Ed-Tech Boom in India: The $2 Bn E-learning Sector

Educational technology, ed-tech, is the use of physical hardware, software, and educational theories to facilitate learning and improving performance by using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources. eLearning is learning with the use of electronic technologies in order to access educational curriculum that extends beyond a traditional classroom. Both have seen an immense growth in commercial size as well as social reach, since these platforms train and develop the skills and are a huge factor for career change into data related fields.

Online learning, or e-learning, has seen a significant boom in India since 2012 with the popularization of online tutoring firm BYJU’S. As of March 2019, it was the most valued ed-tech company in the world with total equity of $5.4 billion according to The Economic Times. The impact of e-learning is predominant in fields like machine learning and data mining, that offer a tremendous amount of employment.

Another term you should know is MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses. MOOC is a form of online courses that allow students to take up online courses and learn at their own pace. Unlike traditional online courses, MOOCs lets students access the course from anywhere, anytime they want. The main points of difference are the content and delivery of the two forms.

An Unprecedented Boom

The era of digitization and technological advancements have had an impact on nearly every field and aspect of day-to-day lives. The main objective of technology is to make lives more comfortable, and the education sector has been influenced by advanced technologies since the mid-2000s. Education is a primary facility of any society. Making learning enjoyable with smart boards and other online forms of learning, turns the boring hour-long sessions into an exciting, fun-filled environment.

According to a study by KPMG, in 2018, the ed-tech market size reached just below $ 550 million, growing continuously at a CAGR (compound average growth rate) of 49%. The figure is projected to value $ 1.96 billion by 2021.

Business World says the e-learning industry in India is witnessing a steady growth rate of 25 per cent year-on-year. With more than 1.5 million schools and 18,000 higher education institutes connected by a network of learners and educators, the market for digital education in India is enormous. Digital learning is no longer a luxury affordable only by private institutions and has become a necessity in schools to teach better.

Those Influence by the Boom

The boom in the sector is not limited to training and skill development platforms, it reaches and is directly affecting the livelihood of teachers. This has, consequently, changed the way universities work with teachers and the time and effort that goes into building curriculums. ClassPlus, a platform where private tuition teachers and institutes can manage students, attendance, and curricular updates using cloud computing.This gives teachers the ease of managing classrooms at their ease, helping them invest more time in nurturing students.

Universities that are investing in creating content for these platforms and collaborating with these companies are also considerably improving. Institutions such as IGNOU and NIIT were specifically setup to cope with the needs of digital education. These were futuristic ventures aimed to provide an education that would be feasible for developing or underdeveloped regions.

Companies no longer run behind degrees and qualifications, instead, they seek skills and knowledge that candidates offer. With the modern narrative of “data is the new oil,” jobs in the field are on the rise. With more employment opportunities, the number of individuals in the workforce who are equipped with the skills for these jobs have also increased.

UpGrad partnered with BITS Pilani to roll its PG Program in Big Data Engineering and according to the Times of India, job openings for Big Data alone currently has 1.4 lakh. India is predicted to face a demand-supply gap of 2,00,000, it added. The training and skill development platforms are rolling out degrees in short courses to maintain a standard of the experts that end up filling these vacancies.

The Leaders

There are certain companies whose name come rushing to mind when the topic of online learning comes up. Companies like BYJU’S, Unacademy, SimpliLearn which are homegrown ed-tech leaders, have made a considerable contribution to the market, competing with the likes of global players such as Udemy and Khan Academy.

BYJU’S is the top e-learning company of the country headquartered in Bangalore, and it provides online courses and tutoring. Their programmes are designed for school students and provide preparation material for competitive exams. BYJU’S was the first Asian firm to secure funds from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).

SimpliLearn.com offers 24/7 online pieces of training, blended classroom training, exam practice tests and, provide professional certifications. Simplilearn offers IT and technical courses such as Big Data, Machine Learning, etc. and other skills that are in high demand. 

SimpliLearn, UpGrad, EduKart, Jigsaw Academy, and Unacademy are all training and skill development platforms. They aim to provide certification courses and add skills to the existing workforce. Availability of online courses that offer training of technical tools has made it possible for people to transition into roles in IT and computing companies. Adding such skills improves the income bracket of individuals at relatively low investments in learning, as opposed to traditional methods like a university or executive courses.

Market as a Whole

BYJU’S, apart from CZI, has investments from Sequoia Capital India, Times Internet, Tencent, and Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) among others. UpGrad was co-founded in 2015 by filmmaker and celebrity Ronnie Screwvala with managing director Mayank Sharma. UpGrad has investments from only one party besides the founders, Lee Fixel. Fixel isn’t the most popular name, but Fixel was the man behind VC firm Tiger Capitals seed fund in Flipkart, Ola and Freshworks at early stages. 

Unacademy started as a YouTube channel that uploaded the same videos as they did on their site – unacademy.in. According to co-founder & CEO Gaurav Munjal, “YouTube is a distracting platform – you could be watching an educational video and at the same time being tempted to watch a movie trailer.” The platform has roughly 50,00 users and sees more than 100 million monthly views across platforms, including YouTube. 

Toppr, Classplus, and GradeUp have all been leading the way for the rising ed-tech trend in India. The industry is encouraging domestic and foreign investment while providing training and educating people of all ages and backgrounds. BYJU’S, Unacademy, and UpGrad have raised $150 million, $50 million, and $40 Million, respectively, in 2019 alone. This clearly shows the interest of investors and consumers of the industry; one where healthy competition seems to be prevailing.

The rise has had a direct impact on the condition of job seekers by helping them specialize in a particular skill and help recruiters hire better by filtering talent specifically on the basis of their expertise.