During the last decade, companies in India’s EdTech Industry evolved from creating technology-based physical infrastructure that merely accentuated education in classrooms, to companies that leveraged the growing penetration of computers, smartphones and internet connectivity to deliver quality education to students in classrooms as well as their homes.
By making this shift, EdTech companies went from complementing traditional sources of education to challenging them to adopt new practices and even competing with them. While schools upgraded their teaching processes by integrating EdTech solutions, secondary sources of education such as tuitions and publishers of educational guidebooks felt the heat of competition as EdTech companies were able to serve quality education at scale with a lot more effectiveness and efficiency.
When it comes to education, Indian audiences are fiercely driven by past results and word-of-mouth, which take time to develop for any company. As a result, even though EdTech companies were able to raise the heat on traditional secondary sources of education, they weren’t able to make Indian students and their parents entirely flip the switch on online education.
However, while they waited for noteworthy results and word-of-mouth to develop, they tactfully used a big chunk of the USD 4.1 billion that was invested in this space between 2010 and 2020 towards brand building and marketing.
From signing Bollywood actors as brand ambassadors, to capturing ad spots between cricket matches and purchasing sponsorship rights to the national cricket team’s jersey, EdTech companies did everything to become household names, even in the country’s hinterland, and succeeded.
The Covid-19 pandemic led Government of India to declare closure of educational institutions across the country. What originally seemed like a short break from the usual in-class lectures, soon translated into a complete breakdown of traditional educational processes.
As institutions and educators across the country struggled to leverage technology to reinitiate educational processes, Ed-Tech Companies – which had already become popular by now, thanks to their marketing efforts in preceding years – found themselves in the spotlight.
Covid-19 had pushed Indian students and their parents to flip the switch on online education almost overnight, and the pressure was now on EdTech companies to not only cater to these audiences effectively but to leverage this opportunity and capture market share in other segments of Indian learners.
To take advantage of this space, EdTech companies in India raised USD 2.2 billion last year and went on an acquisition spree unlike ever seen before. Byju’s and Unacademy, India’s top two EdTech companies, valued at USD 16.5 and USD 3.4 billion respectively, secured more than 70% of funds raised.
Initial signs of consolidation started appearing in the second half of 2020, as EdTech companies – led by Byju’s and Unacademy – started acquiring smaller peers to increase userbase, grow product offerings, and capture audiences in newer segments.
Most notable amongst these were the acquisitions of coding tutorial startup WhiteHat Jr., offline coaching chain Aakash Institute, higher education startup Great Learning, K-12 player Toppr, networking platform TapChief, competitive programming startups CodeChef and Mastree, and exam prep platforms Kreatryx, PrepLader, Coursavy, HandaKaFunda, and NeoStencil.
Following the above acquisitions, Byju’s and Unacademy, which originally dominated the K-12 and exam prep space respectively, find themselves operating across a dizzying number of other verticals, with each one experiencing an unparalleled surge in demand from Indian students and their parents.
The situation is a management’s dream as well as a nightmare, and only time will tell whether these companies have been able to effectively consolidate, manage and leverage their acquisitions to occupy a bigger chunk of the market than before.
While they’re at it, other Indian EdTech unicorns such as UpGrad, Eruditus, and Vedantu are gradually growing their presence across verticals, with a focus on providing a better educational experience to students and their parents, whilst waiting for the giants of India’s EdTech industry to make a slip-up so they can swoop-in to grab some market share.
Author – Lavin Mirchandani, Co-Founder, ConnectEd Technologies
Lavin Mirchandani is the Co-founder of ConnectEd Technologies, which is an edtech social enterprise that specializes in creating tailor-made technologies and deploying large-scale developmental programs that make quality education accessible to government schools and the children studying therein. For the company, he leads Content Development and Finance, which are two critical functions that lead any edtech enterprise towards a sustainable business model.