"Shift to Online After-School Tutoring Was Already Underway, Covid-19 Just Accelerated It"
Vedantu moved online to overcome the inherent limitations of a brick and mortar business, and the idea was to emulate the success it got through offline coaching institute in the digital model
“When we started Vedantu in 2014, the design choice of live-tutoring that we took was a bold one,” said Vamsi Krishna, co-founder and CEO, Vedantu, in an interaction over a video call with Entrepreneur India. Albeit bold, it was also a conscious choice.
Before Vedantu, the founders trio—Krishna, Pulkit Jain and Anand Prakash—ran a successful offline coaching institute for competitive exams in Punjab. So, when they decided to move online to overcome the inherent limitations of a brick and mortar business, the idea was to emulate the same success in the digital model.
“We didn’t want to just give out content that people could consume. There has to be a structure, pattern and motivation to learning. So, we decided to replicate the same format of a teacher teaching a student in the online version as well,” he said.
But, the task was laden with challenges.
Back then 4G didn’t exist and explaining to a parent about live online classes was a tedious task, Krishna pointed. Reflecting back on the long way the edtech company has come, he said the sector has gone through a sea change.
“As an entrepreneur, it has been the sweetest seven years to see a category which you create become mainstream with everyone talking about it and adopting it.”
Today, Vedantu boasts of 30 mn unique students accessing its mobile application every month and 68 mn monthly unique views on its Youtube channel. The company has grown from 50,000 paid subscribers in 2019 to 200,000 in 2020.
On being asked what is the core strategy that the founders have followed since the company’s inception to achieve this feat, Krishna said their strategy has been two-fold.
“We follow a two-pronged strategy of delivery and distribution. What it means is think about what all you can do to reach as many students as possible. This covers the distribution part. As for the delivery part, invest in teachers, content and product so that the experience of your education service is ten times better than offline,” Krishna explained.
Besides strategy, Krishna also attributes the company’s success to the core value of student-centred learning that the founders have stuck to since the beginning and see themselves following in the future as well. “As teachers ourselves, we (the three founders) fundamentally believe in keeping the student’s interest at the centre and not worry about competition or other things. Deliver what is best for him or her and the rest will follow.”
On the Future of Online Learning
Krishna said once schools reopen students will definitely go back but the same can’t be said about after-school tutoring centres.
“Parents who got introduced to online teaching due to the pandemic are now strongly questioning the role of after-school coaching centres. While social interaction is important for kids, schools take care of that and parents would send their kids to tuition centres purely for studies purposes. So, if one gets a better quality teacher at a lower price with the additional benefit of saving time on commute, why wouldn’t they stick with the current option?”
He backed his argument with data that shows that about 78 per cent parents respondents in a survey said they will continue with online classes even after coaching institutes open up.
That said, Krishna added that this shift to online was inevitable irrespective of Covid. “Even before Covid-19, Vedantu consistently registered 3x year-on-year growth in 2017, 2018 and 2019. This increased to 5-6x due to the pandemic but the point is that the shift to online learning was already underway due to the quality and price factors and that the pandemic just accelerated the trend.”
On the business side of things, Krishna sees consolidation happening in the edtech market in India. “A bunch of companies were operating in the K12 market until two years back but a few, like Vedantu, have broken out in the last one year and the rest have consolidated. This has not only reduced competition for us but also confusion for parents. You’ll also notice only a few companies getting funded and the rest are getting acquired or merged.”
That said, Krishna added that education is never a winner-takes-all market so there’s always room for new players.