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5 Major Challenges Early Age EdTech Startups face in India 50 per cent of the mobile users in India, roughly 250 million, are less than 25 years old and could potentially use it for education

By Neernidhi Samtani

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"The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows" — Syney.J.Harris.

India faces a grave unemployability problem. Does the recent EdTech revolution hold the power to disrupt the outdated education sector in India and improve the current situation?

Potential-wise, according to KPMG and Google's report Future of Online Education in India, the online education market in India is expected to grow to $1.96 billion by 2021, with 9.6 million users. Not to forget, "Next half billion mobile users wave" joining the existing 680 million mobile users in India. accommodating

The problem is that the challenges are not unidirectional but embedded into many broad sectors varying from technological to infrastructural and behavioral to structural. Here are the five major ones:

Technological Infrastructure:

It's not just electricity but internet which needs to reach everywhere in the 21st century. Voice and Vernacular are the two key pillars on which the EdTech story of India will be written because the next wave of Internet users come from Tier Ⅱ & Ⅲ towns and rural. Network latency in India is way too high as compared to US & China especially in these areas. Imagine learning through an app where video buffering takes most of the student's time one night before the exam.

While progressive web-apps will play a crucial role, there's a significant need to ensure apps are optimized. Vernacular, voice and chat enabled apps, provision of offline and summary content can help fight tech infrastructure problems.

High Customer Acquisition Cost:

Though upskilling online learning platform Edureka acquire 60per cent users organically it still spends Rs 1 crore every month on digital marketing. Unlike social media, entertainment and gaming, youth in India is spending relatively low amount of time and money on education apps. It's like saying, "Come, spend your time on studying after coming back from school, tuitions or office."

EdTech startups have started relying on organic traffic, changing their digital strategy by providing free high quality content.

Optimising Monetization:

"Free" is probably the most used keyword modifier on the internet. Usually if someone searches free course on google, they will get it. So, many of the EdTech companies are building scale based on free content and the widespread access they provide. However, EdTech is just the means to an end: the real outcomes needed are improved learning, skills and employability. While this strategy gives them downloads and growth, the real solution lies in outcomes- high profile certifications, jobs, reskilling/upskilling and industry grade learning. The truth is that's what exactly people will pay for and and also build long-term profitability for the companies. Freemium model to give confidence in solution first and subscriptions model subsequently seems to be a fitting solution. According to the GMC Calibrator report, the sweet spot lies between 100-250 per month.

Behavioral and Cultural:

Low user engagement is probably the biggest challenge EdTech entrepreneurs are facing today. It is basically "supervised learning in a conventional classroom supplemented by tuition classes as the current defining norm vs self learning via mobile app" debate. While parents remain sceptical about screen time and buying edtech products online, students do not see the real value as these are not recognized or accredited. Apps are just used as supplement tool to gain knowledge.

Industry and institutional collaborations for accreditations and certifications can build a lot of confidence moving forward. Behavioural science and data analytics will play a big role in engaging users who just need a nudge to engage with apps in a meaningful way.

Creating Personalized Learning Paths:

Low user engagement is a consequence of lack of self-learning motivation in people. Attention to individual's progress is not just an online but a traditional classroom problem as well. Every student has disparate competencies and interests but is presented with a homogeneous solution in a heterogeneously composed classroom. More than a challenge, it presents an opportunity to devise customised solutions based on individual learning goals and aptitude. With extensive investment in AI using periodic milestones of individual's progress, personalised learning paths can be created to optimise learning outcomes.

50per cent of the mobile users in India, roughly 250 million, are less than 25 years old and could potentially use it for education. But, will they? Amidst the above mentioned challenges, EdTech startups have a big question to answer.

Neernidhi Samtani

Founder & CEO - United Edupreneur

Entrepreneurship Evangelist & Marketing Strategist
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