New demands on Edtech sector amid pandemic

Study says India’s Edtech market will cross Rs 26,000 cr by next financial year

online-class-teacher-rep Representational image

Parents, job aspirants and even mid-career professionals caught in the Corona churn are all re-looking at career options and trying hard to predict which skill or expertise would hold them in good stead in an uncertain tomorrow. The result? India’s booming Edtech industry is being forced to move beyond school curriculum to deal with the new demands for future-proof courses as well as up-skilling. 

While many businesses bite the dust and entire sectors scramble to survive the economic pains of the pandemic, it has been up and away for the Edtech industry these last few months, with leading players like Byjus, Toppr, Vedantu and Coursera scoring double digit growth rates. A RedSeer and Omidyar Network report says India’s Edtech market will cross Rs 26,000 crore by next financial year.

However, it’s not like Edtech players have been left unscathed. With the destabilising effect of the lockdown and widespread job losses abounding, there is a rising clamour for a ‘future ready’ curriculum beyond conventionally offered courses. One early indicator is the accent on coding and internet security, which even the new education policy seems to be fixated on.

Ironically, government jobs seem to be back in vogue, for the first time since the post-liberalisation boom of the nineties. “We have always seen demand from Tier II and Tier III students choosing government services exams over the private sector,” explains Abhishek Patil, co-founder and CEO of Oliveboard, a Bengaluru-based online learning and assessment startup. But in recent weeks, this demand has caught on even in bigger towns. “During a crisis, stability being associated with government jobs is all the more emphasised,” he adds.

Oliveboard says it sees up to 20,000 job aspirants take its free online mock tests of government competitive exam formats every week, ranging from PSC to banking jobs. “We have seen good demand for SEBI, UPSC and EPFO classes as notifications are out for these exams,” Patil explains. “Students are also expecting the SBI PO and IBPS exam notification to be released soon. Hence, definitely expecting a huge demand.”

While government jobs assure stability, another route is to take vocations and coaching for skills many feel will be in demand tomorrow— this is true as much for confused parents of growing school children who are increasingly feeling that the present school curriculum falls short, as for doyens of the corporate sector.  “While there are a lot of options for teaching the school curriculum (through) online classes and free apps, there is no option for the parent when it comes to developing life-skills of the child during the pandemic.” says Maneesh Dhooper, co-founder of PlanetSpark. Edtech focuses on life skills through online classes. 

Dhooper further explains, “The most popular life skill that parents are looking for is public speaking. As many as 70 per cent of parents opt for this as communication skills is a key 21st-century skill and is closely aligned to career success. Parents are also looking for reading comprehension, creative writing, phonics and grammar for their kids.”

"The 21st century workforce will be way different from today’s. It will be centred on technologies that did not exist 20 years ago and technologies that are yet to be created,” argues Zishaan Hayath, CEO & founder of Toppr, one of the leading Edtech players in the country, which has launched courses in coding, believing it be a crucial element in future requirements. 

“Coding will be pivotal to this revolutionary change,” Hayath feels. Even the new education policy the Union government unveiled last week agrees—it has provisions to teach coding from Class 6 in all schools. 

Udacity, a Silicon Valley Edtech firm which bills itself as a ‘lifelong learning platform’ just launched a cybersecurity nanodegree programme. “Our goal at Udacity is to train the world’s workforce in the in-demand careers of the future,” said Alper Tekin, chief product officer at Udacity.

And lifelong, the re-skilling will need to be, in an uncertain and fast-changing world, even the industry agrees. “Given the current crisis, preparing the workforce for the 21st century society will require re-thinking the traditional education model and adopt cutting edge teaching practices,” Sangita Reddy, president of the industry chamber FICCI and managing director of Apollo Hospitals. “The world will certainly undergo a radical change and for being ready for that ‘unforeseen change’, it is important that we work towards rebounding, reforming and creating more resilient future citizens.”