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Is India's Education Sector Ready For Disruption? Edtech startups are making their presence felt in the $100 billion Indian education sector

By Ashwin Damera

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Consider this. If we are to list the top engineering colleges worldwide, no Indian institute will even figure in the top 50!

This is only symbolic to the sorry state of affairs in many of our colleges. It's unfortunate that at many Indian colleges, relevant lessons do not get imparted to students.

So, combined with imminent layoffs and job scarcity, outdated curriculum at many educational institutes have left many working professionals particularly keen on up-skilling and re-skilling, fully understanding the criticality of staying ahead of the automation curve at all stages of their careers.

So, we have reached a situation when many working professionals are just not willing to spend all those years in college getting another useless degree.

In this scenario, it is indeed gratifying that more and more individuals are recognizing the changes brought about by technology, globalization and sustainability in the global business marketplace, and are signing up for innovative online learning programmes that will help them face these challenges head-on.

Popularity of E-learning Platforms

Along with colleges, traditional education systems such as classrooms, tuitions, etc. are also slowly losing their importance as both students and educators embrace what Internet-enabled program offer — convenience, personalization and agility. Modern education is decidedly allowing people to up-skill and re-skill themselves.

As a result of this trend, online courses have gained popularity amongst students and working professionals. To this end, according to Indian Brand Equity Foundation, Edtech startups are really making their presence felt in the $100 billion Indian education sector.

Interestingly, many online education providers are targeting those individuals, who are already graduates and have a job but want to upscale or get a new job. These individuals tend to be older and hence, more matured. Upon realising that they are either stagnating or believing that they deserve better jobs, they want to learn new skills. Since many of these individuals already have a settled family-life by then, seeking admission in a regular college again doesn't make much sense. Hence, online courses – which offer them flexible study time and duration of three to six months – make perfect sense. Young professionals apparently love the flexibility with commencement dates and the variety of available study materials.

Growth Potential for Edtechs

Online learning platforms, on their part, are leveraging evolved multimedia formats that are allowing students to grasp academic concepts better. The use of machine learning and artificial intelligence are giving the platforms the ability to adopt a personalised approach that considers individual unique learning patterns to further enhance a student's learning experience.

Globally, the education market is valued at $1.3 trillion with the edtech market valued at $40 billion. With ever-increasing interest in online education, India is poised to be the third-largest online market for education. Its being home to 19% of the world's youth is one big reason that is fuelling the country's edtech market. With a plethora of web and mobile-based courses and tools, the potential for edtech startups remains huge in the country.

A recent report by Google and KPMG, in fact, says that online education in India will see an approximate 8x growth in the next five years. This will have a significant impact on the edtech market that has a potential to touch $1.96 billion by 2021 from its current size of $247 million.

One key pointer that underlines the growing popularity of online education in India is the impressive number of education-related search queries from Tier II and III cities such as Patna, Guwahati, Aligarh, and Kota. These queries clearly underscore the opportunities that growing penetration of smartphones and improving quality of Internet have opened up.

Internet-powered interactive boards and digital highlighters are among the latest devices that are gaining popularity here. Similarly, digital scanners are aiding the learning experience by digitally transferring text to smartphones. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are also finding applications in student-run research projects, while QR codes are helping to access additional knowledge resources.

In the coming years, it is expected that gamification will be on the rise with edtech startups adopting simulation of concepts to enhance key work skills of professionals. E-learning is also expected to evolve through the use of technologies such as wearable devices and data storage on clouds to enable flexibility of accessing it anywhere and anytime.

The world of education in India, thus, is ripe for disruption right now. "The times of education… they are a-changin."

Ashwin Damera

Executive Director, Emeritus Institute of Management

Ashwin is passionate about making quality education accessible to the next generation of leaders across the world. At Emeritus, he focuses his efforts on university outreach and academic collaborations. Additionally, he spearheads the institute’s strategy and expansion in global markets. Ashwin started his career at Citigroup and spent many years there in multiple roles.

He did a brief but eye-opening internship for Dave Barger (current CEO JetBlue Airways) in New York. In 2005, he co-founded Travelguru, a company that was later acquired by Travelocity in 2009. Since then, he has been working in the higher education space. An angel investor and advisor to multiple startups and entrepreneurs, Ashwin holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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