly competitive edtech category, Sheth said. Both the parent and the student should feel well taken care of at every point.
“We try and stay ahead of the competition by constantly innovating to provide the best learning experience for our students, one that will create a lasting impact on them. Lido does this by focusing on replacing both the textbook (aka the content) and the offline tutor with an online tutor that personalises the learning experience and ensuring the child is actually learning concepts and not just doing well by rote learning.”.
Lido’s Vision For The Future Of Students
While its grand vision is to build 250 Mn classrooms for 250 Mn students, Lido is looking to take steps towards increasing its user base in the next year or so by leveraging software, content, and data to stitch together transformational learning experiences for students. Sheth wants to create courses that are 10x better and 50% cheaper than what is available offline.
“The student is at the centre of everything that we do. We are constantly asking ourselves two questions when we make any decision, big or small: Will this make a student learn? Will this make a student have fun?,” he told us
To stay connected to the students, Lido’s teachers, advisors and counsellors spend time in person with the students, while the product and content teams regularly watch footage of the live classes to identify areas of improvement. The startup wants to first capture the massive K-10 space and service them well before targetting any other sections!
“That being said, education is a lifelong process so there are several other verticals that are potentially interesting to us in the longer term.”
With India being a huge market with most of the 250 Mn students currently seeking offline traditional tutor, Lido has no plans to expand outside of India.
Its upcoming English learning programme will cover both written and spoken or conversational English.“Parents are extremely smart and will only pay for what they see as end-to-end solutions, so naturally, our multi-modal approach of self-paced content and small group tutoring appeals to them.”