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Five Challenges for Edtech Start-ups in Tier II and Tier III Indian Markets The infrastructure challenges that impede growth in Tier II and Tier III cities are not insurmountable and can be smoothened

By Ashutosh Kumar

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Technology has changed the way the world is looking at the penetration of Education in the far reaches of the world. The scope is humongous, but many challenges stand in the way of Ed-Tech start-ups becoming the success they are slated to become. The infrastructure challenges that impede growth in Tier II and Tier III cities are not insurmountable and can be smoothened out to make the Edtech dream a reality.

Brand Discovery Challenges

The Education industry runs on trust, and the brand image is very integral to creating marketing campaigns and increasing reach. The availability of digital content is sketchy and unreliable in many instances, and offline courses are costly. The gap can be filled by the technical progression of Edtech ventures, but the majority of the consumers are not regular internet users. They still rely on offline brick and mortar entities.

Limited event-based interaction involving internet usage makes it difficult to create digital marketing campaigns using SEO, SEM, or social media channels. Schools are not equipped to facilitate the exploration of internet-based products, and the tendency to search the internet is limited. This is a common issue that the industry faces when trying to create marketing campaigns that are online. The mushrooming of many untrustworthy fraudulent online scams have also made students and parents wary of trusting the information they have found online.

The only way to build trust is to create links with offline channels that have an established presence in the field of Education. The Edtech ventures have to create synergies with publishers, coaching houses, brick and mortar businesses like cyber cafes and such to create traction.

Technological Gaps in Knowledge of End-users

The Tier III and Tier II cities in India have seen tremendous growth in the realm of internet usage, but it is mostly limited to the use of smartphones and social media. They are not early users of the internet and computer devices and have limited knowledge. The need of the hour is dumbed-down products that have behavioral UX suitable to the end-user. This remains a challenge for the industry. The problem is to produce relevant and meaningful educational content that is accepted and understood.

There are many instances that the most obvious thing in the digital space is entirely unobvious for the semi-urban user. The student often is not curious and explorative. The aspiration and need to access the technology-based application is often not attractive enough to woo the student. The dependence on traditional learning systems is too grounded to allow a smooth transition to the digital space.

There is no obvious solution, but to use traditional marketing campaigns to get students online. Edtech ventures need to create user-friendly UX that makes the technology easy to apply.

Digital Payment Methods are not Preferred in Tier II and Tier III Cities

There is a shortage of trust in digital payment modes in semi-urban reaches in the country. The penetration of digital payment modes is below 20% in the entire country today, with most of the transactions happening in the metropolises. The cash mode is still the preferred mode in the rural reaches of India. The majority of income is cash and out of tax purview. So the parent prefers cash transactions.

There is intense discomfort and unease in trusting the digital or online transactions pertaining to money. The main issue remains limited exposure to this mode of payment. The online frauds that are reported are daunting to first time users who are not aware of safety protocols of online transactions. The best option for the Edtech industry is again offline tie-ups to facilitate payments.

Disrupted Content Streaming

Internet penetration has been rapid in smaller towns, but the speed and disruptions are still far from trustworthy. The reduced bandwidth and connectivity deter even knowledgeable students from opting for an online course. The low-ticket spends on data connections are also a factor in the telecom connectivity that leaves a lot to be desired. The streaming experience is often fractured, and audio-visual aids to learning are not up to the mark.

The option is to use downloadable content that can be viewed at will. Some start-ups provide the material on CD's and data storage devices to counter this issue.

Language Barriers in Using Online Platforms for Education

Vernacular is still the language of choice in the hinterland of India. The policy of public education is to focus on the regional language. Most people use the local language for communication. India is a land where over 50 languages and thousands of dialects are used. This makes communication difficult.

Students have a smattering of knowledge of English and most uncomfortable in using it as a language for effective learning. Retention and stickiness are affected if the language is not in the comfort zone. The student might be able to read the content in broken English, but comprehension levels remain low. The desired result is not forthcoming, so learning is deemed a failure. This makes the student prefer local coaching in offline mode to be able to study in the local tongue.

The only solution is to translate the courses offered by Edtech start-ups in the major regional languages to improve student loyalty and result.

The few ventures in the industry that have managed to address these vital concerns are moving forward to make massive inroads in Tier II and Tier III cities. Revenue breadth has increased, and marketing campaigns are successfully implemented.

Ashutosh Kumar

Founder and CEO, Testbook


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